School Nurse: Occupational Outlook and Career Profile

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a school nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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A career as a school nurse requires a bachelor's degree in nursing and state nursing license. School nurses assess students, respond to accidents and emergencies on school grounds and oversee the administration of medication to students with prescriptions for medications to be given during the school day.

Essential Information

School nurses provide a variety of medical services to the academic communities in which they work. They oversee the overall health of the students in academic institutions. A bachelor's degree and a registered nursing license are the typical requirements for this position, and additional school nurse certification may be needed in some states.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in nursing; post-baccalaureate School Nurse Services Credential (SNSC) programs are available
Other Requirements State licensure as a registered nurse is mandatory; some states and employers require a School Nursing Certification, offered through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490 for all registered nurses*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

School Nurse Occupational Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses, including those working in schools, will see a growth in their chosen career field from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). An employment increase of 16% is expected, which is faster than the average for most careers. A growing population and construction of new schools will attribute to the growth of employment opportunities for school nurses.

However, school nurses may face more employment challenges than their hospital, health clinic and nursing home counterparts. That's primarily because schools don't need as many nurses as medical facilities. Since the environment is not as stressful as other medical facilities, the jobs are attractive to older nurses or those who do not want to work in a hospital.

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Career Profile for a School Nurse

School nurses are medical professionals who work in an academic environment. According to the National Association of School Nurses, responsibilities include performing routine screenings on students and providing as-needed emergency and non-emergency care to students. They also serve as a medical resource to the community, providing teachers, students and parents with relevant health information.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for becoming a school nurse vary among states; however, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is usually a minimum requirement. These 4-year BSN programs prepare students for a career in nursing, as well as provide the basis for preparation for national certification. Students gain education in both the classroom and medical facilities, such as hospitals or clinics. Common courses in these programs include:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Health assessment

Post-bachelor's education in school nursing can also be obtained and may be required by employers. Many schools offer a School Nurse Services Credential (SNSC). A bachelor's degree and at least one year of experience are required in order to apply to SNSC programs. These courses focus on treating children and working in a school environment. Common courses include:

  • Health education for school nurses
  • Community nursing
  • School nurse practices
  • Health assessment of youth and children

Certification Information

National certification is needed in order to work as a registered nurse. Nurses must obtain their registered nurse license by passing the National Council Licensing Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). This license needs to be renewed regularly and continuing education is often required as part of licensing.

Many states require school nurses to own a specific school nurse certificate, which can be obtained after becoming licensed as a professional nurse. Nurses may voluntarily obtain this credential on their own to better their employment opportunities. A School Nursing Certification is offered through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses. This certification verifies a school nurse's knowledge and skills in the field.

A job growth rate of 16% is expected for all nurses from 2014-2024, but the growth rate for school nurses may be lower due to the limited number of workplaces. Applicants with a bachelor's in nursing and their state nursing license will be able to compete for nursing jobs, including school nurse positions. Nurses interested in working in schools can complete postbaccalaureate work to earn a professional school nurse credential.

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