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School Nurse Career

How to Become a School Nurse

You probably remember a time when you weren’t feeling good, you got a bee sting, or had an allergic reaction. When you were in school, where did you go? To the nurse’s office! You went and the nurse would help take care of you, let you call your mom, and help you feel better. 

School nurses are important additions to school staff. They are there to lend medical support, which is crucial when there are hundreds of young children or teenagers on the campus. School nurses give important support, medical help, and health direction to the entire school. If you’re currently in a nursing program, it’s valuable to learn about different career options and how you can pursue them.

School nurse washing hands

What Is a School Nurse?

A school nurse is a nurse who works with students in a school setting to provide immediate care and support. A school nurse may tend to students who are feeling sick or sustain minor injuries during a school-related activity. 

A school nurse's job is to do a wide variety of work inside a school. Students who are unhealthy or ill may not be able to fully focus on their schoolwork. Nurses at a school work to ensure students are healthy and strong, allowing them to focus more on their learning. The main job of these nurses is to be available to help students who are sick or injured—this can be administering aid if a student falls, taking care of a student who has a headache or is throwing up, and more.

As there is a drastic shortage of nurses, making the need for school nurses even greater than ever before. Additionally, many traditional nurses find that if they are feeling burned out, transitioning to a school nursing position is a great alternative that allows them to utilize their knowledge in a new way. If you’re considering a healthcare career, a profession in nursing and specifically as a school nurse is extremely beneficial, and needed.

What Does a School Nurse Do?

School nurses do a number of different things to ensure students remain healthy and get the care they need if they are ever injured or become sick at school. Here are some of the things school nurses do:

  • Establish health and wellness programs. School nurses are also actively involved in health and wellness at their schools. 
  • Coordinate testing for medical conditions. This involves helping coordinate vision scoliosis, hearing and lice tests for students. It can also include helping teach students proper hygiene or coordinating sports physicals. 
  • Organize education about proper hygiene. Hygiene is an important part of a student’s overall health and social life. School nurses may coordinate efforts for students to understand the importance of cleanliness, deodorant use, and more.
  • Ensure immunizations are up to date. School nurses are often in charge of ensuring students have proper immunizations in order to come to class and interact with other students. 
  • Provide mental health resources. Mental health has become a larger focus within schools. Sometimes a school nurse will be tasked with providing basic mental health resources for students and parents.
  • Oversee drug prevention programs. Some school nurses might be in charge of facilitating drug prevention programs with the help of local police officers.
  • Care for children injured at school. A student could sustain an injury at school. In these cases, a school nurse could help provide any needed medical attention. If needed they may contact parents or other medical professionals for serious matters.
  • Provide relief for sick students. Children often get sick. School nurses can provide relief where possible. They may need to also coordinate with a janitor should a student throw up in class.

How do I Become a School Nurse?

Specific education requirements and certification to become a school nurse will vary by state, but there is generally a path to follow to enter this profession. 

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

One of the first steps to becoming a school nurse is to get the right education. A bachelor’s degree is the first requirement for nursing. Students need a BSN because this degree will give them specific practice and knowledge in the situations they may face in a nursing job. It will help them learn about the specific medical situations like anatomy and physiology, as well as nursing theory that helps them learn about community health, working with younger patients, and more. They will be better prepared for their job after pursuing higher education and fulfilling those requirements.

A nursing prelicensure program is a great place to start. Students can either pursue an RN-BSN degree if they are already a registered nurse, or they can get their BSN degree and prepare to become a registered nurse at the same time. Either one of these degree programs will help students get on their way to becoming a school nurse. A Master’s in Nurse Leadership and Management or an RN to MSN program could give aspiring school nurses a leg up. The right education is the first step to a job in nursing.

2. Get certified

In order to become a registered nurse before or after getting a BSN, students need to take the NCLEX-RN exam and fulfill their certification requirement. They also need to apply for a nursing license from the board of nursing in their home state, which will then allow them to register for the certification exam. 

In order to become a school nurse, candidates will have to be an RN and have a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical experience, or a total of three years of academic experience. If candidates meet these requirements, they are able to pursue school nurse certification. 

3. Pass the exam

The School Nurse Certification Exam must be passed in order for an RN to become a school nurse. This test measures understanding of health concerns specifically found in a school setting. They are also tested on ethical issues. Depending on where nurses live, they may have to retake the certification exam every few years to keep up their licensure, or they may need to set up continuing education programs to keep their school nursing licensure valid.

What Degrees are Best for a School Nurse?

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, MO, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,385 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality.

Compare degrees
This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for greater responsibility:

  • Time: 82% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

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School Social Workers

What Skills Does a School Nurse Need?

School nurses must have sound general nursing skills. In addition, they must be skilled at the following:

  • Interest in caring for children and young adults. School nurses must understand the unique needs of the students they serve. They should be kind and understand how to work well with children.
  • Care and compassion. Children and youth must be cared for in a special way. They should know you will respect their space and privacy and focus on their health and wellbeing. 
  • Good communication. Students should know why they’re meeting with the nurse. Parents should also be kept in the loop. Be sure to consistently communicate with them so they know how their child is doing.
  • Kind heart to work with parents and families of sick or injured children. If a child is sick or injured at school, it can be hard for both the parent and child. Be kind and compassionate and handle all communication with care.
  • Ability to adapt quickly to new tasks and environments. A lot can happen in a school environment. There may be several students and teachers around, especially if an injury or emergency happens in the open. Be careful to protect the affected students and get them to a safe place where they can be cared for. 
  • An understanding of health laws. School nurses must be very careful with medical information and be sure to keep important matters confidential. Failure to comply could result in serious consequences. 

How Much Does a School Nurse Make?

$60,000

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average salary for a school nurse is $60,739 in 2021. The salary does vary significantly by state though. For example, school nurses in New York make over $72,000 per year, while those in North Carolina make only $45,000. The cost of living should also be factored into a decision to become a school nurse.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

9%

The job outlook for nurses is favorable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of available nursing jobs is expected to grow by 9% from 2020 to 2030 resulting in 276,800 more jobs in the industry. 

Where Do School Nurses Work?

Varies

Nurses qualified to work in schools can work in all kinds of settings including public and private schools, charter schools, elementary, middle, and high schools, and even military bases and international schools.

Interested in Becoming a School Nurse?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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