School nursing is a registered nursing specialty that is focused on enhancing the well-being and health of students in school communities. School nurses work closely with administrators, teachers, and families to create an ideal learning environment in which students’ physical, mental, and emotional needs are met. School nurses play an important role by providing compassionate nursing care to students with chronic medical conditions, mental illnesses, and disabilities. Many school nurses also work to educate children and young adults about the best lifestyle choices that boost health, such as exercising and eating vegetables. School nurses can be found managing the health offices in public, private, parochial, charter, vocational, and early childhood schools as well as colleges around the United States.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the over 2.6 million registered nurses providing care in the United States earn an average annual salary of $69,790, which is equivalent to a mean hourly wage of $33.55. In particular, RNs who are employed in elementary and secondary schools make below average with a yearly salary of $55,290. School nurses working in colleges and universities bring home a higher average of $73,060 annually.

Beginning Salary

When just starting out as an RN, school nurses can expect to land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with an income below $45,880 each year. However, it’s important to remember that school nurses with certification and years of experience can eventually make upwards of $81,080 every year.

Key Responsibilities

School nurses have the primary responsibility of treating school-aged students from elementary to college with competent care to achieve optimal learning and health. On a typical workday, school nurses may be involved in taking vital signs, performing basic first aid, recording symptoms, calling parents, administering medications, giving health assessment for students with special needs, organizing vision and hearing screening, and developing emergency care plans. School nurses predominantly serve as a liaison between the school, home, and other medical community resources. In some cases, school nurses will also use their expertise to create health education curriculum, anti-bullying campaigns, and other health-related programs.

Necessary Skills

In order to be successful in school nursing, individuals must have an extensive knowledge base on pediatric medical care, public health, and mental health nursing. School nurses work daily with children, adolescents, parents, teachers, and administrators, so having good interpersonal skills for effective communication is key. Leadership skills are important for school nurses who are collaborating with other education professionals to manage school health programs. School nurses should be detail-oriented with good organization skills to keep students’ records in tip-top shape. School nurses must also be compassionate and calm under pressure to efficiently handle a medical emergency that may occur.

Degree and Education Requirements

Before you can apply for jobs as a school nurse, you’ll first need to satisfy the educational qualifications for RN licensure in your state. Though requirements can vary, it’s typically mandated that aspiring nurses hold a one-year diploma, two-year associate’s degree of nursing (ADN), or four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) for licensing. Earning the bachelor’s degree is best for school nurses working towards certification. Be sure to fill up on electives related to school health, public health, pediatrics, mental health, and child development when possible. Going a step further to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) could be beneficial for advancing as a School Nurse Practitioner or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner too.

Pros and Cons of the Position

As with any other nursing career, working as a school nurse will offer its fair share of upsides and disadvantages. On the positive side, school nurses have the rewarding opportunity to work with children daily and help them succeed in building a healthy life. School nurses are able to collaborate with various professionals in the school community, which is exciting for extroverts. School nurses typically only work when school is in session on weekdays with weekends, holidays, and summers off. School nurses also have a decent salary potential and room for advancement into APRN roles if desired. On the negative side, it can be stressful for school nurses to see children in pain, abused, or neglected by their parents. School nurses are exposed to all types of germs and viruses, thus making it a bad choice for the squeamish. School nurses may also spend most of the school day on their feet.

Getting Started

While acquiring proper education, future school nurses should start building their resume with experience in the school building. It’s best to tailor the clinical practicum in your degree program to working with children either in schools, pediatric hospitals, or pediatrician offices. After graduation, you’ll have the qualifications to take the NCLEX-RN examination for registered nursing licensure in your state. Then, you can begin searching for nursing job openings in schools. Working as a substitute school nurse is a great way to get your feet wet and eventually advance into full-time work. Job listings can be found online, in newspapers, and in school bulletin notices, but don’t be afraid to call around too. Once you’ve obtained at least three years or 4,000 hours of clinical practice in schools, you can take the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN) exam to become certified.

Future Outlook

Schools across America are seeing increases in enrollment, which means school nurses will be in demand to meet their daily medical care needs. Statistics show that there’s a higher number of students living with chronic conditions like diabetes, allergies, and asthma too. Several state governments are also cracking down on the health screening process conducted in schools to keep children more fit for learning and life. According to the BLS, the employment of school nurses and other RNs is expected to skyrocket quickly by 19 percent, thus creating around 526,800 new jobs overall by 2022. School nurses may face competition for job openings, but remember that positions in school nursing can also exist at universities, in hospitals, and for public health departments. Having a bachelor’s degree will garner the most favorable prospects.

Overall, school nurses are highly trained RNs who devote their practice to being the first responders to minor or critical incidents on school property. School nurses make it easier for children with chronic health conditions to attend class without worries of threats to their health. If you decide to specialize as a school nurse, you’ll have the rewarding chance to boost student attendance, keep students in the classroom learning, and potentially save children’s lives.

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