How to Become a School Nurse (With Skills and Salary)

Updated January 26, 2023

Becoming a school nurse can be a rewarding career path, but it takes years of schooling and career development to acquire the position. A quality school nurse is a valuable asset in an educational setting and plays a crucial role in assisting students in meeting their educational goals in a healthy state. If you're interested in learning about how to become a school nurse, it's beneficial to know more about the position and the steps you can take to become one.

In this article, we explore how to become a school nurse, discuss what they do, share their salary and some valuable skills, and answer some frequently asked questions about the role.


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How to become a school nurse

Follow these five steps to learn how to become a school nurse:

1. Earn a high school diploma

The first step to becoming a school nurse is earning a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Consider that it's required for school nurses to earn a degree from a university. Therefore, it's crucial that you put forth your best efforts to retain a high GPA throughout high school. It's also essential to adequately prepare for your exams so you're a competitive candidate when you apply for university. Some classes that can help you in your nursing career that you can take in high school include:

  • biology

  • psychology

  • anatomy

  • physiology

  • health

  • physical education

While you're in high school, it can be beneficial to gain some experience in the field by volunteering. You may be able to find volunteer work at a local hospital or an extended care facility. This opportunity can provide you with insight into the field and give you impressive hands-on experience on a college application. When you volunteer, try and connect with professionals in the field, as acquiring a mentor early on in your career can be highly beneficial.

Related: What Are the Benefits of Volunteerism?

2. Earn a degree

The next step to becoming a school nurse is acquiring a bachelor of nursing (BSN) degree. It typically takes students four years to earn this degree. Often, courses consist of seminars, lectures, and laboratory experiments. Some courses may include:

  • care transition

  • community and environmental nursing

  • ethics in nursing

  • gerontology

  • introduction to psychology

  • microbiology

  • nursing fundamentals

  • pharmacology

  • physiology

  • psychology and mental health

  • woman and infant health

3. Meet the requirements

There are four basic requirements to become a licensed nurse. If you don't currently meet these requirements, ensure you do by the time you apply for your licence. The requirements include:

  • being fluent in written and spoken English or French

  • registration in the jurisdiction where you earned your bachelor's degree

  • being a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or having authorization to practice nursing due to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

  • passing a check for good character and suitability to practice, which often includes passing a background check

4. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

To earn your nursing licence, which enables you to practice nursing, you're required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam. Testers usually take this exam 45 days after finishing their undergraduate studies. The purpose of the NCLEX-RN exam is to determine if you're capable of practicing nursing. The exam presents you with scenarios that require you to apply your nursing knowledge to find solutions. The NCLEX-RN is graded as either pass or fail, and it consists of 60 questions in four categories, which include:

  • health promotion and maintenance

  • physiological integrity

  • psychological integrity

  • safe and effective care environment

Once you pass the NCLEX-RN, you're considered a registered nurse and can legally practice nursing in your province or territory.

Related: What Does a Registered Nurse Do? (With How to Become One)

5. Apply for jobs

Once you've received your licence, it's time to apply for a job. Ensure your resume is updated and prepare appropriately for an interview. You can reference job boards or contact schools directly to see if they're currently seeking to employ a school nurse.


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What does a school nurse do?

School nurses work in many educational institutions and take care of the physical, mental, and sometimes social and emotional well-being of the students in attendance. They store and administer prescription drugs that doctors give to students, monitor students with chronic illnesses, and educate faculty and staff on procedures, such as how and when to administer epinephrine pens (EpiPens) for students with severe allergies. They also ensure faculty and staff have successfully completed yearly training, like Bloodborne Pathogen Training, and offer first aid help for various injuries. Your employer may task you with other responsibilities, including:

  • conducting vision and hearing screenings

  • providing health and well-being education to students

  • performing scoliosis screenings

  • ensuring student vaccine records are up-to-date and in accordance with district regulations

  • providing sex education

  • creating intervention programs concerning student health awareness

  • administering wound care

  • responding appropriately to various health emergencies on campus, including administering CPR if needed or caring for special needs students

  • participating in school reform and intervention meetings

  • working with a team in creating individualized education plans for at-risk students

Average salary

Salaries for school nurses typically vary based on the type of school that they work at. For example, a school nurse working in a high school or college setting likely has a different salary from one who works in a preschool or elementary school due to the different responsibilities involved. Some additional factors that impact compensation include:

  • need

  • educational background

  • experience and aptitude

  • level of responsibility

  • location

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a school nurse is $33.57 per hour.


As school nurses tend to work with children and young adults, they require various skills to do their job effectively, support students, and create a positive learning and healing environment. Some essential skills and traits include:

  • Communication: School nurses communicate with teachers, administrators, students, and parents daily. They discuss the health of students and share strategies for facilitating the recovery of any sick students.

  • Patience: School nurses interact with and care for students who may act distressed or upset due to physical, emotional, or mental distress. Being patient when working with distressed students can help you uncover the issue and quickly find a solution.

  • Empathy: School nurses often display compassion and understanding when working with patients, which helps them diagnose the source of discomfort or pain for a student and enables them to recuperate quickly.

  • Organization: Some schools have thousands of enrolled students, and a school nurse is responsible for keeping up-to-date vaccine records and helping each student with whatever treatment or help they may need. This necessitates a detail-oriented and organized individual who can access information quickly if required.

Related: How to Improve Your Skill Set and Keep Skills Current

Frequently asked questions about being a school nurse

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about becoming a school nurse:

Does a school nurse require a teacher certification?

Although some school nurses may have a teacher certification, the role doesn't require it. Having teaching experience can help a school nurse disseminate health information and conduct health education courses for the students on campus. Having this certification can better educate nurses on strategies for working with students of various ages.

How do a registered nurse and a certified school nurse differ?

A certified school nurse is trained to focus on both health and educational needs for students. This training often ranges from early childhood to high school. A registered nurse doesn't have any focused training, such as students with special needs or methods in teaching health.

Who can become a certified school nurse?

Typically, only registered nurses holding a bachelor's degree with specific coursework are eligible to be certified school nurses. Requirements vary by province or territory. Often, there are waivers available for schools to apply to when there's a shortage, so consider researching exceptions in your area.

What is the work environment like for a school nurse?

Most school nurses spend the majority of their working hours in a dedicated school nurse's office. Nurses' offices vary based on the school. Some offices may be spacious and well-supplied, while others may lack space and supplies. You may spend some of your time traversing the school visiting classrooms for presentations, attending meetings, and assisting students and teachers. Occasionally, you may meet health-care providers, parent groups, and public health professionals outside of school.

What are the working hours for a school nurse?

One of the benefits of being a school nurse instead of a nurse at a hospital or extended care facility is the working hours. As school nurses work with students, they tend to work during the school's operating hours, which may be from 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.. It's common to have evenings, weekends, and holidays free.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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