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How to Become a Certified School Nurse

Find out how to become a certified school nurse. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in nursing.

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Do I Want to Be a Certified School Nurse?

Certified school nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have been certified by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN). They work in school settings caring for the mental and physical health of students. School nurses come into contact with children every day that may be carrying infectious diseases, and working with children in general may be tiring and stressful. Depending on the school, both full- and part-time positions are available, and these workers typically work a regular schedule.

Job Requirements

Although individuals may become licensed registered nurses with an associate's degree, the minimum education requirement for certification as a school nurse is a bachelor's degree. The following table contains essential requirements for becoming a certified school nurse:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Nursing or another health-related field*
Licensure/Certification State licensure as an RN and voluntary certification through NBCSN as a school nurse*
Experience Minimum of 1,000 hours of school nursing experience prior to certification*
Key Skills Communication, organizational, leadership and critical-thinking skills; emotional stability; patience**
Computer Skills Medical software, Microsoft Excel, accounting software***
Technical Skills Proficiency with various medical equipment***
Additional Requirements Additional licensing requirements vary by state**

Sources: *National Board for Certification of School Nurses, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***O*NET Online.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

The NBCSN requires that all candidates for certification hold at least a bachelor's degree in nursing or another health-related field. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs include coursework in the sciences, nutrition, health assessment, psychology, leadership and critical thinking.

The NBCSN also accepts a variety of other majors related to the health field, such as counseling, biochemistry, chemistry, health education, nutrition and social work; a complete list of acceptable majors can be found on the NBCSN website.

Step 2: Become a Licensed Registered Nurse

Graduates of BSN and ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) programs are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Licensure is required of all registered nurses in the United States and is also a requirement for school nurse certification. Developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the licensure exam covers a variety of nursing topics and measures the competencies that entry-level nurses need to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

Note that an ADN-educated RN still needs to obtain a bachelor's degree in nursing or one of the other NBCSN-approved programs to qualify to become a certified school nurse.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the licensure exam. Students can lower test anxiety and increase confidence by becoming familiar with the examination requirements and process. Information about the exam can be found on the website for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Study guides for the exam also can be found online.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

To qualify to take the NBCSN exam, candidates must show proof of a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical experience in school nursing during the previous three years, though the NBCSN recommends 4,000 hours. Eligible experience includes any activities related to making a professional contribution to the health and education of students and their families in a school setting. This requirement can also be fulfilled by teaching school nursing in a college setting.

Step 4: Earn Continuing Education Credits

Certified school nurses are required to renew their certification to show that they've kept current with new practices, medications and other developments in the field. According to the NBCSN, 75 continuing education units must be earned every five years. Coursework is subject to approval by the NBCSN and must be listed on the application for recertification.

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