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School Nurses: Employment Information & Requirements

School nurses provide health services to public and private school populations that range from toddlers to university students. Read on for more information about how to enter this career.

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Career Definition

School nurses monitor students' physical and mental health, assess injuries and intervene when necessary by contacting medical care specialists, therapists or legal guardians. They are also responsible for implementing comprehensive, age-appropriate health and wellness education programs. School nurses may also assist in developing Individualized Education Plans for students with special needs.

How to Become a School Nurse

Required Education

The National Association of School Nurses (www.nasn.org) recommends that school nurses hold at least a bachelor's degree in nursing from an accredited nursing program. However, because this career lacks standardized requirements, school nurses attain education ranging from vocational to doctorate degrees. School nurses must however, hold state certification as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or higher in order to administer medicine, perform simple diagnostic tests, monitor responses to medication and keep patients' medical files.

Required Skills

School nurses must be knowledgeable in mental, pediatric and public health to be able to work independently as educators and health care providers in a school setting. School nurses must possess strong assessment, critical thinking, and communication and referral skills. They also need the passion to act as child advocates and a firm knowledge of school policies and education laws.

Career and Economic Outlook

Growing demands in the areas of health assessment, referral, education and health promotion have resulted in a near decade-long shortage of school nurses. According to the Healthy Schools Campaign, only half of all public schools have a full-time nurse. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job opportunities for all registered nurses (RNs), including school nurses, will increase 19% between 2012 and 2022, creating more than 500,000 new jobs. The outlook for LPNs includes a projected growth of 25%. According to Salary.com, school nurses earned a median salary of $44,680 as of February 2014.

Alternate Career Options

Surgical Technologist

Usually having an associate's degree or a postsecondary certificate, these techs assist doctors during surgeries. They may also prepare the operating room and arrange necessary surgical equipment. Much faster than average employment growth of 30% was forecast by the BLS for the 2012-2022 decade, and surgical technologists earned an annual median wage of $41,790 as of 2012.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic

These technicians and paramedics complete postsecondary programs and earn state licensing in order to secure employment. Typical job duties include caring for and transporting injured or sick people in emergency situations. In 2012, the BLS revealed an annual median salary of $31,020 for these professionals. From 2012-2022, much faster than average expansion of jobs was projected by the BLS, with 23% growth expected.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics