Schools rely on nurses to diagnose children's illnesses or injuries and determine the treatments they need. They also administer and monitor immunizations, including inoculations required by law, and advise health administrators and teachers on health education and infection control. If you want to work as a school nurse, you need at least an associate degree. In return, you can expect to earn an above-average annual salary.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for a school nurse was $70,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. To become a school nurse you typically need the minimum of an associate degree in nursing and one or more years of experience as a nurse. Before you start your career, you must pass an exam through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing in your state to get licensed as a nurse. Other important qualifications for this job include an attention to detail, compassion and patience and organizational, communication and critical-thinking skills.
Average annual salaries for school nurses varied the most within the West region, according to Indeed, where they earned the lowest salaries of $45,000 in Hawaii and highest of $75,000 in California. Those in the South made $60,000 and $83,000 per year in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., respectively. If you worked as a school nurse in Maine or New York, you'd earn an average of $60,000 or $84,000, respectively -- the lowest and highest earnings in the Northeast. In the Midwest, you'd make the least in Nebraska or South Dakota or the most in Illinois -- $52,000 or $77,000, respectively.
A school nurse earns higher salaries in Illinois and New York because living and housing costs are typically higher in those states. For example, if you earned $70,000 as a school nurse in Shreveport, Louisiana, you'd need to make $84,478 in Chicago to maintain your living standard, according to CNN Money's "Cost of Living" calculator. In Albany, New York, you'd have to make $79,743 to enjoy the same living cost as in Shreveport, or approximately 14 percent more. School nurses might also earn more the longer they work for schools, as teachers and other school staff members often get compensated on a gradation scale, earning more as they accumulate more years of service.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 26 percent increase in employment for registered nurses, including school nurses, from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average. Technological advances in medicine enable medical professionals to diagnose and treat many more types of illnesses and injuries, which may increase jobs for school nurses. School enrollments are also expected to increase, especially in kindergarten and elementary, and schools may need more nurses to care for these students. The BLS doesn't predict percentage increases for these kindergarten and elementary school students.