School Nurse Salary Guide
How Much Does a School Nurse Make?
Average School Nurse Salary
Salary.com reports that the average salary for school nurses in 2022 is $52,546 annually. ZipRecruiter estimates that as of January 2020 school nurses in the U.S. earn an average salary of $60,739 per year or $29 per hour.
School Nurse Salary Ranges
ZipRecruiter found that the majority of school nurses earned between $49,000 and $71,500. However, salaries ranged from as low as $19,000 to as high as $101,500.
School Nurse Salary vs Average RN Salary
School nurses appear to earn less money than the average registered nurse salary in the US.
The BLS states that the average nurse salary in 2020 was $75,330. In contrast, Salary.com reports that as of January 2022, school nurses earned $52,546 and ZipRecruiter states that school nurses earned about $60,739 for the same period.
The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) reports that, on average, school nurse annual pay is about $10,000 to $15,000 less than other nursing jobs.
School Nurse Salary by State
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School Nurse Salary by Years of Experience
School nurses usually start out earning a lower salary, but their wages increase along with their years of experience.
Also, many school nurses don’t start their careers working at a school. New nurse graduates usually have a few years of experience working at a hospital or other medical facility first. Many employers prefer to hire nurses who have experience working directly with patients; however, it is not always a mandatory prerequisite.
Many employers may also determine a school nurse’s pay based on years of prior experience, even if they include the years before working in a school setting.
While there are no estimates that break down school nurse salaries by years of experience, it is safe to say that school nurse salary averages will continue to rise alongside years of service in the profession.
School Nurse Salary by Work Setting
School nurses work in a variety of educational settings, such as:
- Elementary, middle or junior high schools, and high schools
- Public and private schools
- Vocational schools
- International schools
- Military bases
- Hospitals (as school instructors)
- Summer camps
- Colleges and universities
School nurses most commonly work in elementary, middle, and high schools. Unfortunately, many school budget cuts limit the number of nurses they hire, and in some cases, nurses care for students at multiple district locations. In this case, school nurses must travel between schools and take care of more students.
But the good news is that school nurses work the same schedules as their students. The benefits are that school nurses only work daytime school hours (no night shifts!), and have summers, holidays, weekends, and other school breaks off.
For this reason, school nurses usually do not have an opportunity to receive overtime pay for working more hours, and there is no differential pay for working nights or weekends.
School nurses also usually have great benefits similar to teachers' benefits and may include:
- Retirement (401k or pension plan)
- Health, dental, and vision insurance
- Maternity leave
- Attendance pay at nursing conferences
- Tuition reimbursement for advanced nursing or educator degrees
- Family Leave of Absence (FMLA)
- CEU reimbursement
- Nationally Certified School Nurse reimbursement
Many other factors determine school nurse pay such as the cost of living in the city and state where you live. School nurses who work in larger metropolitan areas generally earn higher wages than those in rural areas.
How to Increase Your Salary as a School Nurse
There are several ways that school nurses can maximize their earning potential:
Advance Your Education
Education level plays a huge role in earning potential as a school nurse. The minimum requirement to become a school nurse is an associate's degree. However, school nurses can often ask for a larger salary if they have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree.
Most school nurses have an ADN or BSN. About 13% of school nurses have an MSN.
According to Salary.com, school nurses with certifications earn higher annual salaries than school nurses who are not certified. They found that the average salary for all school nurses in 2022 is $52,546. However, they found that the average school nurse with certification earns $62,137. That is almost a 10k per year difference!
In addition, Salary.com found that certified school nurses in the top 10% of earners made $93,309 annually.
Becoming board certified lets your employers, students, and their families know that you have specialty nursing expertise in school nursing care.
By earning certification, you also have a leg up over competition during interviews, allowing you to choose between higher-paying offers.
Work During the Summer
Since school nurses sign yearly contracts that generally do not include work when students are off, you can earn more by working during those summer months. You can apply as a nurse for a summer camp, amusement park, or possibly even a cruise line.
If you enjoy your time off during the summers, you may also want to consider working in after-school programs that need a school nurse during the regular school year.
Many nurses don’t realize that there are opportunities to work as a travel school nurse! Not only is travel nursing a great way to live and explore different parts of the U.S., but it can also offer a higher income.
Travel nurses take short-term assignments at hospitals and other health care facilities to help fill nursing shortage gaps.
Instead of earning only a per hour rate as career nurses do, travel nurses earn a “total pay package,” which usually includes:
- Hourly base pay
- Travel reimbursements
- Housing, food, mileage stipends
- Sign-on bonuses
- Other job-related expenses
Travel school nurses often have the option to take assignments close to home that offer full-time, part-time, or long-term positions.
Work Per Diem Shifts at a Hospital
School nurses can work as per diem nurses on their days off. Per diem nursing is a great way to stay abreast of patient care nursing skills while earning more money. You can work on the weekends or holidays since schools are closed.
In general, school nurses do not receive regular bonuses. However, it is not uncommon for school nurses to be offered a sign-on bonus as an incentive to take a new position at a facility. Bonus pay often ranges from several hundred dollars to several thousand.
You must understand the terms when accepting a sign-on bonus as a school nurse. Some facilities will require that you stay working full-time at their facility for a specified number of years to keep the bonus. If you want to leave beforehand, you often pay the bonus back.
Hazard pay is extra compensation above the normal compensation for nurses who work in physically harder or dangerous conditions, such as severely understaffed hospitals with COVID-19 patients.
Some school employers have offered hazard pay for school nurses, especially during the pandemic. However, there is no law requiring them to do so.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, hazard pay was often an incentive to make an institution look more appealing during school nurse shortages. But hazard pay is rarely offered to the career nurses who already work at the facility.
Has Covid-19 Affected the Salary for School Nurses?
Currently, there are about 96,000 full-time school nurses in the U.S. But even before the pandemic, there was a shortage of school nurses available.
School nurses take on responsibility for COVID testing and contact tracing in schools. These tasks have dramatically helped students stay in the classroom instead of online learning.
However, the intensity of the work has been increasingly demanding for school nurses.
Many school districts handled this situation by hiring more school nurses to fill in the gaps. But many other schools didn’t have enough funding to pay for school nurses to begin with, and they are struggling more than ever to keep up with the work.
The COVID pandemic has increased the demand for an already short-staffed school nurse workforce. COVID-19 relief money allowed many districts to tackle this situation by hiring more school nurses. However, a majority of schools remain understaffed.
In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic does not appear to have increased school nurse salaries as it did with travel nurses working in medical centers and hospitals.
Is it Worth it to Become a School Nurse?
Nursing school to become a school nurse is a significant investment in money and time. It is essential to look closely at the financial aspect of nursing school before you take the plunge.
The average cost to go to nursing school varies depending on where you live and whether you want to pursue an ADN or a BSN.
- ADN programs take two years to complete at a community college or technician school. And can range from $6000 to $20,000.
- BSN programs take four years to complete at a public or private four-year university and cost anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000.
School Nurse Salary vs. School Costs
Although school is expensive and many students take on loans, school nurses can make a good salary year after year.
Salary.com reports that the average salary specifically for school nurses in 2022 is $52,546 annually. But keep in mind that if you take the extra step and become certified, Salary.com says you can make almost $10,000 more.
You may also want to consider working as a school nurse in a higher-paying state like New York or New Hampshire, where the mean annual salary is over $70,000 per year.
Fortunately, school nurses - like all nursing specialties - are also in high demand due to the nursing shortage. The BLS projects that the job outlook from 2020 to 2030 is 9%, with an additional need for 276,800 nurses.
Related Nursing Careers
According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual income for bedside nurses in the U.S. is $59,454, or $28.58 an hour.
ZipRecruiter also reports that the average nurse salary in the US is between $56,500 to $78,500, with a mean average of $70,335 annually, or $34 per hour. However, hospital nurse annual salaries can range as low as $35,000 to $106,500.
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
School Nurse FAQs
Do school nurses make good money?
- Yes, school nurses make good money. Salary.com reports that the average salary specifically for school nurses in 2022 is $52,546 annually. ZipRecruiter estimates that as of January 2020, school nurses in the U.S. earn an average annual salary of $60,739 annually or $29 per hour.
Is being a school nurse worth it?
- Being a school nurse is a rewarding and essential career path, professionally and financially. They help to keep kids healthy so they can continue learning. If working with school-age kids is appealing for you, becoming a school nurse may be right up your alley.
What state pays school nurses the most?
- According to ZipRecruiter, the state that pays school nurses the most is New York. The state pays school nurses an average of $72,337 annually or $34.78 per hour.
Do school nurses get raises?
- School nurses get raises every year that they work for an institution. However, if a school nurse moves to another district, they might lose their seniority and start over again at a lower salary.
Is school nursing stressful?
- School nursing can be stressful. Due to the school nurse shortage, some nurses must care for students at several different schools within a school district.