Besides treating upset stomachs and bloody noses, school nurses play a variety of roles in student health and learning. According to Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow, these professionals offer counseling, identify health concerns within the school community and help shape physical education and sports programs within a school. Even still, school nurses actually work the fewest weekly hours — 39 hours per week for full-timers; 18.9 hours for part-timers — out of all those in the registered nursing field, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The salary of a school nurse isn’t dependent on a school's grade levels: Whether the nurse is employed at an elementary, middle or high school, the average salary is about $43,756, according to Salary.com. Those in the highest 10 percent of the field earn an average of $65,700 or more per year. According to a May 2011 National Association of School Nurses poll of 1,334 school nurses, 66 percent said they were paid on a teacher’s salary scale.
Eastern United States
New York City school nurses surpass the average national salary, earning a hefty $51,939 a year. School nurses in Boston, Massachusetts, earned an average of $48,876, while in Washington, D.C., $47,694 is the norm. The further south you go along the Eastern Seaboard, the lower the salaries appear to go: School nurse salaries in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, drop to $46,250; those in Atlanta, Georgia, earn $43,844; and in Miami, Florida, nurses earn $42,444 on average.
Midwest United States
In the Midwest, Chicago school nurses earn the highest salaries at $46,425 a year. Minneapolis, Minnesota, isn’t far behind at $46,119. In Cleveland, Ohio, the median salary is $43,941; in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s $42,925. Nebraska City, Nebraska, school nurses earn well below the national average at $37,328 a year.
Southern United States
School nurse salaries in the southern part of the United States tend to fall below the national average, with the exception of New Orleans, Louisiana, where the average is slightly higher at $44,456. In Dallas, Texas, salaries are around $43,625. If a nurse works in a Nashville, Tennessee, school, she’ll earn $41,437 on average. Birmingham, Alabama, school nurses bring home $40,868.
Western United States
Although Los Angeles, California, is the biggest metropolitan city on the West Coast, salaries for school nurses are actually slightly lower than those for nurses employed in Seattle, Washington, at $48,044 and $48,132, respectively. School nurses in Phoenix, Arizona, earn $43,362, with a slight jump in Las Vegas, Nevada, at $43,581. Portland, Oregon, goes slightly above the national average at $44,894 a year.
Although school nurses can have educational credentials ranging from a Licensed Practical Nurse to a Ph.D., the National Association of School Nurses suggests having at least a baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university. In addition, each state may have specific licensing and certification requirements that may need to be met. The National Association of School Nurses has affiliate chapters in all states through which a nursing candidate can learn more about these guidelines.