Eligibility to Take the NCSN Exam

Eligible candidates must

  1. Submit a copy of their license as a registered nurse (RN) in one of the United States.
  2. Submit an academic transcript or proof of current certification, demonstrating attainment of one of the following:
    1. A bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or the equivalent in other countries (Please note that starting with the exam application window for the March 2020 exam, evidence of a bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing or the equivalent in other countries will be the requirement. The Exceptions listed below will no longer be accepted.)
      OR
    2. A bachelor’s degree or higher in a health-related field relevant to school nursing , (see acceptable_degrees).
    3. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in a non-nursing or non-health-related field must have a total of six (6) additional credits for undergraduate or graduate courses in any combination of the following subjects:
      1. Management of primary health care problems of children and/ or adolescents
      2. Health assessment of children and/or adolescents
      3. Public health/community health/epidemiology

      OR

    4. Current certification by NBCSN as an NCSN.
  3. Meet the clinical practice requirements of a minimum of 1,000 hours that have been worked within the three years prior to taking the test. 1000 hours is roughly equivalent to the hours worked by a full-time school nurse who works at least 6 hours/day for a school year of 180 days documented by a note on letterhead from your supervisor or district official. See below for more information about clinical practice requirements.
  4. Complete the online application to take the certification examination for school nurses.
  5. Pay the required fee.

Additional eligibility requirements:

  1. Baccalaureate degrees must be granted from programs, which are accredited by national, regional, or state accrediting boards of higher education through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or listed as an accredited program by the U.S. Department of Education.
  2. Registered nurses enrolled in Masters Programs (RN-MSN) that do not confer bachelor’s degrees may not apply to take the NCSN Examination until completion of the graduate program.
  3. Candidates with foreign educational degrees must submit validated transcripts with both general academic and professional licensure evaluation reports from an accredited foreign educational credential evaluation service indicating the degree is equivalent to an accredited program in the United States, such as those with memberships in the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). Clinical Practice Requirements for Certification

Eligible clinical practice in school nursing means actively employed or contracted to provide a direct or indirect professional contribution to the health and education of students and their families in public or private school settings.

  1. Direct clinical practice in school nursing is defined as involvement in the nursing process in a school setting where the nursing actions and judgments are focused on a particular student, family, school community, or group of students or their families where there is continuing professional responsibility and accountability for the outcomes of these actions.
  2. Indirect clinical practice in school nursing is defined as involvement that:
    1. includes clinical supervision of school nurses, education, and clinical supervision of baccalaureate/master’s nursing students in school health, administration of school health services, research, consultation, or other engagement in the field of school nursing that contributes to the specialty’s body of knowledge or enhances the quality of school nursing practice;
    2. entails continuing professional responsibility and accountability for the outcomes of the involvement. Compare with Handbook

Not eligible as clinical practice in school nursing includes:

  1. one-to-one nursing as the nurse’s sole responsibility within a school;
  2. employment in the direct sales, marketing or distribution of school nursing-related products or services in pharmaceutical, technology or other school health-related industries;
  3. community health screenings;
  4. work in a camp setting;
  5. and jobs unrelated to school nursing.

Eligibility versus readiness to take the exam

The NBCSN board advises that eligibility should not be confused with readiness. While some school nurses may be prepared to take the exam after meeting the minimum eligibility criteria, others may require more clinical experience and exam preparation.

Please see the exam preparation page for suggested approaches to studying. Factors that may affect an individual’s readiness include:

  • level of education
  • formal coursework in school nursing and education systems
  • nursing experience prior to school nursing (e.g., child and adolescent primary care and public health versus adult inpatient nursing)
  • exposure to child health in age ranges outside of school assignment
  • continuing education
  • supervision by a school nurse administrator
  • on the job reference materials
  • formal or informal mentoring
  • professional development and professional leadership provided within the school district and state.