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:
    • A bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing* or the equivalent in other countries (Applicants who completed their education outside of the U.S. must submit verification of their international credentials obtained through a certified evaluation service.)
      1. OR
    • A master’s degree in education with a concentration in school nursing or school health services from an NBCSN-approved, accredited institution. Contact info@nbcsn.org with information about specific programs (not every program will qualify).
      1. OR
    • Current certification by NBCSN as an NCSN.
  3. Meet the direct or indirect clinical practice requirements** of a minimum of 1,000 hours that have been worked within the three years prior to taking the certification exam for school nurses.
  4. Complete the online application to take the exam.
  5. Pay the required fee.

* According to the School Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice 3rd ed. “Because of the broad scope of the specialty practice and the complexity of issues addressed within a school community setting by the school nurse requiring advanced skills, which include the ability to practice independently, supervise others, and delegate care, NASN recommends a BSN degree from an accredited college or university, as well as state certification in those states requiring or recommending state school nurse licensure/certification.”  National Association of School Nurses and American Nurses Association (2017). School nursing scope and standards of practice. Silver Spring, MD, American Nurses Association.

**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. 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.
  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.

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.

Additional eligibility requirements:

  1. Baccalaureate degrees must be granted from programs that 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).

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.

Appeals of eligibility requirements

Applicants who are found ineligible to sit for the exam but believe that they do meet eligibility requirements may petition the NBCSN President by submitting a letter of appeal with supporting  documentation related to the request to info@nbcsn.org.

Any documentation requested by NBCSN members or management company staff will be at the applicant’s expense.

Appeals must include a transcript of the baccalaureate degree with all courses listed, a transcript of other
courses taken, a current resume, and a description of activities related to school health services. No letters of reference shall be accepted.

Individuals will be notified by NBCSN regarding the status of their appeal within 30 days of receipt of all
requested documentation.

The Appeals Committee shall make all decisions on appeals regarding eligibility.

The determination made by the Appeals Committee is final.