Young female nurse holding a newborn baby

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Young female nurse holding a newborn baby

Upon entering the field, Registered Nurses (RNs) gain experience by working with various patient groups. After gaining that experience, some nurses choose to advance their careers by becoming specialized in a particular healthcare field or patient category.

(Click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse)

As a Registered Nurse, you have the option to specialize in a healthcare concentration of your choice.

However, for every nursing specialization, you can expect a unique set of job responsibilities, work environments, and patient groups. Furthermore, each specialization comes with its own educational and licensing requirements.

(Click here to see our complete list of the highest-paid nursing jobs)

This article will focus on the nursing specialists who help expectant mothers safely and successfully deliver their newborn babies, Neonatal Nurse Practitioners.

If you enjoy working with mothers and their newborn children, this guide will explore the role of a Neonatal Nurse, their job responsibilities, salary*, and educational requirements.

Neonatal Nurse Definition

What is a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) with an advanced degree in nursing. Neonatal Nurse Practitioners provide care to newborn infants and families when the newborn’s health condition requires more care than a standard postnatal ward can provide.

Neonatal Nurse: Job Description

What Does a Neonatal Nurse Do?

Neonatal Nurses provide care for newborns and their families. They work with newborn infants who are born with any number of health problems such as congenital disabilities, premature birth, or heart malformations. They work alongside physicians and other healthcare team members to provide medical treatment and counseling for their patients and their families.

Neonatal Nurses also care for sick or premature babies by administering oxygen, medication, and other basic procedures in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

There are four levels of NICU. Each level represents the level of care needed for an infant. The first level is designed for relatively healthy newborns, while the fourth is for infants with critical conditions.

Neonatal Nurse: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Neonatal Nurses include:

  • Coordinating, writing orders, and implementing neonatal care
  • Starting and maintaining IV lines
  • Assessing vital signs and drawing blood
  • Educating the infant’s parents on treatments and procedures
  • Ordering and administering medications and oxygen
  • Assisting and participating with deliveries of high-risk newborns

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Jobs

Where Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Work?

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners work within a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). As previously mentioned, there are four levels of the NICU, each providing varying levels of care depending on the infant’s condition.

Some Neonatal Nurses may also work in clinics and community-based settings to provide continuing care for infants who have been discharged from the NICU.

African-American medical student in a corridor

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Neonatal Nurse?

What Degree Do You Need to be a Neonatal Nurse?

Becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner requires a significant level of education and training. It also requires substantial experience working in pediatrics and neonatal care.

The entry-level requirements for a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner may vary depending on location, but you must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree at a minimum.

It is a lot of work, but the dedication will pay off in the end, as Neonatal Nurses rank among the best-paying nursing jobs in the US.

Here are the steps required to become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner:

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

The first step to becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is earning your BSN or Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree. A BSN program will take about three to four years to complete.

However, if you’ve already earned your associates degree in nursing, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program. These bridge programs are very convenient and can be completed in as little as 20 months.

Accelerated nursing programs are also available to Licensed Vocational Nurses with an associate degree in vocational nursing (AVSN or LPN). These LVN to BSN programs allow you to skip the first three semesters of the BSN program.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon earning your nursing bachelor’s degree, the next step to becoming a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is earning your nursing license. To do that, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. With the NCLEX, you’ll be certified to enter the workforce as a Registered Nurse (RN).

(Click here to read our NCLEX-RN Exam Review & Study Guide)

3. Gain Real-World Experience Working as an RN

To be hired as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, most NICUs require applicants to have some experience working with infants or children. RNs can work in pediatrics or hospital nurseries before applying for neonatal nursing positions. Some nursing schools offer internship opportunities for students to gain experience working in neonatal care prior to graduating. The amount of experience required varies depending on the location.

4. Become Certified in Neonatal Care

Although becoming certified is an optional step, Neonatal Nurses Practitioners will complete certification to validate their skills and strengthen their resumes.

Neonatal Certification Options:

The American Nurses Credentialing Council (ANCC) offers a pediatric nursing certification.

The National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers several neonatal certifications. Some of the credentials administered by the NCC include:

  • The Credential in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB) to evaluate competence in “providing care to hospitalized pregnant women during the antepartum, intrapartum, postpartum and newborn periods.”
  • Certification in Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN) tests nurses on their ability to “provide care to the childbearing family from birth to six weeks within hospital or outpatient settings.”
  • Certification in Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-LRN), to certify “experience in providing care to acutely and chronically ill neonatal patients and their families within level II, chronic care, special care or step-down units.”
  • RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC) tests the ability to “provide care to acutely and critically ill neonatal patients and their families within an intensive care environment.”

Finally, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses also administers several neonatal certification examinations, including:

  • The CCRN (Neonatal) is a specialty competency exam “for nurses who provide direct care to acutely/critically ill neonatal patients regardless of their physical location.”
  • The CCRN-K (Neonatal) Certification is for nurses “who influence the care delivered to acutely/ critically ill neonatal patients but do not primarily or exclusively provide direct care.”
  • The ACCNS-N (Neonatal)Advanced Practice Board Certification is for “Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) educated at the graduate level to provide advanced nursing care to meet the specialized needs of the neonatal patient population.”

Medical professional holding a cup of coffee while typing on a laptop

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary* of Nurse Practitioners, including Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, was about $118,000 per year or about $57 per hour as of 2021. The top 10% of Nurse Practitioners can earn over $163,000 per year.

Highest Paying Industries for Neonatal Nurses

According to the BLS, these are the industries where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Home Health Care Services $64.03 $133,170
Psychiatric Hospitals $63.38 $131,830
Outpatient Care Centers $62.11 $129,190
General Hospitals $59.12 $122,960
Physicians’ Offices $55.23 $114,870

Highest Paying States for Neonatal Nurses

According to the BLS, these are the states where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners:

State  Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
California $72.99 $151,830
New Jersey $65.87 $137,010
New York $64.39 $133,940
Washington $62.90 $130,840
Massachusetts $62.28 $129,540

Highest Paying Cities for Neonatal Nurses

According to the BLS, these are the cities where you’re most likely to find the top-paying jobs for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners:

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Jose, CA $95.13 $197,870
Napa, CA $88.80 $184,700
Fairfield, CA $86.72 $180,380
San Francisco, CA $85.18 $177,160
Yuba City, CA $76.57 $159,260
San Luis Obispo, CA $73.70 $153,300
Sacramento, CA $73.58 $153,050
Santa Rosa, CA $73.15 $152,150
Santa Cruz, CA $72.25 $150,280
Fresno, CA $71.04 $147,760

What is the Job Outlook for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners?

According to the BLS, the job growth for Nurse Practitioners is projected to increase by 45% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations (8%). In addition, the increase in the frequency of premature births and the steady population growth will provide a strong job outlook for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners.

Medical staff taking care of a newborn baby

Neonatal Nurse Career

Are You Ready to Start Your Career as a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal Nurses are saving the lives of children every single day, and their work is truly remarkable.

If you feel passionate about caring for infants and their families during a critical moment in their lives, then a career in neonatal nursing could be tremendously gratifying.

Start your BSN degree program at Provo College to begin your journey of becoming a Neonatal Nurse.