Pediatric Nurse: Career Summary, Occupational Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in pediatric nursing. Read on to learn more about career options, along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) or nurse practitioners (NPs) who provide preventive and acute nursing care to children and adolescents in doctor's offices and hospitals. They are responsible for assessing and recording patients' conditions, which may include the use of medical equipment and diagnostic tests. In hospitals, they may be responsible for administering medications and treatments, as well as keeping an eye on how patients react to them. Teaching families of patients what they need to do at home and offering support are also important tasks these nurses do. The following chart gives you an overview about entering this field.

Registered NursePediatric Nurse Practitioner
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Nursing Nursing
Key Responsibilities Take vital signs and maintain patient records; administer medication and treatment; set up and monitor medical equipment; assist doctor with examinations and treatment Examine patients and diagnose health issues; order and perform diagnostic tests and analyze results; prescribe medication and treatment
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as RN is required; board certification in several pediatric nursing specialties is available Licensure as RN is required; board certification as a pediatric nurse practitioner is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all registered nurses* 35% for all nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2015) $67,490 for all registered nurses* $98,190 for all nurse practitioners*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

A pediatric nurse's primary role is working with children and adolescents in a variety of situations and medical facilities. To be a pediatric nurse, you'll be trained as a nurse and in advanced techniques handling small children. In addition, you'll have knowledge to work in a number of settings, including schools, emergency departments, pediatric wards and family practitioner offices.

If you're employed with primary care services, such as doctors' offices, health care clinics or schools, your routines may include conducting routine developmental screenings, administering immunizations and promoting healthy lifestyle choices. If you choose to work in an acute care setting, such as an intensive care unit or emergency room, you may perform in-depth assessments, interpret the results of diagnostic tests and provide treatments. Your duties may also include aiding doctors in the emergency or operating room.

How Does this Career Look?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment opportunities for all nurse practitioners would grow by 35% between 2014 and 2024, an increase of 44,700 jobs. Jobs for registered nurses would grow by approximately 439,300 between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). That is an expected 16% increase. You might look for some of these job opportunities through the Society of Pediatric Nurses, which provides job listings for pediatric nurse openings across the country (www.pednurses.org).

The median annual salary for registered nurses in 2015 was $67,490, according to the BLS, but specific salary data for pediatric nurses was not available. Medical and surgical hospitals employed the largest percentage of registered nurses. The 2015 median annual salary for nurse practitioners was reported by BLS as $98,190. Doctors offices employed the largest percentage of nurse practitioners.

What Should I Study?

To become a specialized nurse, such as a pediatric nurse, you'll first need to earn your bachelor's degree in nursing. These programs teach you the essentials of working as a nurse and include instruction in patient care, communications, anatomy, health assessment, healthcare systems and ethics in nursing. After completing a nursing degree and becoming a registered nurse (RN), you'll want to gain experience in the field you wish to work. In this case, a master's or doctoral degree program as a pediatric nurse practitioner should be considered.

Not only is a master's degree required by some credentialing agencies, but this program also provides plenty of clinical time in pediatrics. In this program, you'll study child development and pediatric medicine. Your program may include subjects like pharmacology, adolescent health, working with pediatric clients, handling grief and bereavement, victimology, decision-making and health promotion.

What Certification Should I Seek?

The first step in certification will be to sit for the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. This exam and the NCLEX-PN, for licensed practical nurses, are offered through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. After you earn your nursing license, you can then prepare to earn one of the national pediatric certifications. The American Nurses Credentialing Center certification exam can be taken if you are a licensed RN, have a master's degree and have additional training in health promotion or diagnostics (www.nursecredentialing.org). The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers a certification exam for five pediatric subspecialties, including acute care, emergency care and adolescent mental health (www.pncb.org).

You can also seek the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification offered through the American Heart Association (www.heart.org). This training is good for pediatric nurses who are interested in first-time training or renewing their knowledge of ambulatory care.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of specialization fields for nurses. Like pediatric nurses, neonatology nurses work with a specific age group. This age group is much smaller, focusing solely on newborns. A bachelor's degree is needed to work as a neonatology nurse. Working under the direction of an RN, nurse practitioner or physician, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) may provide some nursing care as well. To work as an LPN or LVN, you'll need to complete a diploma or certificate program.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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