What Education Is Required for a Neonatal Nursing Career?

For a career in neonatal nursing, you must be a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice nurse (APRN). This article looks at the education and certification requirements for either career path. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Neonatal nurses have multiple career options that can vary based on the nurse's experience and education. Any registered nurse is qualified to be a neonatal nurse. With some experience in the field, registered nurses can pursue neonatal nurse certification. Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) are advanced practice nurses. This career requires additional schooling in a master's or doctoral program.

Important Facts about Neonatal Nurses

Median Salary Registered nurses: $69,790 per year; Nurse practitioners: $97,990 per year (in 2014)
Job Outlook Registered nurses: 19% (Faster than average); Nurse practitioners: 31% (Much faster than average)
On-the-Job Training If you plan to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner, consider working in a hospital with an NICU as a staff nurse before applying to graduate school
Key Skills Critical-thinking, organizational and speaking skills, detail oriented, physical stamina

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Registered Nurse Education

All neonatal nursing careers require you to be a registered nurse (RN). There are three ways to become a registered nurse. For the most flexibility in your nursing career, you'll want a 4-year baccalaureate degree that's earned through a college or university. Another option is an associate degree, which can be obtained at a junior or community college in 2-3 years. In some cases, you can obtain a diploma degree from a hospital-based school of nursing. Prospective nurses with a degree in another field might be eligible for an accelerated program to pursue a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or master of science in nursing (MSN) in 1-2 years.

Registered Nurse Certification

With at least 24 months of specialty experience, any RN is eligible to be certified in neonatal nursing. The National Certification Corporation (www.nccwebsite.org) offers two RNC certifications: Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing and Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (www.aacn.org) offers the Neonatal Certified Critical Care Nurse credential (Neonatal CCRN-K). To qualify, nurses must pass an exam in acute/critical care nursing. Applicants for any of these certifications must have a valid RN license and work experience in clinical nursing care of newborns.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

To pursue a career in advanced practice nursing, you must have at least a master's or doctoral. With a graduate degree from an accredited nurse practitioner program, licensed nurses can pursue the National Certification Corporation's neonatal nurse practitioner certification.

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