Neonatal Nurse: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in neonatal 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 Neonatal Nurse?

A neonatal nurse specializes in the care of babies. They primarily work with infants who are ill or are premature and require medical care. Their responsibilities may include assisting with tests and documenting the results, collaborating with other medical staff to determine what treatments are needed, and administering direct care to the infants. Their responsibilities may vary slightly depending on whether they are a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner.

Registered Nurse (RN)Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Degree Required Diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree Master's degree or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Nursing Nurse practitioner
Key Responsibilities Monitor patient's status and vital signs; administer prescribed medication, diagnostic tests and treatment; operate and monitor medical equipment; maintain patient records Examine patient and monitor newborn status and vital signs; prescribe and administer medication and therapeutic treatments; order diagnostic testing and analyze results; assist physician with examination and treatment
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as RN is required; board certification is available Licensure as RN is required; board certification as neonatal nurse practitioner is available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% (for all registers nurses) * 35% (for all nurse practitioners)*
Median Salary (2016) $58,829 (for neonatal nurses)** $92,656 for neonatal nurse practitioners)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Will I Do as a Neonatal Nurse?

Neonatal nurses work with pediatricians and physicians to provide care to newborn babies. As a neonatal nurse, you'll monitor vital signs, order diagnostic tests and make initial readings of those results. You'll introduce new mothers to caring for their newborns, and you may give additional care to mothers and infants who've undergone cesarean section procedures. Generally, neonatal nurses work with preterm babies and infants up to the age of two.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for registered nurses was expected to increase by 16% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Employment for all nurse practitioners was projected to increase 35%. Neonatal nurses and neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) can work in clinics, in hospitals or as consultants. PayScale.com reports that the median salary for neonatal nurses is about $58,829, with the mid 80% of salaries falling roughly between $37,500 - $87,810 as of 2016. Neonatal nurse practitioner salaries were reported as being $92,656 at the median, with the mid-80% falling between $70,524 and $117,337.

What Education Requirements Do I Need?

Depending on your career choice, you may be required to complete both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in nursing. Associate's degrees in nursing prepare you for a career in nursing with courses in communication, pharmacology, anatomy, patient care and nursing principles. You'll work with patients and family members to practice the skills learned in the classroom. The programs generally qualify you for registered nurse certification. The bachelor's degree programs are often geared toward working nurses. These programs usually include coursework subjects like physiology, critical care, health assessment, nutrition and microbiology.

To become a neonatal nurse practitioner, you must continue your education with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree in a neonatal nurse practitioner program. These programs are sometimes offered online, with clinical experience completed at a local neonatal care unit. You'll study this subspecialty with courses in pediatric pharmacology, neonatal care, fetus physiology and healthcare system basics.

Some states require neonatal nurses to continue their education after being certified. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) provides such education opportunities online and through conferences (www.nann.org). NANN also provides information on scholarships and grants given to nurses going into the neonatal profession.

How Do I Obtain Certification?

Before initially becoming a nurse, you'll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) provided by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org). The Council offers two exams; the NCLEX-RN is for registered nurses and the NCLEX-PN is for licensed practical nurses. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a pediatric nursing practitioner certification, but they don't offer one specifically in neonatal care (www.nursecredentialing.org).

Finally, the National Certification Corporation provides a neonatal nurse practitioner certification (www.nccwebsite.org). This exam can be taken in person or via the Web. Application and exam fees differ depending on the examination method. You must be a registered nurse and have completed a master's degree in neonatal nursing to be eligible for the exam.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Physician assistants perform many tasks that are similar to those of a nurse practitioner, and may be responsible for ordering and administering tests, recording the test results, and recommending treatment for patients. Paramedics provide emergency medical care, and may also be involved in the delivery of a baby and early care to an infant. Dental hygienists clean teeth, evaluate patients and look for signs of dental disease. Physician assistants may also specialize in neonatal care; dental hygienists often see patients of all ages, although they may specialize in pediatric care.

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:

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