How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses specialize in providing care for patients from birth through adolescent age. For those interested in healthcare who want to work with babies, children and teens, a career in pediatric nursing presents these opportunities. Use this guide to learn how to become a pediatric nurse.

Georgetown University’s Online Master’s in Nursing

Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 23 months. 

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

info SPONSORED

USC’s CCNE-Accredited Online MSN Program

Nursing@USC delivers the online Master of Science in Nursing program from the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing. RN and BSN req’d.

  • Designed for registered nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing 
  • Offers a part-time option for active RNs to earn a Master of Science in Nursing online 
  • Can be completed in as few as 21 months

info SPONSORED

The Online MSN — FNP Program From Simmons University

Designed for currently licensed RNs, Nursing@Simmons enables aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners to earn an MSN online from Simmons University.

  • Scholarships are available
  • Part-time, full-time and extended plans of study 
  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

info SPONSORED

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

Pediatric nurses may be registered nurses (RNs) or pediatric nurse practitioners (NPs) who specialize in caring for patients younger than adult age. In addition to providing direct patient care, they help families cope with patient diagnoses and educate patients and families on healthcare issues like preventive care.

Pediatric nursing responsibilities for RNs include:

  • Administering patient treatments and medicine.
  • Collaborating with NPs and doctors on patient care.
  • Counseling families on treatment plans.
  • Diagnosing patient conditions.
  • Monitoring and operating medical equipment.
  • Observing patients and recording observations.
  • Performing diagnostic tests.

NPs, sometimes referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), are more advanced registered nurses who have at least a master’s degree in nursing and may provide primary healthcare. Possible duties of an NP include:

  • Analyzing test results.
  • Conducting and ordering medical tests.
  • Creating and/or contributing to patient care plans.
  • Diagnosing medical issues.
  • Giving patients medicines and treatments.
  • Operating medical equipment.
  • Performing physical exams.

Where do pediatric nurses work? Wherever babies, children and teens receive medical care, an RN or NP specializing in pediatrics may be present. These environments include:

  • Hospitals, including children’s hospitals, major medical centers and community hospitals.
  • Primary care physicians’ offices and outpatient specialty care offices.
  • Schools.
  • Pediatric rehabilitation and extended care facilities.
  • Ambulatory and urgent care healthcare services.
  • Patient homes.
  • Mental health and psychiatric facilities.

Pediatric nurses may provide care for everything from routine checkups to emergency medical trauma. If you want to treat young patients, there are diverse career paths you may take as a pediatric nurse.

Educational Requirements to Become a Pediatric Nurse

For aspiring nurses who want to work in pediatrics, educational requirements range from a postsecondary nondegree award to a master’s in nursing degree (MSN) or higher. For pediatric nurses who want more responsibilities with direct patient care, an MSN degree provides advanced opportunities. The following are educational requirements to expect at various pediatric nurse levels:

  • Pediatric Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse: Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) are entry-level nurses who provide basic medical care, supervised by RNs and doctors. LPNs and LVNs must complete an approved educational program, typically by a community college or technical school, and obtain licensure.
  • Pediatric Registered Nurse: RNs must complete at least a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) or associate degree in nursing. There may also be opportunities to become an RN with an approved nursing program diploma. RNs must obtain licensure.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Pediatric NPs must complete at least an MSN with a pediatric specialty or one that’s related, like a family nurse practitioner (FNP) or nurse midwifery specialty. They must also be licensed RNs in their state, have a state NP license and pass a national certification exam.

Some experienced RNs with pediatric experience become certified pediatric nurses (CPN). This credential designates nursing specialty and represents pediatric clinical experience or RN pediatric nursing experience.

There are also nurses who move into pediatric nursing leadership roles, such as chief nursing officer or nurse administrator. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program prepares pediatric nurses to advance their careers.

How Many Years Does it Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?

The time it takes to become a pediatric nurse depends on the pediatric nursing title you’re interested in. Also, a full-time program will take less time to complete than a part-time program. The following are typical pediatric nursing education timelines:

  • Nursing diploma/LPN/LVN program: 12 months.
  • Associate degree in nursing (ADN) program: 24 months.
  • BSN program: 36-60 months.
  • BSN-to-MSN program: 18-24 months.
  • RN-to-BSN program: 12-36 months.
  • RN-to-MSN program: 24-36 months.
  • DNP program: 48-72 months.

Remember that while part-time programs offer flexibility and enable students to continue working while attending school, they typically take longer to complete than full-time pediatric nursing programs.

4 Common Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

While every pediatric nurse’s journey is different, there are typical steps to take if you want to specialize in pediatric nursing as an APRN. These include getting the required education, taking tests, obtaining licensure and gaining experience to become specialized as a pediatric nurse. Consider the following common requirements to become an advanced pediatric nurse:

  1. Become a Registered Nurse

    Typically, a valid unencumbered RN license is required to enter a pediatric NP (PNP) program. RN requirements vary by state, but the first typical step to become a registered nurse is to complete nursing education, with a minimum of a nursing diploma from an approved program. Then, an aspiring RN must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX exam) and pay licensing application fees.

    With an RN license, some PNP programs will consider candidates who have an ASN or diploma in nursing. More commonly, at least a BSN degree is required for MSN program admittance. Some programs may accept candidates who have RN licensure and a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, if they’ve completed certain prerequisites.

  2. Obtain an MSN with a Pediatric Nursing Specialization

    There are dozens of pediatric nursing specialty MSN programs, many with online, part-time, full-time and accelerated options. Typically, MSN pediatric programs are categorized by acute care and primary care.

    Some pediatric nursing school programs may require experience as a pediatric nurse to be considered. Some programs provide accelerated options for those who have an MSN degree and want to specialize in pediatrics. Others will consider RN candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field who have completed prerequisites and other requirements.

  3. Get Clinical Experience

    Some pediatric MSN programs require clinical experience. These are pediatric practice hours completed under professional academic supervision.

    You’ll need to complete these hours to graduate with an MSN and to pursue certified pediatric nurse practitioner (CPNP) credentials. The CPNP-PC for pediatric primary care nurse practitioners requires at least 500 supervised direct care clinical practice hours in primary care pediatrics. The CPNP-AC for pediatric acute care nurse practitioners requires at least 500 (with a strong recommendation for 600) supervised direct care clinical supervised hours in acute care pediatrics. Depending on what type of CPNP credential you’re interested in, it helps to attend a school that provides students with those clinical practice hours.

  4. Become a Certified Pediatric Nurse

    Once you have an RN and have graduated from an accredited college or university offering a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) accredited nursing master’s in pediatric nursing, you can apply to become certified with the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board  (PNCB). These include the CPN certification, the CPNP-PC certification and the CPNP-AC certification.

    The education requirements to become certified as a CPNP-PC or CPNP-AC will include graduate courses in subjects like advanced physiology and advanced pharmacology. You’ll need to take the PNCB exam to become certified.

Pediatric Nurse Careers

Pediatric nurses work wherever there are newborn to adolescent patients. Pediatric nurses may choose to pursue work in a variety of environments, including:

  • Hospitals and ambulatory/urgent care healthcare services: Pediatric nurses work in children’s hospitals dedicated to pediatric care and in general hospitals. At a general hospital, a pediatric nurse may specialize in treating babies, children and teens in units such as neonatal, oncology or critical care. Pediatric nurses who specialize in acute care also help patients requiring ambulatory or urgent care services.
  • Family medicine offices: Pediatric nurses may assist doctors who specialize in pediatric care in a pediatrician’s office. PNPs may also provide primary care in family medicine offices under the supervision of a doctor.
  • Schools: Pediatric nurses who work at schools help students who are feeling sick at school. They may provide care and treatment at the school or make diagnoses and recommend sick students be released from school. Pediatric nurses in schools may also educate students about health and wellness.
  • Pediatric rehabilitation and extended care facilities: Like hospitals, rehabilitation and extended care facilities dedicated to pediatric care employ pediatric nurses. These facilities serve children and teens who require skilled nursing care for issues like chronic conditions, developmental disabilities and life-limiting conditions.
  • Patient homes: Some pediatric nurses help patients in their homes. These may include pediatric hospice patients or children and teens with developmental disabilities who require home care.
  • Mental health and psychiatric facilities: Pediatric nurses may also work with children and teens living in mental health and psychiatric facilities. Nurses may administer medicine and provide treatment for medical issues in these facilities.

Some pediatric nurses choose to work as travel nurses. Instead of being employed long-term with a single employer, these nurses fill short-term roles at healthcare facilities that need pediatric nurses due to nursing shortages. Traveling pediatric nurses find roles through employment agencies and may work in children’s hospitals, outpatient clinics or trauma centers.

How Much Does a Pediatric Nurse Make?

What is the salary of a pediatric registered nurse? As with most careers, earning potential increases as education advances. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the typical median weekly earnings in 2019 based on educational attainment were:

  • Doctoral degree: $1,883
  • Master’s degree: $1,497
  • Bachelor’s degree: $1,248
  • Associate degree: $887
  • Some college, no degree: $833

The BLS reports the following 2019 median pay for nurses.

Nursing salary by state will vary, due to factors like nursing demand and cost of living.

Are pediatric nurses in high demand? The BLS reports nursing positions, including pediatric nurse jobs, are increasing throughout the country and are outpacing other industries.

  • The job outlook for LPNs and LVNs is projected to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • The job outlook for RNs is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
  • The job outlook for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and NPs is projected to grow 45% from 2019-2029, much faster than average.

As you can see, the demand for APRN careers is expected to be very strong in the next decade. An MSN may help you become certified to obtain an advanced pediatric nursing role like PNP and pursue in-demand careers in pediatrics.

Is Pediatric Nursing a Good Career?

You may still be wondering, “Is pediatric nursing worth it?” As you ponder your future, consider:

  • Who you want to work with: Do you want to work with babies, children or teens?
  • Where you want to work: Do you want to work in a healthcare setting or place where healthcare is provided?
  • What you’re interested in: Does the medical field interest you?
  • How you want to contribute in your career: Do you want to work in a helping career where you can assist people in need?

Pediatric nurses play vital roles in the lives of babies, children, teens and their families. If you want to work in healthcare and are drawn to this type of population, a career as a pediatric nurse could be fulfilling. This in-demand field provides growth opportunities and diverse career paths, which may appeal to you.

Think about your overall career goals and the licensure you’ll need as you choose which nursing degree you want to pursue. With several types of nursing degrees to choose from, you can select a nursing school program that aligns with your goals.

Georgetown University’s Online Master’s in Nursing

Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 23 months. 

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

info SPONSORED

USC’s CCNE-Accredited Online MSN Program

Nursing@USC delivers the online Master of Science in Nursing program from the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing. RN and BSN req’d.

  • Designed for registered nurses (RNs) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing 
  • Offers a part-time option for active RNs to earn a Master of Science in Nursing online 
  • Can be completed in as few as 21 months

info SPONSORED

The Online MSN — FNP Program From Simmons University

Designed for currently licensed RNs, Nursing@Simmons enables aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners to earn an MSN online from Simmons University.

  • Scholarships are available
  • Part-time, full-time and extended plans of study 
  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education

info SPONSORED

Last Updated January 2021