How to Become a Pediatric Nurse

female nurse with child holding teddy bear

The Basics

What you’ll do: Pediatric nurses provide preventative and acute care in all settings to children and adolescents. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (PNPs) perform physical exams, diagnose illness and injury, and provide education and support to patients’ families. They often work in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) with pediatricians and other health care providers.

Minimum degree you’ll need to practice: Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) and usually have four-year Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degrees (BSNs).

Certification: Certification is a formal process that validates your qualifications and knowledge on a subject or specialty. In many cases, earning a certification may position you to earn a higher salary and advance in your career. If you hold an active registered nurse (RN) license and meet other requirements, you can earn a Pediatric Nursing Certification from the American Nurse Credentialing Center.

Median annual salary: RN: $77,460; NP: $111,840*

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Career Overview

Pediatric nurses and pediatric nurse practitioners work in a wide range of settings from doctor’s offices and community-based settings to hospitals and critical care facilities. Here’s what you’ll do and how to become a pediatric nurse.

Primary care services may include:

  • Health maintenance care, including “well child” examinations
  • Routine developmental screenings
  • Diagnosis and treatment of common childhood illnesses
  • Anticipatory guidance regarding common child health concerns
  • Delivery of immunizations
  • Performance of school physicals

Acute care and specialty services may include:

  • Caring for children who are acutely, chronically or critically ill
  • Performing in-depth physical assessments
  • Interpreting results of laboratory and diagnostic tests
  • Ordering medications and performing therapeutic treatments

Some pediatric nurses and nurse practitioners focus on a pediatric specialty area, such as cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology or oncology.

Education and Training

After gaining experience providing nursing care for children, a pediatric nurse can take an exam to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN). To become a pediatric nurse practitioner, you will need to meet these requirements in addition to your RN:

Certified nurses earn significantly more than those without such credentials. Certification is required in many states and recommended in the others.

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Career Outlook

As with all nursing careers, the demand for pediatric nurses is expected to increase significantly over the next ten years. In general, the more training, certifications, and experience a nurse has, the more demand there will be for his or her skill set.

Sources: National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners; Society of Pediatric Nurses; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Registered Nurses, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.