Pediatric Nurse

Pediatric nurses provide care to children and adolescents in many types of healthcare settings. This is a highly responsible career for compassionate professionals who wish to devote their career to caring for the young. But before you find out exactly how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner and are pediatric nurse education requirements , you first need to know exactly what is a pediatric nurse and what the career entails.

Career Overview

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNP) provide both preventative and acute care to children and adolescents up to 18 years of age. Pediatric nurse practitioners perform medical examinations, diagnose medical conditions, and provide education and support to the patient and his or her family. Many PNPs work in intensive care units (ICU) and critical care units (CCU) with pediatricians and other members of the health care team.

Pediatric nurse practitioners work in a variety of healthcare settings to include hospitals, rehabilitation settings, community clinics, home health agencies, as well as private physician offices.

Preventative duties of pediatric nurse practitioners include:

– Preventative care to include medical examinations.

– Perform  examinations so child may attend school

– Perform development screenings and note progress

– Diagnosis and treatment of common childhood ailments

– Administration of scheduled immunizations (e.g. TB, rubella, etc.)

– Guidance and advice to families or primary caregivers with regard to common childhood health issues.

Acute care duties and roles of pediatric nurse practitioners include:

-Caring for children and adolescents who have critical care needs.

-Conducting in-depth physical examinations

-Evaluating laboratory and other diagnostic tests

-Providing therapeutic treatment and ordering appropriate medications

-Pediatric nurse practitioners may specialize in a certain area of care such as cardiology, oncology, rehabilitation, or mental health.

Career Outlook

As with all areas of nursing practice, the demand for pediatric nurses is expected to increase significantly (by 23 percent as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) through the year 2018. As a general rule, the more training and certifications a nurse accrues the greater the demand for their services.  

Demand results in increased salaries, along with the availability of financial aid in the form of grants and loans for nurse educational programs. These factors taken together make this a great time to become a pediatric nurse. 

Pediatric Nurse Education Requirements and Training

Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RN) who typically possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.

After accumulating a certain amount of work experience caring for children and adolescents, a pediatric nurse may take a specialty examination to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN). To become a CPN, you will need to meet the following requirements in addition to being an RN:

– Earn a Master of Science Degree in Nursing (MSN) degree that includes classes in pediatric nursing. Many graduate nursing schools offer this master’s degree in a two-year program.

– Obtain recognition as an advanced practice nurse by your state board of nursing (BON). You can access your state board of nursing by visiting the Web site of the National Council for State Boards of Nursing.

– Become certified as a CPN through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. While voluntary, certification provides evidence that you have met the highest standards for pediatric nursing practice. Pediatric nurses are eligible for career advancement opportunities and typically earn a much higher salary than those not having this credential. Certification is also required in many states in order to practice as a pediatric nurse.


PNCB Certification

As per the PNCB over 30,000 nurses currently hold certification through this organization which is considered by many employers, educators, and health care providers be the “gold standard” of credentialing within the field of pediatric nursing. PNCB certification programs are recognized by the NCSBN, as well as most individual state boards of nursing.

Specialty Exams Available Through the PNCP

PNCB certification provides evidence that you have developed special skills, knowledge, and abilities (KSAs) in the area of pediatric nursing. As per the PNCB, the exams are recognized and endorsed by a variety or professional organizations: “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN), the Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs (AFPNP), and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP).”

Specialty exams include the Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse exam with the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN®), and [the recently launched] Child & Adolescent Behavioral & Mental Health Specialty Certification Exam for APRNs (Advanced Practice RNs).

Specialty Exam Titles

Pediatric Nurse (CPN)

This exam is targeted toward those nurses with extensive experience providing care to children and adolescents and are able to demonstrate advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities in pediatric nursing beyond what is required to obtain initial RN licensure.

Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN)

This exam is for nurses providing emergency care to child and adolescent patients. The PNCP and the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) have partnered in the development and administration of this examination. Both agencies recommend that candidates have two years experience in pediatric emergency care prior to applying for the examination.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CNP)

This exam is for pediatric nurse practitioners with significant knowledge regarding diagnostic procedures and the management of pediatric healthcare issues. It is also recommended that nurses have two years work experience in pediatrics before sitting for this exam.

Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP)

For pediatric nurse practitioners with extensive knowledge, skills, and abilities in addressing and managing the acute care issues of children and adolescents in hospitals, community clinics, and home environments.

Child and Adolescent Mental Health

For pediatric nurses with extensive knowledge, skills, and abilities in the identification, intervention, and treatment of children and adolescents with behavioral and mental health issues. This exam was introduced in 2011.

Study resources through the PNCB for all specialty exams:

  • Online practice exams. Contain similar questions to what are included in the actual exams.
  • Testing taking strategy module: Provides exam preparation advice, suggestions for answering multiple choice questions, and suggestions for managing test-taking anxiety.
  • Exam Resources: Includes information on test construction and content, test-taking tips, and sample questions.

Eligibility to Take a Specialty Exam through the PCNB:

1.      Complete an online application and

2.      Possess a current, active, unrestricted RN license in the U.S. Canada, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands and

3.      Documentation of experience as required by that specialty (e.g. 1800 hours within the past two years for the CPN exam and 2 recent years experience as a pediatric emergency nurse for the CPEN exam). All experience must have taken place in a healthcare facility within the U.S., Canada, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

4.      As per the PNCB, pediatric nursing experience includes direct patient care, teaching, administration, clinical research, school-based care, home health care, or consultation in pediatric nursing.

5.      After the PNCB receives your application and all supporting materials (school transcripts, letter of recommendation, copy of RN license, etc.) the agency will review and determine your eligibility to sit for one of the specialty exams.

6.      You may check the status of your application on the PNCB Web site (www.pncb.org) under “My account.”

7.      Once eligibility has been determined, PNCB will notify candidates by email or postcard of their 90 day window in which to register for the exam.

8.      The PNCB has contracted with Prometric test centers to administer the specialty examinations with the exception of the CPEN exam which is administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (www.goamp.com ). You may register with Prometric online or telephone. Visit the testing center Web site (proemtric.com/pncb) for further information regarding each option.

9.      The fee for each specialty exam is $285 which includes a $100. Non-refundable registration fee.

10.  Refer to the Specialty Exam Handbook available on the PNCB Web site for further information regarding the administration of these exams (www.pncb.org/resource/content/exam/prometrichandbook)

Median pediatric nurse salary ranges in select regional areas. 

Los Angeles, CA



Boulder, CO



Boca Raton, FL



Atlanta, GA



New York, NY



Dallas, TX



Figures from salary.com

Pediatric Nursing Degrees

Just like any other patient group, children need specialized care givers. As such there are specially trained registered nurses who perform nursing duties in children wards.

Children are a special group of patients who fear going to physicians, but pediatric nurses are trained to make a child fearless and comfortable when in a hospital environment.  There are also special health conditions affecting children only and specializing on how to deal with them is all in the curriculum of a pediatric nurse degree program.

On the other hand, pediatric nurse degrees train nurses to perform diverse responsibilities including care for adolescents and teenagers. They may be involved in educating the youths on issues about relationships, healthy feeding habits, drug abuse among others. It’s all not about confinement within hospital walls after earning your pediatric nurse degree.

How do you Become a Pediatric Nurse?

Basically, any registered nurse can become a care-giver to any group of patients on a generalist basis. This means generalist pediatric nurses do have special training beyond the usual curriculum of other registered nurses (RN). Here are common pathways:

Registered Nurse Degrees

All children nurses starts as registered nurses by taking either an associate degree or Bachelor of Science in nursing degree (BSN). This enables the nurse to take the NLCELX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. An RN with an associate or BSN degree is able to work in a children ward or pediatric hospital on a generalist basis.   Since such nurses receive no specialized training on care of children, they learn the skills of becoming pediatric nurses by taking advantage of on-the-job training.

Pediatric Nurse Graduate Degrees

Graduate degrees are a way of enabling Registered Nurses to move from a generalist to a specialized level in the care of pediatric patients. These degrees are specifically designed with courses covering issues affecting this group of patients. After completing a graduate level pediatric nurse degree, you can perform your duties autonomously and even acquire prescriptive authority. By taking graduate degrees, one becomes an advanced practice pediatric nurse and is able to take national Certified Pediatric Nurses exams. Below are pathways to earning a pediatric nurse degree at masters, DNP or PhD levels:

Master of Science in Nursing-Pediatric Nursing

The Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in pediatric nursing is usually designed for BSN-prepared candidates. Some colleges and universities may ask for some RN experience in pediatric nursing to be eligible to apply. Three pathways exist at the MSN level:

MSN-Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

A pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has received extensive and specialized training in caring for pediatric patients. PNP take core MSN level courses during their first year and pediatrics specialty courses during their second year.  They become experts in this field can even take extra pharmacology courses to gain prescriptive authority while handling their patients.

Normally, pediatric nurse practitioner programs; primary or acute care PNP programs, take two years to complete on a full time basis. At this point, you can take the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP) exam following guidelines given by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Besides PNCB, graduates can also become certified through:

  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioner Certification Program

Upon completion of studies, a PNP graduate can work independently as the primary care giver to pediatric patients or can work under the supervision of a senior doctor.

MSN- Clinical Nurses Specialist

Clinical nurse specialists (CNS) are APRN who receive training with focus on one area of nursing. A pediatric clinical nurse specialist student has similar coursework as a PNP with a few differences in specialty courses. For the CNS, the outcomes of the MSN program are not entirely confined to direct clinical care giving. Instead, their scope involves evidence-based research, clinical leadership, ethical decision making and expert coaching and consultation on pediatric issues.

Post-Master Certificate in Pediatric Nursing

This program is designed for MSN prepared nurses who would wish to become certified as pediatric nurses. Often, those interested in this program are generalist MSN graduates who wish to specialize or APRN who are certified in another area but want to add pediatric certification. Compared to an entry-level MSN student, post-master certificate program are shorter since students have already covered all core MSN courses.  Usually, post-master certificate programs take one year to complete. Upon completion, students become eligible to take national certification exams to become Certified pediatric nurse practitioners.

Pediatric Nurse Education

Pediatric nurses help children in a variety of settings. Pediatric nursing degrees allow nurses to work in the children’s ward of hospitals, pediatric clinics or other healthcare facilities. While working with children can be entertaining, it can also be highly stressful. The patients are often frightened of doctors and nurses and may not cooperate. It can also be very upsetting to see children suffering. However, the rewards of the profession outweigh the negatives for many pediatric nurses.

There are a couple of ways to obtain a pediatric nursing education. Hospitals or clinics may have their own training requirements for pediatric nurses. Many pediatric nurses begin as Licensed Practicing Nurses, or LPNs, and continue their education to become certified pediatric nurses.

Licensed Practicing Nurse

An LPN degree requires the least amount of time to obtain the certification. Most LPN programs are a yearlong or less. The flip side is that LPNs do not have as many opportunities or liberties that other nurses may have. LPNs may administer certain medications, monitor vitals and perform other routine services under the supervision of a physician or RN. An LPN must return to school to get a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree to work in a healthcare setting.

Associates Degree in Nursing

An Associate Degree in Nursing, or ADN, is a two-year nursing degree program that will introduce new students to the nursing field. Once this degree is obtained, students can then progress to class work that will earn them a bachelors, masters or doctoral degree. The benefit of an ADN over a registered nurse degree is that it allows you to earn your degree quickly so that you can go straight into the workforce. You can then continue working as you pursue your next level of certification.

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse (RN) must complete a certified program, which usually takes at least two years. A registered nurse in pediatrics has some flexibility as to what tasks may be done. The RN may work closely with children to determine the cause of illness and heal injuries. A pediatric RN may also focus on reports and healthcare issues that do not involve patients directly. An RN can increase the number of job opportunities available by obtaining pediatric nursing degrees.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree will provide more opportunities in the workforce. In fact, many facilities now prefer their nurses to have at least this level of education. This degree takes approximately four years to obtain. However, LPNs and RNs can earn the degree through transitional programs that acknowledge previous coursework required for their current certification.

Nurse Practitioner

A nurse practitioner (NP) can be very helpful when working with children. A pediatric NP is a registered nurse that has received a graduate degree with a specialization in pediatrics. This extensive education regarding the care of children allows them to diagnose and treat many illnesses. An NP is able to prescribe most medications and can eliminate the need to wait for a doctor to be available for an appointment.

Obtaining a Nursing Degree in Pediatrics

Before you decide which path to take, carefully consider which aspects of pediatric nursing you want to be a part of. If you want to simply help monitor sick or injured children, an LPN degree may be enough to satisfy you. If you want to have more control without spending a long time in school, look into becoming an RN. If you want to have a dominant role in nursing children back to health, take the steps to become a nurse practitioner. After you have obtained your initial certification, you may have the option of taking your education courses online. This will allow you to work while simultaneously earning your next degree. You can also look into transitional or bridge programs that will prevent you from retaking courses that you had for your initial degree.

Pediatric nursing degrees open many doors for career opportunities, and there are several ways to go about getting certified as a pediatric nurse. Allow your inner child to come out and play as you help nurse infants, children and adolescents back to health.

Pediatric Nursing Continuing Education

With the ever changing methods of up-bringing children, changes in lifestyle habits and even more preferences of new illnesses, pediatric nurses need to keep abreast with how to handle new cases. Sticking with the nursing school bachelors of associate degree knowledge will do no more than lag you behind handling novel needs of pediatric nursing.

Continuing education (CE) is the only way a pediatric nurse will ensure they are up-to date with all advancements being developed towards the care of children. It is also a perfect way to earn contact hours needed for registered nurses licenses renewal.  Earning contact hours is great if you do not want to re-sit your NCLEX-RN exam in order to renewal your RN license.

Pediatric Nursing Continuing Education Units (CEU) Directory

There are hundreds of CEUs available for pediatric nurses and it is up-to the pediatric nurse to choose the best for themselves. However, you must check whether there are state specific CE courses that your state board of nursing requires as prerequisites for nurses who want to renew their licenses. If not, the pediatric nurses can take any courses and get certificates to prove their involvement in nursing continuing education.

Below is a simplified directory of the most common CE courses that pediatric nurses can take:

Pediatric Toxicology CEUs

This is a huge bracket of pediatric nursing CEUs a nurse can choose from. Children are very prone to poisoning when trying out new things and making growth development discoveries. Mostly, poisoning is expected from ingestion and skin poisoning from harsh chemicals and other household hazards.

Nursing continuing education units in this bracket will include care and management of poisoning resulting from lead and iron poisoning, asbestos, pesticides, detergents, carbon monoxide leakage among others. Courses cover the administration of antidotes, gastric lavage and the use of activated charcoal and ipecac syrup. Examples of courses include:

  • Neonatal Abstinence syndrome
  • Lead and mercury poisoning
  • Dog an insect  bites management

CEUs on the Care For The Obese and Anorexic Children

Change in lifestyle trends and feeding habits has resulted to obesity being of high preference in the developed countries. For this reason, pediatric nurses must receive continuing education on how to deal with obese pediatric patients. Obese patients are at higher health risks of getting diabetes, heart failure, cardiac arrests and some types of cancer. The pediatric nurses are trained on how to offer health education to families of the affected children.

For the anorexic children, pediatric nurses are trained on how to deal with the psychology of anorexia. Anorexia is life threatening and nurses must effectively educate and counsel the suffering children and adolescents on such issues. Units include:

  • Handling the picky eater kid
  • Counseling for bullied obese kids
  • Childhood Obesity and diabetes
  • The vegetarian child
  • Food allergies and intolerance

Pediatric Trauma Courses

Nurses receive assessment skills for pediatric trauma coma scale and score. Training is also focused on the most common forms of pediatric trauma cases expected in children and how to carryout diagnosis and treatment options. Specific units would include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Self injury and accidents
  • Seizure resultant trauma

Respiratory and Cardiac Pediatric Anomalies

This area includes the most number of pediatric CEUs. Courses range from care of patients diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus, hypoplastic left heart syndrome to pediatric congenital cardiac anomalies. Dedicated units include:

  • Asthma in children
  • Pulmonary and respiratory pathologies
  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia
  • Pediatric ventilator and tracheotomy emergencies

Adolescents and Development Challenges

As children grow, they tend to be outgoing, experimenting on new things and tasting the new life of freedom. Pediatrics nurses must be equipped with excellent skills to handle the tantrums of the adolescent children. Wise guidance and counseling is the key to shaping the future life of the growing adolescent. Nurses are trained on:

  • Guidance on responsible dating and prevention of dating violence
  • Drug and substance abuse in the youths
  • HPV vaccination for cervical cancer
  • Rehabilitation and behavioral change management
  • Down syndrome in teens

Where to Get Pediatric Nursing Continuing Education Courses

Like many other nursing CEUs, pediatric nursing continuing education is available on numerous online agencies. However, the RN must ensure the CEUs they choose are approved and certificates are recognized by your state. You can get the above courses and many more at an affordable fee on accredited CE provider agencies.

Pediatric Nurse Schooling

Working with babies, toddlers and children can be a very rewarding nursing career. Many nurses start out with a baby and work with that child as they grow into adolescents. Nurses who want to specialize in pediatrics need to attend pediatric nurse schooling to become a PNP or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Choosing the best school is important for many nurses who want to make sure they are receiving the best possible education to advance their career.

Some of the top pediatric nursing schools are outlined below.

Nurses who are considering advancing their careers and want to work in pediatrics can choose an MS degree with a focus on pediatrics or a Doctor of Nurse Practitioner with a pediatric focus. Although the DNP is not required at this time, it is becoming the preferred degree for advanced nursing such as pediatrics and will eventually become the required degree.

Top Ranked Schools

The following schools have been ranked by the U.S. News and World Report’s annual school ranking report. The rankings are based on surveys and assessments sent to faculty and administrators at universities and colleges throughout the United States.

The number one ranked school in for pediatric nursing is the University of Pennsylvania. Located in Philadelphia, Penn State’s pediatric nurse practitioner program is a one-year program with 20 hours a week in clinical work. Students work with fully certified nurse practitioners and doctors in a variety of medical settings  as they earn the course required to prepare them to take either the national certification exam from the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board which gives them the Certified Pediatric Nurses Practitioners title (CPNPP).

The number two ranked school is located in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale University offers a Master’s of Science in Nursing with a Pediatric Nurse Specialty degree. This two-year program prepares nurses to work with children and adolescents with clinical rotation in local community pediatric care centers and school health care centers.  ­Yale University School of Nursing was established in 1923 and was the first school to educate nurses in the traditional classroom method rather than an apprentice program. Yale’s nursing program is one of the most well-known in the United States and is highly respected among medical practices.

The University Of Washington School Of Nursing’s Pediatric Program is currently ranked at number three and consistently ranks among the highest in the nation. The school offers some classes in an online format with the majority of classes being campus-based. The program is the only pediatric nursing program available in the Washington/Wyoming/Alaska/Montana/Idaho area. Students in the pediatric program may choose to focus on pulmonary or developmental disabilities as they earn their degree.

The Duke University School of Nursing consistently ranks in the top ten lists of nursing schools that offer pediatric nursing programs. The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program provides students with a dual education that prepares them to work as a nurse practitioner in a neonatal setting or a pediatric setting. Students perform clinical work in the state of the art simulation lab on the campus and at the Duke University Medical Center.

Online Options

Nurses who have their BS degree and want to advance to an MS in nursing with a specializing in pediatrics may choose to study online. Some of the top online schools that offer these courses include:

  • Kaplan University:
  • Phoenix University
  • Georgetown University
  • South University

There are other schools that offer online classes that may be right for you. However, you should make sure that you research the course offerings and determine if you are going to be required to attend any campus based classes or clinical. If clinical are required you should also determine if there are options located in or near your home so that you can make arrangements for those before you register for classes.

Pediatric nurse schooling allows you to earn either a Master’s of Science in Nursing with a specialty in pediatrics or a Doctor of Nursing Practice with a Pediatric Specialty. You should find out what your state laws require in order to be a practitioner as many states are moving toward the DNP rather than the MS degree for nurse practitioners. If you know this before you pursue and advanced degree you can get the one you need the first time.

How to become a pediatric nurse

A Pediatric nurse (PED) works with children, from 0 to 21 years of age in a variety of healthcare settings. There are opportunities for PEDs (pediatric nurses) to work in both preventative and acute health care settings with children. There are two types of pediatric nurses, those with undergraduate training and those who have pursued training and certification at the graduate level.

In addition to ability to care for children, patients need to have excellent interpersonal skills and ability to relate to all ages as their duties will often include working with anxious parents and guardians.

How long does it take to become a pediatric nurse?

Becoming a pediatric nurse at the undergraduate level requires four years of study. Though students can become a licensed and registered nurse in just two years by earning an associate’s degree, students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree have a better opportunity to gain work as a pediatric nurse. Though there is no certification at the undergraduate level, there are steps a student can take towards a career in pediatrics if that is their ultimate goal.

First, during undergraduate education, aspiring PEDs should take as many classes related to caring for and working with children as possible. Courses in child psychology are ideal. After earning their RN qualification, an aspiring pediatric nurse should try to find a career in a pediatric unit of a hospital or with a pediatrician’s private practice. Many hospitals and clinics offer internship or training programs for Registered Nurses interested in working as a pediatric nurse. Joining a pediatric nurse professional association is also a great way to network with other nurses to obtain experience.

Once a student has training as a pediatric nurse, the nurse can pursue certification through the Pediatric Nursing Board. This certification exam is designed specifically for nurses who work as a pediatric nurse to demonstrate training and expertise in pediatrics. Though not required, certification helps nurses demonstrate their skill in a particular area.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

For students interested in pursuing an official title of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, they will need to pursue a master’s degree program which offers training at the graduate level. Most PNP (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner) programs are two years, and extensively cover working with children and understanding their growth and development. This is because PNPs, in addition to working with children as part of their healthcare team, can also prescribe, diagnose and treat children. Once the graduate program is complete, a nurse can pursue certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Certification is required for the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner title.

How much does a pediatric nurse make?

Pediatric nurses at the undergraduate level will earn the same salary as RNs of other specialties. The salary of an RN pediatric nurse can best be determined by their experience level and location. Graduate level pediatric nurse practitioners can earn upwards of $60K in their first year of practice.

What are other career options for the pediatric nurse?

In addition to pursuing further education as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, PEDs can work as a speaker or instructor to students who aspire to be pediatric nurses. As a pediatric nurse, it is important to stay involved in continuing education to stay abreast of developments in the field.