Healthcare professional with a child

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Healthcare professional with a child

Some people are just naturals when it comes to working with kids. They’ve got a calming, nurturing presence about them that can soothe crying babies and make kids of all ages feel safe. If that sounds like you, a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner could be the best nursing specialty for your talents! If you’re looking for a nursing career with a high degree of independence, plus the chance to care for children and often build long-term relationships with families, becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner might just be your dream job. Not only do pediatric NPs frequently describe how fulfilling it is to help kids grow up healthy, it’s also one of the top-paying nursing careers. In fact, we recently featured pediatric nurse practitioners on our list of the highest-paid nursing jobs in 2021.

This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner, including the educational requirements, certifications, day-to-day duties, and how long it generally takes to launch your new career.

Not sure if becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner is the right nursing specialty for you? Click here to see our full list of the 18 highest-paying nursing jobs.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Definition

What Is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

Pediatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide both primary and acute care for children ranging in age from newborns to young adults. Pediatric NPs provide holistic care, meaning they monitor and assess all aspects of a child’s well-being, from physical and mental health to their social and environmental needs.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Job Description

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

Like other APRNs, pediatric nurse practitioners are fully trained and authorized to perform many functions traditionally reserved for physicians, including prescribing medication, ordering lab tests, and performing certain medical procedures. They often serve as a child’s primary healthcare provider and provide essential preventative care to promote healthy growth and development, with things like immunizations, developmental assessments, and overall wellness exams. Pediatric nurse practitioners also diagnose and manage both acute and chronic illnesses in children. They’re often the first person a concerned parent calls when their child isn’t feeling well.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of pediatric nurse practitioners include:

  • Conducting pediatric wellness exams
  • Counseling parents on immunizations and administering them to children
  • Performing developmental assessments and screenings for certain conditions
  • Diagnosing and treating common childhood illnesses and injuries
  • Caring for chronic conditions like type 1 diabetes, epilepsy, and others
  • Educating parents on how to raise healthier children and foster appropriate development

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Skills

To thrive as a pediatric nurse practitioner, it helps to have solid verbal and nonverbal communication skills, as children often can’t articulate how they’re feeling quite as easily as adults. Problem-solving and attention to detail are also critical for pediatric NPs, as you’ll be the first line of defense when it comes to diagnosing chronic or long-term issues that may require a referral to a specialist. Like any nursing career, working as a pediatric nurse practitioner requires a certain amount of emotional resilience, as caring for sick or injured children can be particularly heart-wrenching. However, most pediatric nurse practitioners find the overall rewards of helping kids become healthier is more than enough to outweigh the tough days.

Row of empty hospital beds

Where Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Work?

Most commonly, you’ll find pediatric nurse practitioners working in outpatient clinics, pediatric specialty clinics, children’s hospitals, and urgent-care facilities. While nearly all nurse practitioners work full time, hours for pediatric NPs may vary significantly depending on where you work. Pediatric nurse practitioners at outpatient or specialty clinics usually work more standard business hours, while 24-hour facilities like hospitals or urgent-care clinics may require working nights, weekends, or on-call shifts.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

Just like all the top-paying nursing specialties, becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner requires a long-term investment in your education and building the necessary career experience. Your pediatric nursing education will start with earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited college or university. Traditionally, earning a BSN requires a full four years in school, but thanks to accelerated degree programs, you could finish your nursing degree in as little as 32 months! All advanced practice registered nurses (including pediatric nurse practitioners) will also need to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree before they can practice independently.

Any long-term goal seems much more attainable when you break it down into individual steps, and becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner is no different.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a pediatric nurse practitioner:

1. Enroll in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Program

Step one in your pediatric nurse practitioner education is enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program from an accredited college or university. While completing nursing school is often a rigorous challenge that requires hard work and plenty of study time, nearly anyone can become a registered nurse if you’re willing to put in the required effort. For example, to enroll in the BSN program at Brookline College, all you’ll need is a high school diploma or GED with a GPA of 2.5 or higher, plus a passing score on the ATI-TEAS admission exam.

Nurse stamping paperwork

2. Earn Your BSN Degree

Like any of the other highest-paid nursing jobs, your career as a pediatric nurse practitioner requires earning your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Your BSN program will include general-education requirements like math, literature, statistics, psychology, and communications—courses you’ll find in any bachelor’s degree program. While these classes may not be directly related to nursing or medicine, they’ll make you a better communicator, critical thinker and problem solver, which are all essential skills when diagnosing and treating young patients who may possess limited ability to talk through their issues.

As expected, the main focus of your BSN program will involve learning the various aspects of nursing. Some of your classes will cover how to assess patients of all ages and treat a wide variety of conditions, including the common pediatric illnesses you’ll encounter as a pediatric NP. Other courses will teach you about pharmacology and all the different medicines and units of measurement used in the medical field. You’ll also cover health care law and ethics, which will be important in helping children who may be dealing with unsafe or unstable environments. Finally, expect to take classes focused on improving your overall clinical competence and evidence-based decision-making. These classes will help you provide better care to your patients, including those who may need to be referred to a specialist for rare or chronic conditions.

Alongside your nursing-specific coursework, you’ll also spend time studying related medical sciences like anatomy, microbiology, nutrition, and human development. These courses are particularly useful to pediatric nurse practitioners, who spend much of their time providing preventative care and thus need a well-rounded knowledge of the human body.

The last step of your BSN education requires completing a clinical capstone program, which will give you real-world experience with patients experiencing real health issues. While your nursing program will involve plenty of simulated clinical scenarios, there’s no substitute for putting yourself in situations where your actions directly influence patient outcomes. Since pediatric nurse practitioners often operate independently with little to no supervision, you’ll need to have zero doubts when it comes to your knowledge and abilities, which can only come from time spent treating real patients.

Wherever you choose to pursue your nursing degree, make sure it’s with a college that’s up-to-date on the latest training tools and one that’s committed to supporting their students from their first day on campus through graduation and beyond. Nursing schools that offer students extra services like job-placement programs can sometimes help you line up your first job as an RN before you’ve even put on your graduation gown!

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

Before you can become a pediatric nurse practitioner, you’ll need to get licensed as a registered nurse, which requires passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The NCLEX is a computer-adaptive test, meaning the number of questions and the amount of time it takes will depend on how many questions you answer correctly. The maximum number of questions on the NCLEX is around 265, however, the test can also be over in as few as 75 questions if you’re getting all the right answers! You’ll have a total of six hours to complete the exam, with two optional breaks scheduled at the 2-hour mark and the 3.5-hour mark. Practice NCLEX exams are widely available and can be a major stress-reliever on test day because you’ll be able to brush up beforehand on any areas where you may need a refresher.

Nurse holding a syringe

4. Gain Experience as a Licensed Registered Nurse

After you’ve passed the NCLEX, you’ll be eligible to receive a nursing license from the state in which you intend to practice. The NCLEX is nationally recognized, which gives you the flexibility to take your nursing skills just about anywhere! Any RN experience will be valuable, but if you’re pursuing a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner, you’ll likely want to seek employment in a children’s hospital or pediatric clinic. The more relevant experience you have working with children, the more attractive you’ll be to potential employers when starting your career as a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Nursing license renewal requirements vary by state, but you’ll generally need to renew your license every two to three years. As long as you’ve been actively working as an RN or participating in continuing education programs (like an MSN program, for example), you should have no issues keeping your nursing license current.

5. Earn a Postsecondary Nursing Degree

Since advanced practice registered nurses frequently operate with little supervision, pediatric nurse practitioners must complete a postgraduate nursing degree, almost always a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). Many colleges and universities offer MSN programs focused specifically on pediatric nursing, which will build upon both your BSN studies and your clinical experience as an RN. When applying to MSN programs, you’ll need to choose whether you want to specialize in acute or primary care. Acute care pediatric nurse practitioners tend to work in places like emergency rooms or urgent-care clinics, and deal with immediate health concerns like serious injuries or infections. Primary care pediatric nurse practitioners tend to focus more on preventative medicine and overall general wellness.

Pediatric MSN programs are available at nursing schools across the country, including online programs that allow working full-time as a registered nurse while earning your master’s degree. Typically, earning your MSN degree takes two more years in school, though it’s possible to finish some accelerated programs as quickly as 18 months.

6. Become a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP)

After completing your MSN program in pediatric nursing, you’ll be eligible to take a certification exam from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. Once you’ve passed the exam, you’ll be able to start practicing as a certified pediatric nurse practitioner (CPNP), with a specialization in either acute care or primary care, depending on the postgraduate nursing program you’ve chosen and completed.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary

How Much Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Make?

According to Salary.com, Pediatric nurse practitioners throughout the country earn an average annual salary of about $109,000, which works out to over $52 per hour. Pediatric nurse practitioner salaries in the 90th percentile can reach $119,000 per year and higher.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook

What Is the Job Outlook for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners?

Nurse practitioners continue to take on an increased role in providing both primary and emergency patient care, particularly for pediatric patients. Many parents enjoy working with pediatric nurse practitioners for their primary care provider, as NPs often take a more holistic view toward health and wellness. While the BLS doesn’t provide specific job data for pediatric nurse practitioners, they project the overall employment of nurse practitioners will increase a staggering 45% by the year 2029. Considering the average growth rate for all other careers is around 4%, becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner means you’ll have one of the best long-term job outlooks of any career in the entire healthcare industry.

Medical student smiling in a hallway

Ready to Start Your Career as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

If you’ve always known you want to work with kids, and value the chance to nurture and support them as they go through some of the most important transformative years of their lives, becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner could be the nursing specialty for you. There’s no reward quite like helping a child with their whole life in front of them become healthier and happier—and of course, it’s pretty nice to have one of the highest-paid nursing jobs, too!

Ready to get a fresh start with a fulfilling and well-paying career as a pediatric nurse practitioner? Click here to learn more about the BSN program at Brookline College, and start taking steps toward your new career in nursing today!