June 19, 2015

Neonatal Nurse Salary and Careers

Neonatal Nurse Salary and Careers Staff By: Staff

Written By: Vonday J. Sines

Neonatal Nurse Salary Data

Neonatal Nurse (RN):

  • Highest earners: $92k
  • Median earners: $58.5k
  • Lowest earners: $40k

The median salary for Neonatal Nurses (RN) is $58,500. The lowest earners make $40,000, while the highest earners made $92,000. This data is courtesy of* and was last updated on January 12, 2016.

Find Nursing Programs

Neonatal nursing is a nursing sub-specialty.  Neonatal nurses work with infants born with a variety of problems such as premature birth, surgical complications, heart malformations, birth defects, and infection.  Although the neonatal period is the first month after birth, these nurses often care for children up to age 2 who have long-term medical issues.

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN) , about 40,000 infants with low birth weights are born each year.  Thanks to many medical advances, the survival rate for these babies is 10 times higher than it was 15 years ago.  As a result, the demand for neonatal nurses is robust.  In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports demand for registered nurses overall will jump 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, a rate higher than average.

Paths to Increase Neonatal Nurse Salary

Neonatal nurses are registered nurses (RNs). Nursing Education indicates that they can advance their careers through three levels:

  • Level 1 nurses care for infants born healthy and with short hospital stays.
  • Level 2 nurses take care of babies who were born prematurely or who are ill.
  • Level 3 nurses work in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where babies need specialized care and equipment such as ventilators.

Candidates for neonatal nursing positions prepare for this career by earning an associate’s (two-year) degree or a bachelor’s (four-year) degree in nursing.  They must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, more commonly cited as NCLEX-RN.

Neonatal nursing also requires passing a secondary certification exam in order to be hired as a clinical nurse.  Offered through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, it is available only after a nurse has completed 500 neonatal care hours.

Neonatal certification is also available through the Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing Certification Corporation.  To apply, a nurse must have two years of professional experience after obtaining an RN license.

Some neonatal nurses opt to move into advanced practice nursing, nursing management or nursing education.  These choices require completion of a master’s or, in some cases, a doctoral degree in nursing.  Many employers are willing to provide financial assistance for all or at least part of training toward a graduate degree in nursing and annual state requirements for staff continuing education units.

For those for whom continued, formal education isn’t an attraction, there are ample opportunities to work as a travel or per-diem nurse.  In many cases, these nurses receive relocation and housing expenses.

Related Specialties

Registered nurses working as neonatal nurses might have an interest in moving to these related specialties:

  • Neonatal specialists include neonatal transporters for critically ill infants and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation team (ECMO) members who provide heart-lung bypass services.
  • Neonatal nurse practitioners are advanced-practice nurses.  They provide comprehensive critical care to NICU patients.  These nurses have a very high level of technical skill in addition to a graduate degree and often provide training to other members of the hospital staff.
  • Developmental care specialists study the developmental care of infants who are premature and ill.  In addition to furnishing direct care to these babies, they provide assistance to other members of the special team caring for such infants.  These nurses sometimes work with specialized infant populations or in research.

Find Nursing Programs

Further Your Career

Many neonatal nurses love their choice of career because it allows them to make a difference in families’ lives.  Employment opportunities are readily available throughout the United States.  The combination of potential job satisfaction from helping the tiniest patients and continued hiring growth makes the outlook for this career a rosy one.


Vonda J. Sines is a freelance writer based in the Washington, DC area. She specializes in health/medical, career, and pet topics and writes extensively about Crohn’s disease. Her work has been published at EverydayHealth, Lifescript,, Yahoo! Health, Catholic Digest, Angie’s List Health, and on many more sites.

*Data source: Neonatal Nurse (RN) Salary :


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