Top 10 Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs 2024

8 Min Read Published March 15, 2024
10 Best Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

We've ranked the best pediatric nurse practitioner programs for 2024 to help you choose the right program for you. 

Pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) programs prepare nurses to care for patients from infancy to young adulthood. Finding a suitable program is paramount if you're interested in becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a PNP, which is an advanced practice nursing position, requires several years of education, nursing experience, and specific credentials. While individual paths may vary, the steps to becoming a PNP are generally as follows:

  1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN): You can become an RN by attending a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. Then, you'll take the NCLEX to qualify for RN licensure.

  2. Gain Relevant Experience: Most pediatric nurse practitioner programs require 2-5 years of relevant bedside nursing experience. You can gain this experience by working as an RN in a peds unit or similar environment.

  3. Attend a PNP Program: PNP programs last 2-4 years and culminate in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. If you've already attended a nurse practitioner program, you may earn a PNP post-graduate certificate instead.

  4. Earn a National Certification: PNPs must maintain an additional certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board to practice.

Read more about how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner in our comprehensive guide.

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Types of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Like other nursing specialties, there are several pathways to becoming a PNP. In general, you'll be able to select from four types of pediatric nurse practitioner programs: RN to NP, MSN, and DNP degrees or post-graduate certificates.

  • Registered Nurse to NP: RN to NP programs allow associate degree-trained nurses to pursue an NP degree without first earning a bachelor's. These degrees encompass the BSN curriculum and then transition directly into the MSN or DNP program.

  • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): MSN degrees are the most common path to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner. The MSN-NP is for BSN-trained nurses with relevant experience. 

  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): The DNP is a terminal nursing degree that prepares nurses for clinical practice. While MSN and DNP-trained NPs earn the same qualifications, pursuing a DNP has worthwhile benefits. Find out which graduate nursing degree suits you with our MSN vs DNP guide.

  • Post-Graduate Certificate: Students who already completed a graduate nursing program but want to specialize in peds may pursue a post-graduate certificate instead of a degree program. These shorter, cheaper certificate programs prepare APRNs for pediatric NP board certification.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program Requirements

In order to gain admission to a PNP program, applicants will need to apply to a program that is accredited and offers a reputable program. To apply, nurses should expect to submit the following:

  • Official transcripts

  • Letters of recommendation

  • Resume & references

  • GRE Scores
  • Personal statement

  • Program application

  • Application fees

  • Admissions interview

>> Show Me Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Top 10 Best Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Growing demand for PNPs creates more and better opportunities in this field. Attending the best schools makes you a more competitive candidate for these elite positions. uses a proprietary ranking methodology to find the best nursing programs nationwide. In assembling this list, we considered vital factors, which include:

  • Tuition Costs

  • Online Availability

  • Student-to-Faculty Ratio
  • Nursing School Accreditation

  • Acceptance Rate

  • National Certification Pass Rates

This section explores the ten best pediatric nurse practitioner programs, including private and public universities, online pediatric NP programs, and MSN and DNP degrees.

1. Duke University

Tuition Per Credit: $2,075


Duke University offers a top-ranked PNP Primary Care (PNP-PC) and a PNP Acute Care (PNP-AC) program. Students attend both programs primarily online but must attend clinical rotations in person. The online pediatric NP program culminates in an MSN degree and takes about 2.5 years to complete.

2. University of Pennsylvania

Annual Tuition: $56,262


U.S. News ranked UPenn the fourth-best pediatric nurse practitioner program. The program awards graduates an MSN degree. Students may pursue a primary or acute care PNP track, and full-time attendees can graduate in just 12 months. However, except for select courses, students must attend this PNP program in person.

3. Johns Hopkins University

Annual Tuition: $50,079


The only PNP program offered at Johns Hopkins is a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). However, the quality of education at this institute is among the best in the nation. By the end of their studies, students will be exceptionally prepared for their careers as pediatric nurse practitioners.

4. Rush University

Tuition Per Credit: $1,344


Rush University offers a completely online pediatric nurse practitioner program for BSN or MSN-trained nurses. Culminating in a DNP degree, the program takes between 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years to complete. In addition to the online didactic training, students will visit campus to complete a health assessment and complete simulation experiences.

5. University of Washington

Quarterly Tuition: Resident - $10,826 | Nonresident - $15,440


The University of Washington offers both PNP-PC and PNP-AC tracks for aspiring peds nurse practitioners. Each three-year program culminates in a DNP degree and includes in-person and online didactic training and clinical rotations. Notably, the school operates on a quarter system instead of semesters, which may impact degree planning.

6. Vanderbilt University

Tuition Per Credit: $1,939


The PNP-PC and PNP-AC programs at Vanderbilt offer hybrid learning options with in-person practicum requirements. Graduates earn an MSN degree after one year of full-time study. Each program prepares students for board certification and practice in primary or acute pediatric care settings.

7. Yale

Annual Tuition: $49,017


Yale offers PNP post-graduate certificates in acute and primary care. Students who are enrolled in a Yale MSN program or already have an MSN are eligible for the program. The university emphasizes that previous education should be in pediatrics (e.g. a pediatric clinical nurse specialist) or family practice. 

8. University of California San Francisco

Annual Tuition: $42,199


UCSF offers a PNP-PC and PNP-AC program and a postgraduate certificate for each subspecialty. While students can complete the DNP program in 12 quarters (three years) of full-time study, the postgraduate certificates take only 5-6 quarters. Graduates from any of these programs are eligible for board certification.

9. Columbia University

Annual Tuition: $72,776


Unlike other programs in this list, Columbia only offers a PNP-PC degree, with no acute care options. However, the university has an excellent and comprehensive DNP curriculum that students can complete in two to three years. 

10. University of Pittsburgh

Annual Tuition: $30,290


The University of Pittsburgh's BSN to DNP program takes three years of full-time study, while the MSN to DNP takes two. PNP-AC students may only attend an MSN to DNP program, while PNP-PC options are available to BSN and MSN-trained nurses. However, all programs are available on campus or online with limited in-person requirements.

Picking the Right Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program

Graduate school is a massive time and financial commitment. Before you settle on a pediatric nurse practitioner program, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Cost: How much is tuition, and what financial aid options do I have? Am I eligible for any nursing scholarships?

  • Location: Can I attend an on-campus program, or do I need online coursework? Can I commute to all in-person requirements, or will I have to move?

  • Clinicals: What hospitals are approved for this school's practicum requirements? Do they give clinical placements, or is it my responsibility to find one?

  • Work-School Balance: Can I work throughout the program? If not, can I support myself while I study without working?

  • Program Length: How much time can I commit to a program? Most programs require students to complete all requirements in five years; can I finish the degree in that time limit?

  • MSN vs DNP: Should I attend a master's or doctoral program? Which degree is right for my career, or which degree is more attainable based on my educational background and resources?

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career Overview

What is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

Pediatric NPs are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in treating pediatric patients. They work with patients ranging in age from infancy to young adulthood and treat an array of health problems unique to this population. Their services include providing preventative healthcare like well-checks and immunizations or treating chronic and acute conditions.

Several PNPs work in partnership with or under the supervision of a physician. However, those in states with full practice authority (FPA) may practice independently. 

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career Outlook

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners reports a growing trend of Americans choosing NPs as their primary care providers. Already, NPs constitute 25% of rural primary care providers and will comprise roughly 30% of primary care providers nationwide in the not-so-distant future (AANP).

These growth trends align with Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predictions that NP positions in the US will grow by 45% from 2022 to 2032, including PNPs. Since just 3% of the total NP workforce is PNPs, the specialty has boundless growth potential in primary and acute care.

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Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary

PNPs are one of the highest-paid nurse practitioner specialties. While NPs generally earn $121,610 annually (BLS), Indeed reports that the yearly salary of a pediatric nurse practitioner averages $130,896.

>> Show Me Online Nurse Practitioner Programs

Pediatrician vs Pediatric NP: What is the Difference? 

In areas with full practice authority, the roles of a PNP and a primary care pediatrician can be quite similar. However, these professions are distinct—several aspects differentiate PNPs and pediatricians, from their education requirements to their scope of practice:

  Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Pediatrician
  • 4-year BSN degree
  • 2-4 year pediatric nurse practitioner program (MSN or DNP)
  • 4-year undergraduate medical degree
  • 4-year medical school
  • 3-year medical residency
  • Medical fellowship (for subspecialties)
  • RN licensure
  • PNP certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
  • Allopathic or osteopathic medical license
  • Optional board certification from the American Board of Pediatrics
Scope of Practice

Independent practice only in FPA states, limited by sub-specialty and training

Duties can include:

  • Ordering diagnostic tests/labs
  • Performing physical assessments
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses
  • Prescribing medication

Independent practice nationwide, limited by sub-specialty and training 

Duties can include:

  • Ordering diagnostic tests/labs
  • Performing physical assessments
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses
  • Prescribing medication
  • Performing surgical procedures

Read our guide to nurse practitioner vs doctor differences to learn more about the specific roles of these high-level medical professionals.

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Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

Check out these organizations for additional information and resources on pediatric nurse practitioner programs:

Kathleen Gaines
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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