Neonatal Nurse Salary Guide

14 Min Read Published October 3, 2023
Neonatal nurse salary

How Much Does a Neonatal Nurse Make?

Average Neonatal Nurse Salary

The average neonatal nurse salary is $135,949 annually or $65 per hour according to ZipRecruiter.  In comparison, Payscale.com reports the average annual salary as $75,352 or $36.15 per hour. 

Neonatal Nurse Salary Range

ZipRecruiter found that the majority of neonatal nurses earned between $124,000 and $140,499. However, salaries ranged from as low as $26,000 to as high as $205,500.

There is a large range in average salary for neonatal nurses across the county. The large range suggests that many different skill levels and other factors such as experience level and workplace location can determine the overall pay structure.

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WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

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Neonatal Nurse Salary vs Average RN Salary 

Neonatal nurses appear to earn a higher income than the average registered nurse salary in the US. The BLS states that the average nurse salary in 2022 was $81,220 or $39.05 per hour. While neonatal nurses earn an average income of $135,949 per year or $65 per hour per ZipRecruiter.

When talking about salary, the title “neonatal” nurse and “neonatal intensive care unit” (NICU) nurse are often used interchangeably. However, they are not always the exact same thing. NICU nurse commonly refers to nurses who work with babies who are dangerously ill. Neonatal nurses, on the other hand, can work in a NICU, clinic setting,  neonatal transplant teams, or in-home health services.

Neonatal nurses most commonly work in a NICU in a hospital or clinic setting. However, neonatal nurses can also work on neonatal transplant teams or for in-home health services.

Neonatal (NICU) Nurse Salary by State

State

Annual Salary

Hourly Wage

New York

$155,090

$74.56

California

$153,029

$73.57

Vermont

$139,858

$67.24

Maine

$138,946

$66.80

Massachusetts

$137,844

$66.27

Nevada

$137,580

$66.14

New Jersey

$136,090

$65.43

Wisconsin

$135,799

$65.29

Washington

$135,470

$65.13

Oregon

$134,173

$64.51

Hawaii

$132,554

$63.73

Idaho

$132,522

$63.71

Wyoming

$132,282

$63.60

Minnesota

$131,581

$63.26

Indiana

$130,935

$62.95

Arizona

$130,893

$62.93

Alaska

$130,124

$62.56

New Hampshire

$129,819

$62.41

Pennsylvania

$129,734

$62.37

Georgia

$128,670

$61.86

Iowa

$126,886

$61.00

Rhode Island

$126,733

$60.93

South Dakota

$126,551

$60.84

North Dakota

$126,457

$60.80

Connecticut

$125,757

$60.46

Montana

$125,576

$60.37

New Mexico

$122,969

$59.12

Illinois

$122,401

$58.85

Ohio

$122,386

$58.84

Virginia

$120,336

$57.85

Maryland

$120,175

$57.78

Tennessee

$119,790

$57.59

Utah

$119,722

$57.56

Delaware

$118,413

$56.93

Colorado

$117,907

$56.69

Mississippi

$116,932

$56.22

Oklahoma

$114,328

$54.97

South Carolina

$113,811

$54.72

Michigan

$112,809

$54.24

Kansas

$112,413

$54.04

Texas

$112,248

$53.97

Missouri

$112,135

$53.91

West Virginia

$111,785

$53.74

Alabama

$110,615

$53.18

Florida

$110,498

$53.12

Louisiana

$109,711

$52.75

Nebraska

$109,041

$52.42

Kentucky

$104,611

$50.29

North Carolina

$103,915

$49.96

Arkansas

$102,909

$49.48

Source ZipRecruiter

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Neonatal Nurse Salary by Years of Experience

Neonatal nurses generally start with a lower salary and earn more as they gain more experience in the profession. 

Payscale.com reports that the pay by experience levels for neonatal nurses in the US are:

  • Less than one year of experience: $36.68 per hour

  • 1-4 years of experience: $33.38 per hour

  • 5-9 years of experience: $35.43 per hour

  • 10-19 years of experience: $35.74 per hour

  • More than 20 years of experience: $41 per hour

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Neonatal Nurse Salary by Work Setting

Neonatal nurses typically work in:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Medical centers

Neonatal nurses in hospitals often work on a postpartum, labor and delivery, or neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

While hospitals are the most common workplace, neonatal nurses can also work in, 

  • Academia

  • Government offices 

  • Private doctor’s offices

  • Private homes

  • Urgent care clinics

  • Specialty clinics

Neonatal nurses usually earn the most by working in hospitals. Additional pay that neonatal nurses often receive includes:

  • Benefits

  • Overtime pay

  • Health care and dental insurance

  • Shift differential pay for working nights or weekends

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Reimbursement for certification exams

Neonatal nurse salary is primarily determined by the state, the cost of living in the area, and the number of years of experience you have in the field. Nurses who work in larger metropolitan areas usually earn higher wages than those who work in rural areas.

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

How to Increase Your Salary as a Neonatal Nurse

Consider one of the following tips to boost your salary as a neonatal nurse:

Advance Your Education

Your level of education plays a massive role in your earning potential as a neonatal RN. Many nurses start their careers with an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Fortunately, there are also many attainable options to continue nursing education while working part-time or full-time as a neonatal nurse including a Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), or Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (Ph.D.) 

Certifications

Many employers offer an increase in hourly wage if a neonatal nurse becomes board certified by obtaining the following certifications:

These certifications test specialty knowledge in neonatal intensive nursing care. Nurses must have at least two years of specialty experience providing care to acutely or critically sick neonatal patients and their families within a critical care environment. 

Some hospitals will even pay for the certification exam once you pass. Others may offer certification review courses or discounts.

Becoming certified can equate to more money in several ways:

  • Increased per-hour salary

  • Career enhancement opportunities

  • Employers are more likely to hire neonatal nurses who are certified

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Negotiate

Another way to earn more money as a neonatal RN is to negotiate a higher salary. Some employers have a pay structure for new employees. But there may be some room for negotiation, especially if the place you want to work is struggling to find neonatal nurses.

Travel

Neonatal travel nurses are RNs who take anywhere from 4 to 16-week assignments at hospitals or other healthcare facilities that have a shortage of nurses. 

Travel nurses usually earn a “total pay package” instead of a base hourly rate which usually includes:

  • Hourly base pay

  • Sign-on bonus

  • Licensing and certification reimbursement

  • Travel reimbursements

  • Housing, food, and mileage stipend

  • Other job-related expenses

How You Work

Career Nurse

Career nurses are full-time or part-time nursing staff employed by a hospital or medical facility. In most cases, career nurses earn an hourly wage plus a benefits package that includes a retirement plan, paid time off, health and dental insurance, education reimbursement, and other benefits.

Career nurses start their careers earning entry-level pay but then make a higher per-hour rate for each year they work in the profession. 

Per Diem

As opposed to career nurses who receive an hourly rate and a benefits package, per diem nurses are only paid an hourly rate for the shifts they work. However, most per diem nurses make a higher hourly rate.

Per diem nurses also do not receive sick days or other paid time off. But because they don’t have a set schedule they make a higher per-hour rate for their work flexibility. 

One of the main benefits of working per diem as a neonatal nurse includes picking your schedule. This often works well for working parents who only work when they have child care or for nurses who also work at another hospital. 

Contract

A contract nurse is a full-time nurse who works at a hospital on a contract basis for as little as four weeks to as long as six months. Once their contract expires, nurses can sign another contract at the same hospital or sign a contract at another hospital.

One of the cost benefits of working as a neonatal contract nurse is guaranteed full-time hours during the contract. This means that even if your shift is canceled for some reason, you still earn your regular hourly wage for the shift.

Travel nurses are a type of contract nurse. But some hospitals offer opportunities to work as a contract nurse without moving to another location.

Additional Compensation

Overtime

Nurses who work overtime are entitled to increased pay for their additional work hours. In most cases, this means:

  • Working over 40 hours in a week, or
  • Working longer than a scheduled 12-hour shift (within 24 hours)

Overtime wages differ per facility, but they are usually one and a half to three times the normal hourly wage. Working a lot of overtime hours can add up quickly. However, too much overtime can lead to burnout for some nurses, so it is important to make sure you don’t work too much.

Shift Differential

A shift differential is extra pay for working weekends, holidays, evenings, or night shifts. Shift differentials usually increase a normal hourly wage by a few additional dollars. 

That might not sound like much, but that can add up over time. Many neonatal nurses enjoy working on nights or weekends because the administration is off, and it can seem much quieter on the unit.

Bonuses

Bonuses are commonly offered as an incentive for nurses to take a new position at a facility, especially when they need to hire a large number of nurses. Bonuses can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand.

However, it is important to read the fine print and understand the bonus terms before accepting. Many hospitals will require that you stay working full-time at their facility for two to five years to keep the bonus. Leaving earlier may require that you pay it back.

Hazard Pay

Hazard pay is additional compensation above the normal compensation for healthcare professionals who work in potentially hazardous conditions. 

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Neonatal Nurse Salary vs. Education Costs

Nursing school to become a neonatal nurse is expensive. It is important to research your options to make the best choice that works for you.

ADN programs can range anywhere from $6000 to $20,000. This type of program takes a minimum of two years to complete at a community college or technician school.

A BSN can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000. This type of program takes four years to complete at a public or private four-year university. 

Nursing school tuition can also depend on several other factors:

  • The school's reputation and status
  • The program length (some schools offer expedited programs)
  • The state and city where you live

There are also additional costs associated with nursing school including;

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Pediatric Nurse

ZipRecruiter reports the average annual salary for pediatric nurses is $134,328. However, salaries ranged from as low as $48,500 to as high as $227,500.

NICU Nurse

Ziprecruiter reports that the mean annual wage for NICU nurses is $101,727 or $49 per hour. However, they add that NICU nurses’ annual salaries range from $83,000 to as high as $125,000.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

ZipRecruiter also states that neonatal nurse practitioners in the US earn a mean annual salary of $136,592 or $66 per hour. They add that annual salaries can range from $25,000 to as high as $207,500 depending on the type of facility, the level of experience, and the cost of living in the area.

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Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

The University of Texas at Arlington
The University of Texas at Arlington’s online programs are designed to help you achieve more in your nursing practice with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. They offer convenient, flexible options for completing your RN to BSN or BSN online, both designed to fit into your busy schedule.
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Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
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Walden University
Walden’s online programs for nursing meet rigorous standards for academic quality and integrity, and the School of Nursing teaching faculty all hold doctorates. With three degree completion options, you can choose a bachelor’s in nursing path that makes sense for your busy, unpredictable schedule.
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Neonatal Nurse FAQs

  • How long does it take to become a neonatal nurse?

    • The two most common paths to becoming a neonatal nurse are to earn an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN). ADN programs take a minimum of two years to complete at a community college or technician school. A BSN program takes four years to complete at a public or private four-year university. 
  • Do neonatal nurses deliver babies?

    • Neonatal nurses work with newborn babies in the first few months of life. Neonatal nurses may be in the delivery room to help take care of babies right after they are born. However, labor and delivery nurses are the nurses who generally assist an OB-GYN or midwife to deliver babies. 
  • How hard is it to be a neonatal nurse?

    • Neonatal nurses have very stressful, but rewarding careers. It can be a less physically stressful career as compared to nurses who work with an adult population.
Sarah Jividen
RN, BSN
Sarah Jividen
Nurse.org Contributor

Sarah Jividen, RN, BSN, is a trained neuro/trauma and emergency room nurse turned freelance healthcare writer/editor. As a journalism major, she combined her love for writing with her passion for high-level patient care. Sarah is the creator of Health Writing Solutions, LLC, specializing in writing about healthcare topics, including health journalism, education, and evidence-based health and wellness trends. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. 

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