How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

8 Min Read Published January 17, 2024

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) use their specialized nursing knowledge to treat children from infancy to adulthood. This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Read on to learn PNP requirements, salary, career outlook, and more.

How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

What is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

A pediatric nurse practitioner is a nurse practitioner specialty that provides vital, patient-facing healthcare services to children. PNPs offer a range of care from check-ups and immunizations to diagnosing illnesses and treating chronic and acute conditions.

Pediatric nurse practitioners can work under or in partnership with physicians. However, several states grant PNPs full practice authority, allowing them to operate as primary care providers. They run tests, diagnose and treat conditions, and provide education to parents and patients without doctor supervision.

 

Where Do PNPs Work?

As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), pediatric nurse practitioners can find work in several settings. They may have private clinics and see patients on an appointment basis or in acute care settings within the hospital.

More examples of pediatric nurse practitioner workplaces include the following:

  • Academia
  • Ambulatory care centers
  • Clinics
  • Convenient care clinics
  • Emergency Room
  • Government facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities 
  • Private pediatric offices
  • Research
  • Schools
  • Specialty clinics
  • Surgery centers 
  • Urgent care

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What Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Do?

Pediatric nurse practitioners specialize in treating children from birth to adulthood, up to 21 years of age. Their training and education revolve around improving the health of this specific population. They may provide preventative health services or treat acute and chronic illnesses.

PNPs have full practice authority in 25 states, where they may act as primary caregivers. In states with reduced and restricted authority, they work as collaborative partners with pediatricians and other healthcare team members.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Duties

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners provide holistic care, which includes education, assessment, planning, and evaluation. They may diagnose and treat patients, order diagnostic tests and medications, and perform many procedures. Their duties include:

  • Well-child examinations
  • Providing immunizations
  • Assessment and screening of child development
  • Conducting physical exams for schools, camps, and sports teams
  • Care of chronic illnesses
  • Care of common illnesses
  •  Care of acute illnesses
  •  Collaborating with specialists
  • Prescribing medication
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Performing procedures, including suturing, starting IVs, administering medications, and wound care
  • Providing education, resources, and counseling to patients and their families or caretakers

PNP Required Skills

Due to the population with whom they work, PNPs must develop high levels of compassion, empathy, patience, and adaptability. They also must have excellent communication skills and be able to work independently. Other skills that make an excellent PNP include the following:

Pediatric nurse practitioners are often the first healthcare professionals that children encounter. They play an important role in the trust that their patients place in the healthcare system for the rest of their lives.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary

PNPs take home generous salaries, earning between $98,000 to $135,000 a year in the US.

According to Payscale, the average pediatric nurse practitioner salary in the United States is $98,787 per year. However, that assessment is low compared to other sources. ZipRecruiter estimates the average annual PNP salary to be much higher at $135,161, and Indeed reports $128,578 a year based on 1.7K salaries.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary by Years of Experience

The more years of experience a pediatric nurse practitioner has, the higher their salary is likely to be. PNPs earn the following average salaries based on their experience:

  1. Less than 1 year of experience earns an annual wage of $89,188
  2. 1 to 4 years of experience earn an annual wage of $97,964
  3. 5 to 9 years of experience earn an annual wage of $100,716
  4. 10 to 19 years of experience earn an annual wage of $105,257
  5. Over 20 years of experience earn an annual wage of $114,635

Highest Paying States for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Your income as a pediatric nurse practitioner can vary based on where you live and work. Certain states and metropolitan areas pay more than others. The BLS reports that the top-paying states for nurse practitioners are:

  • California - $158,130 per year
  • New Jersey - $143,250
  • Massachusetts - $138,700
  • Oregon - $136,250
  • Nevada - $136,230

While these high-paying areas are enticing monetarily, working in rural areas can be equally rewarding. Though salaries may be lower, you'd enjoy the intangible rewards of independent work and helping underserved rural communities, for whom PNPs may be the only healthcare professionals available.

Benefits

Regardless of the workplace setting, full-time and part-time nurses enjoy similar benefits. While they vary depending on the employer, most benefit packages include the following:

  • Education & Certification Reimbursement
  • Nursing Conference Attendance
  • Bereavement Leave      
  • Childcare
  • Personal & Dependant Health Insurance
  • Dental, Vision, and Life Insurance
  • Discounts
  • Family Leave of Absence
  • Maternity Leave
  • Paid Time Off
  • Relocation Assistance
  • Retirement Options

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How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

It can take between seven and ten years to complete all the education and training necessary to become a certified pediatric nurse practitioner. This timeline includes undergraduate education, work experience, grad school, and certification. The following steps outline what it takes to become a PNP:

Step 1. Become a Registered Nurse

Before you can attend a pediatric nurse practitioner program, you must earn your registered nurse (RN) license. To this end, you may attend a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). You'll then earn your RN license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Keep in mind that a BSN is a prerequisite for most NP programs. So, if you become an ADN-RN, you'll need to take additional classes to earn a BSN before applying to grad school.

Step 2. Gain Relevant Nursing Experience

Pediatric nurse practitioner programs are extremely competitive, and their admissions committees look for dedicated applicants who will prove to be a credit to the profession. One of the best ways to demonstrate your commitment to nursing practice is by gaining real-world pediatric nursing experience.

Most PNP programs require one to three years of relevant experience as a pediatric or PICU nurse. You may further improve your admission prospects by earning a pediatric nursing certification and recommendations from mentors and supervisors.

Step 3. Earn a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Degree

There are roughly 400 schools with nurse practitioner programs, 100 of which offer pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, or both specialties (American Association of Nurse Practitioners). Although each program has its own criteria, many require the following:

  • One to three years of RN experience
  • Minimum of one year working in a pediatric care setting
  • Valid RN licensure
  • BSN degree
  • Minimum GPA (often 3.0)
  • References

Pediatric NP programs culminate in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and take 2-3 years to complete.

Step 4. Get Certified 

The final step to becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner is national certification. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board oversees certification for PNPs. It offers two credentials:

  1. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (CPNP-PC)
  2. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC)

Pediatric nurse practitioners who choose the primary care certification will focus on providing general care to infants, children, and young adults. It's appropriate for PNPs who want to work in non-acute settings like clinics or private offices. Your duties will include:

  • Health assessments
  • Immunizations
  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic illnesses
  • Ordering diagnostic tests 
  • Prescribing medications

PNPs who pursue the acute care certification will focus on treating injuries or illnesses. You'll work in acute care settings like hospitals, emergency rooms, surgery centers, and specialty clinics.

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Top Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

We’ve rounded up some of the top pediatric nurse practitioner programs. Below are five of the top programs available for getting your PNP.

Check out our article on the 10 Top Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs for the full list and more information. 

Career Outlook for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Although the national nursing shortage has created demand for NPs across the board, few specialties are scarcer than pediatric nurse practitioners. This demand is due to a combined nursing and primary care provider shortage nationwide. Since PNPs can provide primary care in states with full practice authority, some expect to see more states grant that level of autonomy to NPs to meet this growing demand.

The value of PNPs becomes more apparent when you understand that they make up just 8% of the nation's nurse practitioner force. With such high demand for this profession and so few PNPs in the field, there will be no shortage of lucrative openings in the coming years.

Continuing Education Requirements for Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) oversees PNP credential renewal. The board has yearly and 7-year CEU requirements. 

To recertify every calendar year, you must complete at least 15 contact hours, which include practice hours, academic credit, and PCNB professional practice modules. However, only 10 of these 15 contact hours may be work or practice hours.

The PNCB recommends incorporating the 7-year requirements into your yearly continuing education modules. Every seven years, the PCNB requires you to complete 15 hours of accredited pediatric pharmacology education and 4 PNCB Pediatric Updates modules.

State NP Continuing Education

Though there is a movement towards making state and national standards match, current nurse practitioner licensing requirements can change from state to state. For example, NPs in New Jersey must complete 30 hours of continuing nursing education every two years, while Maryland has no continuing education requirements at this time.

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Where Can I Learn More about Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

Those who have already chosen to become Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are rightfully proud of their profession and work hard to provide resources to answer questions for those considering the career. Among the most helpful places to find more information on becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner are:

Other Nurse Practitioner Specialties

  1. General Nurse Practitioner
  2. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  3. Family Nurse Practitioner
  4. Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner
  5. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  6. Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  7. Women's Health Nurse Practitioner
  8. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
  9. Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  10. Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  11. Oncology Nurse Practitioner

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Pediatric NP FAQs

  • How Long Does it Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

    • The path to becoming a PNP takes between 7 and 10 years. This includes undergraduate education (4 years), relevant experience (1-3 years), and graduate school (2-3 years).
  • What Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Do?

    • PNPs work independently or in collaboration with a pediatrician to provide primary care services to children from birth to young adulthood. They take a holistic care approach, evaluating children's mental, physical, and emotional well-being along with their environment.
  • What Is the Difference Between a Pediatric Nurse and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

    • Both types of nurses have specialized training in pediatric medicine. However, pediatric nurse practitioners have advanced education and a broader scope of practice, allowing them to work independently in certain states.

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