How To Become A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): A step-by-step guide

Last updated on December 28th, 2023


Do you take pleasure in working with kids? Are you capable of balancing your patients’ requirements with the feelings of their caregivers? If so, a job as a PNP might be of interest to you.

Becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) can be an enriching and lucrative career. The time commitment and cost to become a PNP vary depending on the specialty area you’re looking to go into, the program you choose, and your education before entering the program.

However, becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner requires dedication, passion, and most importantly, knowledge of how to become one of these valuable professionals in this demanding field.

Here’s what you need to know about becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.

What are the role/responsibilities of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) is an advanced practice registered nurse who works with children from birth through adolescence and their families.

Below are some responsibilities of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner:

  1. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners provide clinical leadership, education, consultation, and collaboration to promote the physical, psychosocial, and developmental growth of children and address family health problems that can impact child development.
  1. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can collaborate and function with other healthcare providers such as physicians, psychologists, school nurses, and social workers.
  1. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can provide patient care independently in various settings including primary care clinics, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and outpatient facilities.
  1. Providing routine health screenings, administering immunizations, managing chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes, providing guidance on safety measures like car seat installation, promoting healthy lifestyle habits like eating right and exercising regularly, counseling parents about discipline techniques, and monitoring growth patterns through periodic physical exams on patients aged 0-21 years old.
  1. Pediatric Nurse Practitioners can offer insight into what causes certain illnesses, which treatments would work best for different patients, and how to manage complex cases involving multiple issues such as obesity and mental illness.

What is the Difference between a Pediatric Nurse and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

The main difference between a Pediatric Nurse and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is their level of education and the scope of practice. Both nurses work with the same age group and same settings. They also could be employed by private practices, hospitals, or clinics.

Pediatric Nurse vs Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric NursePediatric Nurse Practitioner
A pediatric nurse is an RN who has completed a degree or diploma in nursing and has passed the national licensing exam.A PNP is an RN who has completed an advanced nursing program (MSN or DNP) and has passed a national certification exam.
Can’t diagnose and prescribe medicine for the patient.Can independently diagnose and prescribe medicine and order diagnostic tests for the patient.
Take care of the patient and collaborate with the healthcare team and carry out doctor’s orders.Independently performs physical exams, counsels parents about health issues, prescribe medication when needed, and makes referrals for further medical treatment when necessary.
Pediatric Nurse vs Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

In Summary:

An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with a Master’s degree is a pediatric nurse practitioner. A growing percentage of pediatric nurse practitioners hold doctoral degrees in nursing.

They can operate independently, frequently without a doctor’s supervision. On the other hand, a pediatric nurse is a registered nurse with pediatric experience but no further education.

Pediatric nurse practitioners have a direct impact on the wellbeing and quality of life of children, who are the future. High levels of job satisfaction and personal rewards come with a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner, along with good pay, respect from other professionals, and these benefits.

Those who chose this profession will discover that the time commitment required will be well worth it, providing them the chance to truly impact their patients’ and their patients’ families’ lives.

How to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

The highest level of education and experience among all nursing specializations is required for nurse practitioner roles.

The criteria for becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner are as follows:

  1. Obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN)

The first stage of becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is this. A nursing associate degree is a good place for nurses to start (ADN).

After that, they can continue their studies for a BSN while still working as a nurse. A BSN can be obtained directly by investing up to four years.

The ADN to BSN pathway may be better for some nurses since it enables them to work in their field while pursuing their degrees. RN to BSN bridge programs are also available

  1. Obtain your Registered Nurse License (RN)

Some nurses who hold their RN license already choose to finish an RN to BSN bridge program. You can omit step two of the procedure if this applies to you.

You must pass the NCLEX-RN if you need your RN license. Always verify that there are no additional prerequisites for becoming a certified RN in addition to passing the NCLEX-RN by contacting the state licensing board.

  1. Acquire Pediatric Nursing Expertise

You must have pertinent nursing experience before you can apply to a nurse practitioner program that provides specialized training in pediatric nursing. The admissions committees for these schools are looking for the most committed nurses who will contribute to the profession.

Candidates with one to three years of nursing experience, ideally in a pediatric care context, are preferred by the majority of nursing programs.

  1. Complete Nursing Graduate Program

After becoming a registered nurse and getting clinical experience in pediatrics, your next step is to complete an MSN or DNP nursing program with a specialization in pediatrics.

Accredited nurse practitioner programs are offered by more than 400 academic institutions, 100 of which include pediatric acute care, pediatric primary care, or both of these specializations.

There are distinct admittance standards for each of these programs. Typically, applicants must be ready to submit the following supporting documents with their applications:

  • Evidence of working in a pediatric healthcare environment for at least a year.
  • BSN degree with an active RN license
  • Professional references.
  1. Obtain a certification

Obtaining a specialized certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board is the last need to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. Two specialty certifications are available from the PNCB.

Nurses may apply to receive either one or both of the following:

  • Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-PC)

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners who intend to concentrate on delivering continuous healthcare services to infants, children, adolescents, and young adults up to age 21 should choose this certification option.

  • Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (CPNP-AC)

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners who want to focus on delivering acute care to infants, children, adolescents, and young people up to age 21 should pursue this qualification.

Most Pediatric Nurse Practitioners who apply for this qualification are employed by hospitals, emergency rooms, surgical units, and clinics that provide specialized treatment.

How many years does it take to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

It takes two to four years to become a registered nurse (RN), and an additional two to three years to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. To become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing, then complete a master’s or doctoral degree program.

Therefore, it takes between 5 and 7 years to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.

The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program will include coursework in advanced nursing care, as well as clinical rotations in pediatrics. After completing the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner program, you will be eligible to take the board certification exam.

In addition to taking this test, a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner also needs to renew their certification every five years by submitting proof of continuing education credits and passing another exam.

Unlike RNs, who need only 60 hours of continuing education credits per year to maintain their status, the Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is required to submit 120 hours annually.

What are the Different Types (specialties) of Pediatric Nurses?

There are many different types of pediatric nurses, each with their own unique set of skills and knowledge. Some of the pediatric nursing specialties are as follows.

  • Cardiology
  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology
  • Orthopedics
  • Acute care
  • Critical care
  • Primary care
  • Neonatology

Additionally, pediatric nurses can specialize to work in certain areas such as:

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses
  • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) nurses
  • Emergency Department (ED) nurses
  • Operating rooms (OR) nurses

Some pediatric nurses specialize in working with specific populations such as premature infants or children who have complex medical conditions. These specialized nursing roles often require additional training, certification, and licensure beyond what is required for general pediatrics nursing care.

Where can you work as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

A Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, pediatric offices, clinics, private practices, school-based health facilities, and urgent or convenient care centers.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioners are qualified to manage chronic illness, prescribe medications, conduct medical examinations, counsel parents on health issues related to their child’s condition or treatment plan, and offer support during surgery or hospitalization.

What are the Benefits of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

The advantages enjoyed by full-time and part-time nurses are the same regardless of the job environment.

While specific advantages may differ depending on the institution, the following are typically included:

  • Payment for advanced certification
  • Taking part in nursing conferences
  • Bereavement time off
  • Compensation for Certification
  • Childcare
  • Medical Insurance
  • Dependent health insurance
  • Discounts
  • Compensation for Education
  • Family absence on leave
  • Health protection
  • Health Insurance
  • Parental Leave
  • Unpaid time off
  • Assistance with relocation
  • Options for Retirement
  • Vision Protection

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Salary and Job Outlook

The  Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reports that a nurse practitioner typically earns $110,030 a year. The BLS indicates that as of May 2019, the following states offer nurse practitioners the highest salaries:

  • California
  • Washington
  • Hawaii
  • New Jersey
  • Minnesota

Salary for nurse practitioners and registered nurses are further influenced by any extra specialist qualifications held, years of experience, regional demand, and the company where they work.

The employment of registered nurses is anticipated to grow by 12 percent until 2028, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not expressly monitor growth in the pediatric nurse practitioner field.

The need for health care services is the main driver of growth; factors contributing to this demand include an aging population, a large number of nurses retiring, and new health care legislation.

In general, nurse practitioners have a bright future in terms of employment. The employment of nurse practitioners is predicted to grow by 26 percent by 2028, which is a quicker rate than the national average. By 2024, it is anticipated that 171,700 employment openings would be present.

According to the  American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), there will be a shortfall of between 40,800 and 104,900 doctors by the year 2030.

Particularly in primary care, nurse practitioners are already starting to fill the gaps to fulfill the needs of the aging and expanding population.

According to the  American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 89.2% of NPs are certified in primary care medicine, followed by 62.42% in family medicine and 4.82% in pediatric medicine. Adding NPs to pediatric primary care helps relieve primary care physicians of some of their workload and improves access to care.

10 Highest Paying States for Nurse Practitioners

Based on the average salary of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in 2022, we have ranked each of the 10 states in the order of highest to lowest paying According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

  1. California: The state employs the nation’s highest-paid pediatric nurse practitioners. The average pediatric nurse practitioner pay in California is $63.22 per hour or $131,490 per year for acute care specialists, compared to $69.49 per hour or $144,540 per year for primary care specialists.

PNP salaries are typically 2 percent less in the Los Angeles area than pediatric NP salaries, but they are typically 21% higher in the San Francisco Bay area.

  1. New Jersey: The average pay for pediatric nurse practitioners in New Jersey is $62.31 per hour, or $129,610 per year, for those who specialize in pediatric primary care, and $56.68 per hour, or $117,900 per year, for those who specialize in pediatric acute care.
  1. Washington: The average pediatric nurse practitioner pay in Washington is $10 percent more than the national average, at $60.21 per hour for pediatric primary care nurses and $54.77 per hour for pediatric acute care nurses.
  1. New York: The pediatric nurse practitioner wage in New York is $54.75 per hour or $113,890 per year for acute care specialists. The typical wage for PNP-PCs is $60.19 per hour or $125,200 per year.

PNPs working in the New York City metro area make 5% higher than the national average for PNP state wages.

  1. Massachusetts: Whether a pediatric nurse practitioner specializes in primary care or acute care will affect the PNP’s pay in Massachusetts. PNP-ACs make $54.59 per hour on average, or $113,540 per year, whereas PNP-PCs make $60 per hour or $124,810 per year.

In comparison to the rest of the state, average incomes in the Boston area are 1% higher.

  1. Nevada: In the Silver State, PNP-PCs make an average of $57.07 per hour, or $118,710 per year, while PNP-ACs make an average of $51.92 per hour or $107,990 per year.
  1. Minnesota: The average pay for pediatric nurse practitioners in Minnesota is 4% more than the national average. Pediatric-acute care practitioners make $51.49 per hour or $107,100 annually, compared to $56.50 for pediatric-primary care nurse practitioners.
  1. Wyoming: On average, pediatric-acute care nurse practitioners make $51.45 per hour, or $107,020 per year, which is 4% more than the national average. Pediatric-primary care nurse practitioners make $56.56 per hour or $117,640 per year.
  1. Hawaii: While PNP-ACs earn an hourly average of $51.44, PNP-PCs earn an hourly average of $56.55, or $117,620 annually.
  1. Oregon: The state of Oregon has a 4 percent higher average wage for pediatric nurse practitioners than the rest of the country, at $56.46 per hour for PNP-PCs and $51.36 for PNP-ACs, or $117,440 and $106,830 annually.

Are Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Happy?

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have data specifically on Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, they report that the average nurse practitioner earns a salary of $98,190 per year.

In addition to earning a good salary, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners also report high levels of job satisfaction.

A survey by the  American Association of Nurse Practitioners found that 86% of respondents were either very satisfied or satisfied with their career choice.

More than 9 out of 10 surveyed said they would choose this career again if given the chance and 84% felt proud about what they do for a living.

The results from this survey are similar to those from studies that found that more than 80% of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners reported being satisfied with their profession.

Is Pediatric Nursing Competitive?

Just like any other nursing specialty, the pediatric nursing field is competitive. In order to become a pediatric nurse, you’ll need to obtain a degree from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Once you have your RN license, you can then begin working in a pediatric unit.

Why Pediatrics is the Best Specialty?

Pediatrics is one of the most rewarding medical specialties because it allows you to work with children and their families during some of the most important moments of their lives.

From birth through adolescence, pediatrics offers a wide variety of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of young people.

The role of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner includes providing preventive care and teaching parents how to keep their children healthy. As such, this role may include teaching parents about vaccines, nutrition, hygiene, and preventing illness.

In addition to providing general nursing skills, these professionals also focus on preventative health education as well as treating illnesses related to developmental delays or conditions such as autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy.

Why do you want to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

There are many advantages to being a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.

  • You get to work with children, which can be very rewarding.
  • You can have a great deal of autonomy and independence in your work.
  • Children’s and their families lives can be improved by you.
  • You can earn a good salary.
  • You can have flexible hours.
  • You will never be bored.
  • You will always be learning something new.
  • There is never a shortage of patients for you to take care of.
  • There is variety in what you do each day because no two days are alike.
  • You’ll be part of a team that takes care of an entire child’s needs.
  • Finally, this is the most important reason you’ll feel good about what you do!

List of Important Pediatric Nursing Organizations

  1. The American Association of Pediatric Nurses (AAPN) is the professional association for pediatric nurses in the United States. The AAPN has over 40,000 members and is dedicated to advancing the nursing profession for children.
  1. The Society for Pediatric Nurses is a professional organization that focuses on helping members attain their education, develop their careers, and serve patients and communities throughout a lifetime of nursing care.
  1. The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPP) is another national organization that provides educational resources and certifications to its members, as well as advocacy efforts at the state level related to legislation concerning pediatric nurse practitioners.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics
  1. College of American Pathologists
  1. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  1. American Nurses Association
  1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing
  1.  American College of Nurse-Midwives
  1.  American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  1.  National Certification Commission for Midwives (NCCMP)


As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, you have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of children. You can provide them with high-quality medical care, support their families, and help them overcome obstacles. In addition, you can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private practices. This allows you to tailor your career to your specific interests and goals.

If you are interested in women’s health or adolescent medicine, for example, you could specialize in these areas while working as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner.

You will also be able to grow professionally through continuing education courses and participation in committees that focus on improving health policy. 

Do you have what it takes to be a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

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