Pediatric Nurse

Babies, children, and adolescents are not just small adults. Their bodies are complex and different from those of grown-ups, and they require specialized pediatric care. Routine pediatric care is critical to ensure children are developing correctly by tracking milestones. Preventative care such as immunizations and parent education about safety measures can further aid in helping kids grow into healthy adults.

Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (or advanced practice nurses) who specialize in working with patients under the age of 18. They work everywhere children receive medical care from hospitals to clinics, surgery centers, doctors’ offices, and outpatient centers. Working under the supervision of a physician, pediatric nurses can administer vaccinations and medications, provide care, track vital signs, deliver therapies, and more.

To become a pediatric nurse, students must first complete a nursing program at either an associate or bachelor’s degree level. These general nursing programs will help prepare graduates for entry-level work in the field. Aspiring pediatric nurses can seek to complete their clinical rotation in pediatric settings in order to gain hands-on experience. 

After graduation, it is possible to complete a nursing residency in pediatrics to learn the skills to start this career or find entry-level work in the field to gain on-the-job training. Nurses who want to provide more specialized or independent care can become pediatric nurse practitioners by earning a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. 

There is currently a strong demand for nurses in all specialties. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021), there will be an anticipated 9 percent increase in nursing jobs nationally between 2020 and 2030, which is on par with the national average of 8 percent growth for all jobs. Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, are in extremely high demand, with an estimated 52 percent increase in this field during the same time period. On average, registered nurses earn $82,750 per year, and nurse practitioners earn $118,040.

Working with children can be a very rewarding career. Keep reading to learn more about how to become a pediatric nurse.

Pediatric Nurse Specializations & Degree Types

Pediatric nursing is a specialty within the field of nursing. Most pediatric nurses have earned an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then obtain on-the-job training for working with babies, children, and adolescents. Some facilities are formalizing the education process for pediatric nurses by offering nurse residency programs. These programs are typically one year long and consist of formal employment with mentoring, courses, lectures, and labs to help nurses excel in this field. 

Nurses who want to earn an advanced degree to work with children can become nurse practitioners by completing a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Pediatric nurse practitioners can work in primary care, acute care, psychiatry, oncology, surgery, and more.

Admissions Requirements for Pediatric Nurse Programs

Admission to nursing programs is generally quite competitive as this is a lucrative career with a relatively low barrier to entry. Associate degree programs may require applicants to have completed prerequisite coursework in biology, writing, math, and anatomy and physiology. 

Bachelor’s degree programs may require similar prerequisite coursework in addition to ensuring that applicants have completed all of the general education components of their degree prior to starting the program.

Pediatric Nurse Program Accreditation

In order to obtain a nursing license in most states, students must attend an accredited nursing program. Accreditation is a voluntary step that evaluates a program’s key components, including curriculum, facilities, faculty, and student outcomes. Accredited programs must complete periodic evaluations to ensure they continue to meet these high-quality standards. 

The two primary accrediting bodies for nursing programs are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

On-Campus Pediatric Nurse Degree Programs

Pediatrics at Randall Children’s Hospital on the campus of Legacy Emanuel

New graduate nurses can apply for the RN residency program at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, Oregon. This one-year program includes 18 weeks of classes, mentorship, and a specialized curriculum designed to help nurses get up to speed. In total, nurses commit to one full year of employment with this program to learn the necessary skills to excel in their new specialty. All courses are developed with current and emerging clinical guidelines and can include labs and simulations.  

Nurses can apply directly to several departments, including Randall Children’s hospital on the Legacy Emanuel campus. While there are general pediatrics residencies, nurses can also apply to acute care, the PICU, or the NICU. To apply, nurses must have less than one year of work experience and hold an RN license in Oregon or Washington. These residencies are paid employment, and there is no tuition. 

  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Tuition: None 

Pima Community College

In just two years, students can complete an associate of applied science in nursing at Pima Community College. This traditional program prepares students to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam and find entry-level work as nurses. Skills students will gain in this program include the ability to communicate effectively, a keen understanding of patient and staff safety, how to use informatics to deliver healthcare, applying evidence-based practices to patient care, and leadership skills to help other healthcare staff. 

As with most nursing programs, admission to this degree program is highly competitive. Candidates must complete prerequisite coursework in math, writing, and biology, and the Accuplacer Reading Assessment HESI A2 Assessment for Math, Reading, and Anatomy/Physiology with a 75 percent or higher. Applicants must also take the National League of Nursing Pre-Admission Examination for RN applicants (NLN PAX-RN). 

  • Location: Tucson, AZ
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing 
  • Tuition: $310.50 per credit 

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Seattle Children’s Hospital offers an outstanding nurse residency program for new nurses who are looking to work with children. This one-year program is full-time paid employment as a nurse and includes nurse residency classes. These classes are designed to help nurses build competency in pediatric care. During the residency, each nurse will have an experienced nurse mentor to help them along.

In order to participate in this program, nurses must submit an application and have already completed a bachelor’s of science in nursing. They must also be licensed in the state of Washington and hold basic life support certification. Prior work experience in pediatric nursing can help boost the chances of being selected for this program. Once selected, nurses will be assigned to a specific area that can include psychiatry, emergencies, intensive care, acute care, and the operating room.

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Tuition: None

University of Michigan School of Nursing

Nurses who want an advanced degree in pediatrics can earn either a master’s of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice at the University of Michigan School of Nursing. These programs take between two to four years to complete, depending on a full-time or part-time format. Upon completion of either degree, graduates are prepared to work as primary care pediatric nurse practitioners with in-depth knowledge of well-baby/child care and acute minor childhood illnesses. 

A key part of both the MSN and DNP degree programs is extensive clinical experience. Some of the courses for this program are offered through distance learning, however, students are expected to live close to the school and attend on-campus classes every semester. 

Admission requirements for both programs include at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a minimum GPA, and strong letters of recommendation. GRE scores are not required and will not be considered if submitted. 

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $3,221 per credit 

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College

In two years, students can complete their associate of science in nursing at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. This traditional on-campus nursing program prepares graduates for entry-level work in the field. Graduates are also well prepared to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam as well. Many of the graduates of this degree program go on to complete additional studies, be it a master’s or bachelor’s degree program. 

There are several options for this degree. Students can enter directly into the associate’s degree or apply to transition their licensed practical nurse degree. If applying directly to the associate’s program, students must complete prerequisite courses in chemistry and math. The transition program requires applicants to have an unrestricted LPN license in lieu of coursework. 

  • Location: Salisbury, NC
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $268 per credit

Online or Hybrid Pediatric Nurse  Degree Programs

Northwestern Michigan College

Northwestern Michigan College offers a two-year hybrid associate’s of science in nursing degree. Lecture classes are delivered through distance learning, while labs are completed on-campus and clinicals are done on-site in the Traverse City area. In total, students will be expected to attend in-person two to three days a week. This is a full-time program, so it is not recommended that students work full-time while attempting to complete this degree. 

Upon completing this degree, students can transfer to Davenport University, Ferris State University, or Grand Valley State University and complete their BSN. Agreements with these universities award students up to 60 credits for the associate’s degree, and some may award up to 30 credits for passing the NCLEX-RN exam. 

Admission to this program is on a points basis where applicants earn points for prerequisite coursework, GPAs, previous degrees, veteran status, and admission exam scores. 

  • Location: Traverse City, MI
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $227 to $261 per credit 

Excelsior College 

Excelsior College has several online options for nurses pursuing their bachelor’s degrees. They offer a traditional RN-to-BSN program for nurses who are already licensed and a jumpstart degree option for students who are waiting to take the NCLEX-RN and have not yet obtained licensure. Both options are delivered exclusively through online learning. 

There is a strong emphasis in this program on research which prepares nurses for lifelong learning or additional education. All students must complete a required capstone project which demonstrates the skills and knowledge gained in this program. 

To be eligible for admission, students must have already completed an associate’s degree in nursing. A license is not required, however, students must earn one within one year of entering this program. 

  • Location: Albany, NY
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • Tuition: $510 per credit 

Maryville University

Maryville University offers four online options for licensed registered nurses who want to become pediatric nurse practitioners. Students will gain skills in preventative care and disease management. Degree options include a master’s of science in nursing, a bachelor’s of nursing to doctor of nursing practice (BSN-to-DNP), a post-master’s nurse practitioner certificate, and an MSN-to-DNP. All of these programs are offered exclusively through distance learning, allowing students to advance their education and careers without having to relocate. 

Admission requirements vary based on the degree pursued, but all of them require applicants to have an unencumbered nursing license and to have completed at least a bachelor’s of science in nursing. Coursework will also vary by program but will include a set of core nurse practitioner classes followed by pediatric-specific courses. Students are required to complete clinical experiences at an approved site near them. 

  • Location: St. Louis, MO
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $813 to $897 per credit 

Rasmussen University Nursing School

With 19 campuses in five states, an associate’s of science in nursing degree from Rasmussen University Nursing School is accessible to students across the country. Many of the lecture classes are delivered online, making this hybrid program extremely flexible. 

On-campus classes include labs, simulations, and clinicals to gain hands-on experience in nursing. Many campuses offer their degrees in an accelerated format allowing students to graduate in as little as 18 months. 

All graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. In total, students must complete 25 courses and 102 credit hours to earn this degree. Required classes include mental and behavioral health nursing, dimensions of nursing practice, role, scope, quality, leadership in professional nursing, and more. 

  • Location: 19 campuses in five states
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
  • Tuition: $409 per credit 

Western Governors University

Students who live in either Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Utah can complete an online bachelor of science in nursing. What is unique about this program is that it is one of the few distance learning bachelor’s degree programs that has no prior degree or licensure requirements. However, there are prerequisite coursework requirements like most nursing programs. While lecture classes are delivered through an online format, students will work with a clinical coach to complete local clinical intensive classes. 

Classes at WGU are competency-based, so students can complete courses as fast as they gain the skills. Competencies are assigned in six-month increments, allowing for a high degree of flexibility in when and how coursework gets completed. Tuition for classes at WGU is billed at a flat rate per six months, so it can be advantageous to complete courses quickly in order to save money.  

  • Location: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Utah
  • Duration: Two-and-a-half years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $5,930 per six months

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pediatric Nurse?

It takes at least two years of education post-high school to become a nurse. Working in pediatrics then just becomes a matter of work experience or completing additional education. Typically, either can take one to two more years.

How To Become a Pediatric Nurse – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

The journey to becoming a pediatric nurse starts with graduating from high school or earning a GED. This is required for most nursing programs and demonstrates general aptitude and ability to complete an educational program. Students should focus on classes such as math, biology, chemistry, and psychology. 

Step 2: Complete a Nursing Program (Eighteen Months to Four Years)

Nursing programs can be completed in as little as 18 months, although most take two to four years to complete. Most of these are general nursing programs and not specific to pediatrics, although students can always request to complete clinical experiences in that field.

Step 3: Pass NCLEX (Timelines Vary)

All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam. To take this exam, nurses will need to apply to their state nursing board for authorization to test. Once that has been received, nurses can then schedule their exam. This computer-administered exam varies in length based on the responses from the candidate. The maximum number of questions that must be answered is 145, and the maximum time is five hours.

Step 4: Apply for State Licensure (Timelines Varies)

It is required to obtain a state license in order to practice as a registered nurse. Requirements will vary by state, so students should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary requirements. More information about licensure can be found in the certifications and licensure section below.

Step 5: Complete Additional Education or Gain Work Experience (Timelines Vary)

Nursing programs provide general education in nursing. Pediatric knowledge and skills can be gained through on-the-job training or by completing an additional education program. Nurses can earn an advanced degree as a pediatric nurse practitioner or complete a residency program that will train them and provide specialized classes. 

Step 6: Earn Voluntary Certifications (Timelines Vary)

Certification for pediatric nurses is not required but can be beneficial and help nurses stand out when applying for a job or seeking a promotion. More information about certifications can be found in the certifications and licensure section below.

What Do Pediatric Nurses Do?

Pediatric nurses work anywhere children may go for healthcare. While they may primarily be in hospitals, either specialized children’s ones or pediatric wings of general hospitals, they can also be found in clinics, surgical centers, and doctor’s offices. Day-to-day duties can include:

  • Assessing babies, children, and adolescents’ general health
  • Taking vital signs and recording health histories
  • Performing physical examinations
  • Administering medications or treatments per doctor’s orders
  • Giving vaccinations
  • Ordering lab tests
  • Consulting with doctors on patient’s health and care
  • Educating families on health conditions or on how to best care for children
  • Monitoring children for signs of abuse

Pediatric Nurse Certifications & Licensure

Pediatric nurses must be licensed registered nurses in the state where they practice. Licensing requirements vary by state, so nurses should contact their local boards to ensure they have the necessary qualifications. For example, in California, the requirements are:

  • Complete an associate’s level nursing program or higher or have completed military nursing coursework
  • Complete a fingerprint-based background check
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN exam

Certification is not required for pediatric nurses; however, some employers may require it. The primary certification pediatric nurses earn is the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) credential from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

To be eligible for this certification, nurses must have 1,800 practice hours in the past 24 months or five years of work experience as a pediatric nurse with at least 3,000 hours, of which 1,000 must be in the past 24 months. Once eligibility has been determined, nurses may schedule and take the exam, which consists of 175 questions, takes three hours to complete, and costs $300.

The PNCB offers additional certifications such as Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC), Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-PC), and Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS). The American Nurse Credentialing Center also offers a Pediatric Nursing Certification (PED-BC), which is less common.

How Much Do Pediatric Nurses Make?

The 3,047,530 nurses in the US earn $82,750 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS May 2021). Currently, the BLS doesn’t differentiate earnings based on specialty. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $59,450
  • 25th percentile: $61,790
  • 50th  percentile (median): $77,600
  • 75th percentile: $97,580
  • 90th percentile: $120,250

Pediatric Nurse Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a pediatric nurse: 

Become a Certified Nurse-Midwife

Certified nurse-midwives are advanced nurse practitioners who have specialized in women’s health, obstetrics, and labor and delivery. This additional training and education takes between 18 months and three years, depending on the type of program and if the program is completed full or part-time. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP)
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Midwifery Certification Board (ACMB)

Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are mid-level health care providers who have advanced training to provide more independent care than registered nurses. They can work in various fields, including midwifery, anesthesia, primary care, acute care, pediatrics, and more. In many states, they can provide care, prescribe medication, and order lab tests without the supervision of a physician. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP)
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Become a Registered Respiratory Therapist

Registered respiratory therapists are experts in all things breathing-related. They work with patients who have acute or chronic breathing disorders and can provide assessments and treatments. In hospital settings, they can also be responsible for monitoring and recording patient breathing. 

  • Typical Education: Associate’s or bachelor’s
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) 
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson


Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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