Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner.

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Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

Pediatric nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have completed graduate training and can provide primary care to children under the supervision of a physician. They treat children from infancy through adolescence, administering preventative and curative treatments. This position is both physically and emotionally demanding, and requires long hours spent standing. The schedule of these workers can vary greatly, but the opportunity to work standard business hours is available. Some nurses may travel to patients.

Degree Level Master's
Degree Field Nursing
Licensure and Certification RN licensure is a prerequisite for state licensure or certification as an APRN
Experience 2-5 years of experience in pediatric nursing
Key Skills Critical-thinking skills, patience, empathy, interpersonal and communication skills, attention to detail, and decision-making skills
Salary $107,030 per year (2018 median salary for all nurse practitioners)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, Online Job Postings (August 2015)

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

An aspiring pediatric nurse practitioner must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Coursework includes basic nursing principles, biology, nutrition, chemistry, anatomy, and psychology. Rotations through various clinical settings and departments, including pediatrics, are required.

Step 2: Obtain RN Licensure

All RNs are required to obtain nursing licenses by passing the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Plus, nurse practitioner master's degree programs require applicants to hold valid RN licenses. States may have additional licensing requirements.

Pediatric nurse practitioner programs often require applicants to have at least 1 year of professional nursing experience in pediatrics. Attaining work experience and making professional contacts is also important, because letters of recommendation from employers factor into the admissions process. Getting practical experience in pediatrics can also help nurses decide if they'd like to specialize in an area of pediatric nursing, like acute care or oncology.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

Individuals must complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program that offers a specialization in pediatric care. More specific concentrations may be available in pediatric acute care, pediatric chronic care, pediatric oncology, or pediatric critical care. Pediatric clinical work teaches nurses how to manage common health issues and chronic illnesses, as well as how to work with different populations, like young families and adolescents.

An MSN degree can be earned in 1 to 2 years. Some schools provide combined BSN-MSN programs, which usually take 3 to 4 years to complete. There are also programs for students who already have advanced practice nursing master's degrees and want to change their specialization to pediatrics; these may take 1 year to finish.

Success Tip:

  • Learn a second language. Knowing a language other than English can help nurse practitioners provide primary care to patients and communicate with families more effectively. Employers commonly advertise for pediatric nurse practitioners who are bilingual and familiar with multicultural nursing practices. Nurse practitioner master's degree programs may provide clinical opportunities for students to work with populations who speak other languages.

Step 4: Earn Certification and Licensure

All pediatric nurse practitioners must become certified in the specialty in order to practice. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) offers the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (CPNP-PC) designation, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (PPCNP-BC) credential. Candidates for both certifications must have pediatric nurse practitioner graduate degrees, be licensed RNs, and pass the corresponding certification exams. The PNCB also offers specialty certifications, such as the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care (CPNP-AC) and Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) credentials.

Step 5: Practitioner Work

After earning nurse practitioner certification and licensure, nurse practitioners can seek positions within pediatric departments of hospitals, community health organizations, and children's clinics. Most employers require a minimum of 2 years of experience working in pediatrics and may require multiple certifications.

Both the RN license and specialty certifications need to be maintained in order to continue practicing as a pediatric nurse practitioner. License renewal varies by state, but taking continuing education courses is a typical requirement. The CPNP-PC credential is valid for 7 years, but holders must recertify every year. Nurses with the PPCNP-BC credential must renew their certification every 5 years.

The steps towards becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner include earning a bachelor's degree in nursing, obtaining an RN license, and working as an RN in pediatrics, then earning a pediatric nurse practitioner master's degree, earning pediatric nurse practitioner certification and licensure, and working as a pediatric nurse practitioner and maintaining licensure and certification.

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