How to Begin a Professional Career as a Neonatal Nurse

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Neonatal Nurse


Neonatal Nurses: A Quick Look
Median Salary $95,000 per annum
Entry-level education Bachelor’s degree
On-the-job training No
Primary employers Hospitals
Number of positions (U.S.)
Job Growth (2010-2020) 26% (Faster than national average)
New positions (2010-2020) 711,900

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Neonatal NurseWhat Is A Neonatal Nurse?

A neonatal nurse specializes in the care of premature babies, as well as full-term newborns who may suffer from high-risk medical conditions. Read more.


The national average salary of neonatal nurses is $95,000. Read more.

Becoming A Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nurses must obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing and gain clinical experience in neonatal nursing. Find out How to Begin a Professional Career as a Neonatal Nurse here. Read more.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for registered nurses in the United States is very good, with a projected 26% increase in job positions expected from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read more.

Neonatal Nurse Salary

How much do neonatal nurses make? The national average neonatal nurse salary was $95,000 in May, 2013 according to The average salary for neonatal nurse practitioners is 42% higher than the national average across the United States.

How To Become A Neonatal Nurse

The duties that neonatal nurses perform range from being fairly easy to extremely complex. There are three levels of neonatal nurses, with the higher level nurses carrying out more difficult responsibilities. For starters, a person will have to obtain a nursing degree from an accredited college. In this line of work, the most preferable type of degree is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In addition to completing the appropriate educational program, neonatal nurses must become certified and gain two to three years of nursing experience. It is important to note that people wanting to become neonatal nurses cannot partake in an associate's nursing program. Instead, they will need to complete a bachelor's level nursing program that focuses on hard sciences and liberal arts.

How long does it take to become a neonatal nurse?

There is no exact time requirement that must be fulfilled to become a neonatal nurse. The time that it takes depends on the level of neonatal nursing that a person wants to work in. For example, a person can become a Level 1 Neonatal Nurse quicker than a person who wants to become a Level 2 Neonatal Nurse. Also, the amount of classes that a student can take at any particular time determines how long it takes to become this type of nurse. Part-time students will of course take longer to become a neonatal nurse than those who take courses on a full-time basis. All in all, it takes at least four years to become a neonatal nurse, but most people do not enter into this profession until at least two years after graduating from a bachelor's degree nursing curriculum. During the first two years of study, neonatal nursing students complete their general studies. These courses tend to include courses in history, psychology, math, English and more. During this time, students also complete an assortment of prerequisite course which include organic chemistry, anatomy, physiology and microbiology. The next two years of study are devoted to taking courses that directly relate to the field of nursing. These courses usually focus on nursing practices and nursing theory. It is also during this time that nursing students take part in some type of supervised practicum. After four years of studies, most students can graduate from an undergraduate nursing program; however, it is not common that the students will directly enter into a neonatal nursing position. Generally, a person will work for two years, gaining nursing experience, and then obtain a position as a neonatal nurse. If a student wishes to further his or her studies, it is possible to earn a master's degree in neonatal nursing; this type of degree usually takes at least two years to earn after completing a bachelor's level nursing degree program.

Educational Requirements

While in school for neonatal nursing, students will take part in lecture-based learning as well as hands-on training. Topics covered in lectures tend to focus on healthcare delivery, pharmacology, human nutrition, advanced anatomy and human responses. To graduate from a neonatal nursing program, students must obtain extensive experience while working in a clinical setting. This valuable hands-on training portion of a nursing program must be carried out under the direct supervision of a licensed nurse or some other type of health care professional. Students who graduate with as a Registered Nurse with a BSN are able to continue their education and earn a master's degree. This type of degree program in neonatal nursing prepares students to work in delivery rooms, intensive care units and family practices. A master's program also includes clinical rotations.


Neonatal nurses must become certified. They can apply for certification through a State Board of Nursing entity or through a national certification agency. To apply for certification, a person will first need to complete a four-year nursing program as well as obtain at least two years of experience as a nurse; this two years of experience must add up to at least 2000 hours worth of working experience. The national certification exam cost about $325, and it can be taken on a computer or by paper and pencil. The application process for certification can sometimes take up to four weeks to complete.


Although neonatal nurses do not have to be licensed to perform their work, they do have to maintain licensure to be a registered nurse which is a prerequisite to being a neonatal nurse. Keeping this in mind, the exact licensure requirements for registered nurses are determined by the state in which they provide services. To identify the exact requirements, it is helpful for neonatal nurses to contact their local State Nursing Board.

Neonatal Nurse Job Description

What does a neonatal nurse do? Neonatal nurses spend their time taking care of premature babies. In some instances, they also take care of full-term newborns that suffer from high-risk medical conditions. In addition, the nurses work with the families of the babies, teaching them how to take care of a high-risk infant. Employment as a neonatal nurse can be found in hospitals, children's clinics and other types of medical facilities. Sometimes, neonatal nurses are in the delivery room of newborns, and oftentimes they help transport patients from one room to another as well as to different medical facilities.


  • Change diapers
  • Schedule release times
  • Feed newborn babies
  • Watch infants for signs of complications
  • Teach parents how to care for newborns
  • Administer medications
  • Monitor life support machines
  • Maintain a sterile working environment as well as maintain a sterile living environment for newborns
  • Administer IVs
  • Respond to emergency medical situations

Alternative Job Titles

Sometimes, neonatal nurses are referred to as nurse practitioners or clinical nurse specialists.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for registered nurses in the United States is very good, with a projected 26% increase in job positions expected from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite aging demographics and falling birthrates, the job outlook for neonatal nurses is expected to be very good through the rest of the decade, particularly in rural areas and inner cities which historically have had difficulty attracting and keeping registered nurses.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *