If you want a career that lets you work with children and gives you the challenge of working with many different developmental stages, pediatric nursing may be for you.
Discover how to become a pediatric nurse, the license requirements, recommended certifications, and responsibilities of becoming a pediatric nurse in this guide.
How Long to Become
ADN or BSN
What Is a Pediatric Nurse?
Pediatric nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who care for children from birth to age 18 in a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, outpatient care centers, and rehab facilities. The responsibilities and working hours of pediatric nurses may vary depending on where they work.
Pediatric nurses evaluate patients, provide treatment and medication, educate patients and parents or guardians, and calm patients while administering treatment.
Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
1. Earn an ADN or a BSN degree from an accredited program.
You must earn at least a two-year associate degree in nursing to become a pediatric nurse. Some employers may prefer you graduate from a four-year bachelor of science in nursing program. BSN programs provide more well-rounded education about how nursing practice fits into the larger healthcare space. BSN degrees allow you more career options in the future.
2. Pass the NCLEX exam to receive RN licensure.
Nursing graduates take the NCLEX for RNs about a month after graduation. Employers usually require a passing score before they will hire you, but some allow you to take it by a certain date after hire. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing uses the NCLEX-RN to test your skills and competency in nursing.
3. Gain experience in pediatric nursing.
As a newly licensed nurse, you can apply for entry-level pediatric nursing positions or pediatric nurse residency positions. Both types of experience count toward the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board’s (PNCB) Certified Pediatric Nurse Exam.
4. Consider becoming a certified pediatric nurse.
You can apply for your pediatric nurse certification from either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the PNCB. Certification shows employers that you know more about your specialty than other nurses who only have their RN license. You must have at least two years of nursing experience and an unrestricted license before you apply to take the certification exam.
Featured Online RN-to-BSN Programs
Pediatric Nurse Education
You need at least an ADN degree to take the NCLEX-RN and get your RN license. However, a BSN degree may open up more opportunities for leadership positions, continuing education, promotions, and higher salaries.
An ADN degree offers a faster path to becoming a pediatric nurse. An ADN degree allows you to sit for the NCLEX-RN and get your RN license. You may need to go back to school in the future to get your BSN if you want to get promoted to leadership positions, get an advanced degree, or work for employers who require BSN graduates.
High school diploma or GED certificate; all applicable transcripts including high school, college, and GED certificate; physical exam; drug screening; cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification
Nursing across the lifespan; management of patient care; basic nursing skills; anatomy and physiology
Time to Complete
Patient safety; critical thinking; communication; evidence-based practice; patient-centered care
If you earn a BSN degree, you may earn a higher salary, have more opportunities for advancement, and meet the requirements for a larger number of job openings. You will also need a BSN if you plan to get an advanced degree. If you completed your ADN and want to get your BSN, you can complete an RN-to-BSN degree program and earn your BSN in as little as nine months.
An overall GPA of at least 3.0; a GPA of 2.75 for science courses; at least 45 completed credit hours from an accredited university; at least a C- in all prerequisite courses, such as statistics, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and psychology
Pediatric nursing; maternal health; nursing leadership and management; medical-surgical nursing; community and public health; pharmacology; healthcare policy; evidence-based practice
Time to Complete
Behavioral health; ethics; cultural competence; professionalism; communication; critical thinking; patient-centered care; patient safety; patient and family education; nurse leadership
Pediatric Nurse Licensure and Certification
To become a pediatric nurse, you will need to earn and maintain an unrestricted RN license in your state. Check your state’s requirements for how often you renew your license and how many hours you must work in your state. Your RN license will not only allow you to apply for jobs, but it will also allow you to apply for certifications in your nursing specialty.
Pediatric nurses can apply for one of two certifications: pediatric nursing certification from the ANCC or certified pediatric nurse from the PNCB. Nurse managers and healthcare leaders prefer to hire certified pediatric nurses over 80% of the time. The two pediatric nurse certifications vary in how long they last, how many pediatric nurses apply for them, what you’ll need to apply, and what to expect from the exam.
To apply for certified pediatric nurse from the PNCB, you must have 1,800 clinical hours of pediatric nursing in the past 24 months. Or you can have five years of experience as an RN and 3,000 clinical hours of pediatric nursing within five years with 1,000 hours within the last 24 months. Your experience in pediatric nursing can be clinical, management, consultation, or education experience.
To apply for pediatric nursing certification from the ANCC, you must have 2,000 hours of clinical or direct clinical supervision experience and 30 hours of continuing education for nurses in the last three years.
Working as a Pediatric Nurse
Pediatric nurses make an average of $60,070 annually, according to Payscale in October 2022. Data from the Institute of Pediatric Nursing indicates that almost 69% of pediatric nurses work in some type of hospital:
- Children’s hospitals that are independently operated (30.3%)
- Children’s hospitals connected to major medical centers (28.3%)
- Community hospitals (9.9%)
Pediatric nurses in this setting may further specialize in areas such as oncology, intensive care, or palliative care. If you choose to specialize further, you should consider looking into certifications for your specialty area.
Nurses who work in hospitals help give and read diagnostic tests, provide treatment for patients, and care for chronically ill children. They also educate parents or guardians and patients on various medical conditions.
The second most common work setting for pediatric nurses is in outpatient primary care centers. Nurses in this setting give vaccinations, take vitals and medical histories, schedule appointments, and help doctors complete routine wellness checks.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Pediatric Nurse
Where do pediatric nurses make the most money?
Pediatric nurses may make as much as 18% more than average if they work or have experience working in pediatric intensive care units in hospitals, according to Payscale data from October 2022. Salaries for pediatric nurses also vary according to where they live.
What are the benefits of being a pediatric nurse?
Pediatric nurses get to work with children, spend a lot of time interacting with others, and work with many different kinds of health conditions and developmental stages. The opportunity to care for children can be a rewarding experience. Children may write thank-you notes or draw pictures as appreciation for nurses.
What skills do I need to be a pediatric nurse?
Pediatric nurses need skills like communication, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, decision-making, and attention to detail.
How long does it take to be a pediatric nurse?
You can start working as a pediatric nurse in as little as two years as soon as you complete your ADN degree. If you choose to pursue a BSN degree, you will have to wait four years to start your career as a pediatric nurse.
Page last reviewed October 3, 2022