Highly specialized pediatric intensive care (PICU) nurses grow in demand as healthcare facilities grapple with a nationwide nursing shortage, staff turnover exacerbated by the stress of the pandemic, and a surge in respiratory viruses among children. PICU nurses can make more than $80,000 per year, and the highest earners average $148,000, according to Payscale data from November 2022.
Explore this guide to pediatric intensive care nurse salaries and follow the links to learn more about this registered nurse (RN) specialization.
Average Salary for Pediatric Intensive Care Nurses
The average annual salary of $81,460 (or $33.55 an hour) for pediatric intensive care nurses is in line with the average annual wage for all RNs listed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, pediatric intensive care nurse salary ranges can vary by education level, geographic location, and length of experience.
Generally, the higher the degree, e.g., bachelor’s degree versus associate degree in nursing, results in higher starting pay. Where and how long you work also matters. For example, ICU nurses in Los Angeles earn 28.3% more on average when compared to the national average. The BLS cites consistent data showing California as the highest-paying state for RNs. In addition, Payscale reports that intensive care nurses can increase their pay by 20% after 5-9 years and more than 50% with 20+ years of experience.
Average Annual Salary
Source: Payscale, November 2022
Average Hourly Wage
Source: Payscale, November 2022
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The Highest-Paying States for Pediatric Intensive Care Nurses
State-specific pediatric intensive care nurse earning data is not available, but RN wage statistics can provide an idea of which states may pay the highest PICU salaries. The BLS lists California as the top-paying state for RNs, with average salaries of $124,000, followed by Hawaii at $106,530 and Oregon at $98,630.
Factors contributing to geographical variations in salaries include the regional cost-of-living index, a shortage or surplus of RNs in the area, and whether the jobs are in rural or urban communities. For example, all 10 of the nation’s top-paying metropolitan areas are located in California, as are the top three nonmetropolitan areas. For example, RNs in the San Jose area average $155,230 per year, while RNs working in the Sierra Nevada mountains earn $109,990.
4 Ways to Increase Pay As a Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse
PICU nurses can increase their pay in other ways, such as becoming certified, earning an advanced nursing degree, shifting to travel nursing, and transitioning into nurse management roles.
Consider Pursuing Certifications
Certification indicates to employers additional knowledge and expertise and can increase pediatric intensive care nurse salaries. The American Association of Intensive Care Nurses offers credentialing in acute/critical care nursing (CCRN-pediatric). RNs qualify for the exam after completing practice hours of direct care to acutely/critically ill pediatric patients.
Increase Your Education Level
A master’s or doctorate degree in nursing can lead to a career as a pediatric intensive care nurse practitioner. Completing graduate study can result in average nurse practitioner salaries of $118,040, as reported by the BLS. In addition, the BLS projects a 46% increase in nurse practitioner employment between 2021 and 2031.
Become a Travel Nurse in Pediatric Intensive Care Specialty
PICU travel nurses are in high demand to fill the staffing gaps created by the nursing shortage. These RNs travel to temporary assignments around the country caring for critically ill children. Indeed lists salaries for current positions from $2,800 to $5,000 a week, and employment often includes housing and travel expenses.
Gain Experience in Management Roles
PICU nurses can earn more by becoming unit managers or transitioning into nurse executive or administration roles overseeing staff and operations. Nurse managers may need no further education and can often find training at their workplace. Nurse executives and administrators earn graduate degrees and certifications. Average annual salaries range from $88,840 to $119,840.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse Salaries
Do PICU nurses get paid more with experience?
Payscale reports pediatric intensive care nurse salaries increase from $26 per hour with less than one year on the job to $51 an hour for those with 20 years or more of experience.
How many patients do PICU nurses have?
Because PICU nurses provide constant and intensive care to their critically ill young patients, they generally only have responsibility for 1-3 children at a time. Acutely ill patients’ conditions can change rapidly requiring vigilant attention.
What is the salary range for pediatric intensive care nurses?
Payscale data from November 2022 lists the pediatric intensive care nurse salary range at an average $56,000-$148,000 per year, or $27-$51 an hour. Salaries can increase with experience and certification and vary by education level, career advancement, and geographic location.
How can PICU nurses increase their salary?
PICU nurses can typically make more money the longer they stay in their careers and by other means like earning a graduate nursing degree, relocating to a higher-paying area, becoming a travel nurse or nurse manager, or obtaining certification.