How to Become a Pediatric Nurse


Updated November 23, 2022

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Find out if becoming a pediatric nurse is right for you when you learn the education, license, certification, and experience requirements.
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If you want a career that lets you work with children, pediatric nursing may be for you. Pediatric nursing provides the creative challenge of working with child patients in many different developmental stages.

Discover how to become a pediatric nurse, the license requirements, recommended certifications, and responsibilities of becoming a pediatric nurse.

How Long to Become

2-4 years

Degree Required


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. These settings include hospitals, outpatient care centers, and rehab facilities. Pediatric nurse responsibilities and work hours may vary.

Pediatric nurses evaluate patients, provide treatment and medication, and calm patients while administering treatment. These nurses also educate patients and their parents or guardians.

Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse

To become a pediatric nurse, you need to earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to receive RN licensure.

Then, you must gain experience in pediatric nursing. You can also consider becoming a certified 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.

ADN Degree

An ADN degree offers a faster path to becoming a pediatric nurse. With an ADN, you can 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 seek promotion to leadership positions, an advanced degree, or work for employers who require BSN graduates.

  • Admission Requirements

    High school diploma or GED certificate; all applicable transcripts including high school, college, and GED certificate; physical exam; drug screening; cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification

  • Program Curriculum

    Nursing across the lifespan; management of patient care; basic nursing skills; anatomy and physiology

  • Time to Complete

    Two years

  • Skills Learned

    Patient safety; critical thinking; communication; evidence-based practice; patient-centered care

BSN Degree

With a BSN degree, you may earn a higher salary, have more advancement opportunities, and meet the requirements for a larger number of job openings.

If you completed your ADN and want to get your BSN, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN degree program and earn your BSN in as little as nine months.

  • Admission Requirements

    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

  • Program Curriculum

    Pediatric nursing; maternal health; nursing leadership and management; medical-surgical nursing; community and public health; pharmacology; healthcare policy; evidence-based practice

  • Time to Complete

    Four years

  • Skills Learned

    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 need to earn and maintain an unrestricted RN license in your state. Check with your state for licensure requirements.

Your RN license enables you to apply for jobs and 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 to be a PNCB-certified pediatric nurse 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. Of those 3,000 clinical hours, 1,000 hours must fall within the past 24 months.

Your experience in pediatric nursing can be clinical, management, consultation, or education experience.

To apply for ANCC pediatric nursing certification you need 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 October 2022 Payscale data. 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

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