Nurses can increase their salary and professional responsibilities by attending an accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner program. Earning a graduate degree can take as little as two years and professionals can earn six-figure salaries. In many states, nurse practitioners provide primary care for patients, including pregnant women and newborns. Nurse practitioners can also look forward to ample job security, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting that the number of advanced practice registered nurse positions, including neonatal nurse practitioners, will increase by 31% by 2026.
The following ranking, which details the best online neonatal nurse practitioner programs, can help students find the program that best matches their career goals and interests. This article also explains the admissions process for neonatal nurse practitioner programs, ways to earn board certification to increase competitiveness on the job market, and various scholarship opportunities for aspiring nurse practitioners.
Best Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
#1 University of Texas Arlington
The University of Texas Arlington’s accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner program features 42 credit hours of coursework along with 600 clinical hours. Coursework covers many topics, equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed as neonatal nurse practitioners. Topics covered include the exploration of science and theories for nursing, evidence-based practice, and advanced pharmacology for nurse practitioners. Students also complete a practicum and clinical practice, relative to neonatal care.
Full-time students can graduate in just four semesters. While coursework is delivered completely online, students still need to complete two in-person simulations. Students must identify board-certified neonatal nurse practitioners or neonatologists in their community to precept their 600-hour clinical requirement. The University of Texas works with students to help secure an affiliation agreement. Upon completing the program, students leave ready to take the neonatal nurse practitioner certification exam and practice advanced nursing.
#2 University of Missouri-Kansas City
Located in Kansas City, Missouri, the University of Missouri features one of the best online neonatal nurse practitioner programs in the country. The program focuses on health management of the neonate and their family. Students graduate with a broad base of knowledge including cultural diversity, research, health policy, nursing theory, leadership, and ethics. The program boasts Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accreditation and receives consistent recognition as a top program in the field.
The curriculum focuses on core topics, including health promotion and disease prevention, differential diagnosis, and disease management. Applicants must have completed two years of full-time clinical experience as a registered nurse caring for critically ill infants with most of their experience in Level III or Level IV NICU. Each semester, students must come to campus for a residency during their clinical courses, serving as the only in-person components of the online degree.
#3 Northeastern University
Featuring a fully online neonatal nurse practitioner program, Northeastern University prepares students for careers in neonatal care. Focusing on providing students with advanced nursing knowledge, the curriculum covers topics including common life-threatening neonatal illnesses, neonatal pharmacology, early assessment and evaluation of high-risk neonates, and advanced physiology and pathophysiology. During the first semester of their second year, students begin their practicum requirement.
In the clinical practicum, students develop useful skills working with their clinical preceptor. Since graduates work with a variety of medical personnel over the course of their careers, the practicum requirement exposes them to multiple preceptors, enabling them to learn about different medical practice styles and techniques. The university boasts many affiliates in the Boston-area, where students can carry out their practicum requirements. Affiliates include Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and UMASS Memorial Health Care.
#4 Rush University
Located in Chicago, Illinois, Rush University offers one of the best accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs in the U.S. This part-time, online program typically takes students 2.5-3.5 years to complete. Graduates leave prepared to practice in normal newborn, intensive care, and intermediate settings. Throughout the program, students learn how to perform advanced physical assessments, educate and support caregivers, and evaluate diagnostic and clinical data.
With class sizes of about 15 learners, students enjoy an intimate learning environment that allows them to make the most of their coursework and connect with their instructors. The curriculum covers topics including the developmental physiology of fetuses and neonates, advanced pharmacology, and neonatal pathophysiology. Applicants must have their bachelor’s degree in nursing with a minimum 3.0 GPA, RN licensure, and six months of professional experience in a Level II or higher NICU.
#5 Arizona State University
Designed for nurses interested in becoming advanced practice nurses as neonatal nurse practitioners, the online neonatal nurse practitioner program at Arizona State University provides students with the foundation of skills and knowledge they need. The 84-credit curriculum focuses on topics such as management of common neonatal problems, management of complex problems in neonates, and advanced development and family health promotion.
In addition to coursework, students must complete three neonatal practicums and a clinical residency. These focused clinical experiences allow students to work with appropriate preceptors and administrators to develop a variety of techniques and styles for medical practice. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a 3.0 minimum GPA, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation. Additionally, they must have their current unencumbered license, and if their clinical practice occurs outside of Arizona, they also must have licensure for that state.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Online Programs: An Overview
Before applying to neonatal nurse practitioner programs, prospective students should look into admission requirements, internship requirements, course options, and program structure. The following section explains what prospective students need to know before entering a nurse practitioner program, including the qualifications for in-demand certifications. Because each program differs, students should carefully assess their options before applying.
Admission Requirements for an Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program
Accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs set their own admission requirements, which may include prerequisite courses or work experience. Most programs require a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program, a current RN license, and a minimum GPA. However, some programs offer provisional admission to candidates with an inadequate GPA. Nurse practitioner programs may also recommend a minimum number of years of experience as a neonatal nurse. The admission requirements can also vary between master’s nurse practitioner programs and doctoral nurse practitioner programs. Doctoral programs, for example, may prefer candidates who hold an MSN.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program?
The length of a neonatal nurse practitioner online degree track varies depending on the degree level, specialization, and program structure. Aspiring neonatal nurse practitioners can complete their online degrees in as little as two years. Master’s nurse practitioner programs typically consist of about 40 credits plus clinical hours, which students generally finish in 2-3 years; however, learners following a part-time schedule usually take longer. Students enrolled in neonatal nurse practitioner DNP programs online often take 3-4 years to earn their degree, and doctoral programs usually require participants to earn around 80 credits.
Nurse practitioner students complete required coursework, gain hands on experience in a clinical setting, and meet various other graduation requirements. In some programs, students can pursue a specialization, which may require taking additional elective credits. Programs may use cohort learning models — where a group of students enters the program and completes coursework together — or individually paced models, which lets students take courses at their convenience.
Example Courses for Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
- Advanced Health Assessment: Neonatal nurse practitioner students in this class learn how to conduct comprehensive health assessments on maternal, postpartum, prenatal, and newborn patients. Coursework may incorporate simulations, human models, and clinical experience to develop the assessment skills that neonatal nurse practitioners use on a daily basis.
- Pediatric Care: This course emphasizes primary healthcare for children from birth through adolescence. Students learn theories and concepts related to providing healthcare, focusing on routine and wellness issues for pediatric patients. This class may also cover child development theories, developmental issues, and behavioral issues in children.
- Neonatal Disease Practice: Nurse practitioner students learn how to care for neonatal patients, including preterm and term infants in neonatal intensive care units. Faculty teach theoretical understandings of common neonatal diseases and may require participants to complete a clinical experience to gain hands-on skills. This course also builds clinical management skills.
- Health Informatics: Many nurse practitioner programs feature health informatics coursework, which provides a conceptual foundation for understanding informatics. Covered topics may include information systems used in healthcare, theoretical models, healthcare computing, and data management. Students may also study ethical and social issues related to healthcare informatics.
- Evidence-Based Methods and Practices: Neonatal nurse practitioner programs use evidence-based methods and practice courses to translate theoretical knowledge into practice. Students may gain clinical experience working under a preceptor, and the course may also cover research skills, various methods for patient care, and the needs of vulnerable populations.
The best online neonatal nurse practitioner programs incorporate a clinical component into the curriculum. Practica often include a set number of hours of hands-on experience working in a clinical setting, with some programs requiring as many as 1,000 hours. Students enrolled in accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs complete these clinical requirements locally by finding a local preceptor who has been approved by their program. In some cases, students can meet these clinical requirements by working for their current employer. Depending on a program’s requirements, students may complete these required hours at a single site or at multiple locations.
Certifications and Licenses This Program Prepares For
- Board Certified Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: Neonatal nurse practitioners in most states must complete the certification offered by the National Certification Corporation (NCC) in order to practice. Candidates must hold a current RN license, earn a master’s degree or higher from an accredited nurse practitioner program, and have graduated after 2005 to earn board certification.
- Board Certified Women’s Healthcare Nurse Practitioner: Also offered by NCC, the women’s healthcare certification recognizes RNs who hold an accredited graduate degree from a nurse practitioner program. Candidates must also pass an examination. This credential must be renewed every three years.
- Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner: Offered by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, board certification recognizes nurse practitioners who can practice prenatal, pediatric, and family care. Candidates must hold an accredited graduate degree from a nurse practitioner program. After passing a 150-question examination, nurse practitioners earn their credential, which they must maintain by completing continuing education credits.
Accreditation for Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
Accreditation acts as a marker of educational excellence. Colleges and universities that hold regional accreditation qualify for federal funding, and credits earned at these institutions can be to transferred to other schools more easily. Prospective students can check whether an institution holds accreditation by visiting databases hosted by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to accreditation at the institutional level, the best nursing programs hold programmatic accreditation from either the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). These accrediting agencies evaluate nursing programs in terms of student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and faculty qualifications.
Prospective nursing students should only apply to ACEN- or CCNE-accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs. An accredited nurse practitioner degree helps graduates earn licenses and certifications, and many employers only hire nurse practitioners with an accredited degree. Accreditation also ensures that a program follows the best practices for nursing education.
Job and Salary Outlook
Where Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Work?
Where Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Work?
Neonatal nurse practitioners work in labor and delivery units, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities. Their job responsibilities vary depending on the setting. For example, nurse practitioners in hospitals assist with labor and delivery, while those in a physician’s office may provide prenatal care for pregnant women.
Advanced practice registered nurses, such as neonatal nurse practitioners, can work independently with patients or in collaboration with physicians, depending on the state in which they practice. Nurse practitioners earn an average annual salary that approaches six figures, and the BLS projects a much higher than average demand in this field over the next decade.
How Much Do Neonatal Nurse Practitioners Make?
According to PayScale, neonatal nurse practitioners earn above-average salaries, with their median income exceeding $97,000. Salaries vary according to region: Neonatal nurse practitioners in some states earn significantly higher salaries. The following table shows the median salaries for five nursing professions by career level.
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Neonatal Nurse Practitioner||$97,394||$90,000||$95,000||$113,000|
|Family Nurse Practitioner||$91,064||$90,000||$96,000||$100,000|
Students attending accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner programs often benefit from joining professional organizations. These organizations typically offer conferences and events where students network with other professionals in their field. Professional organizations also provide access to continuing education programs, which can help maintain certifications, and professional development resources. Members can also apply for scholarships, grants, and fellowships and take advantage of career services, such as job boards.
National Association of Neonatal Nurses: A professional organization for neonatal nurses, NANN also offers a division for neonatal nurse practitioners. Members gain access to educational resources, professional development materials, and networking opportunities.
American Association of Nurse Practitioners: AANP hosts continuing education resources, research findings, and conferences for nurse practitioners. The association also offers scholarships and grants and supports a fellowship program.
American Nurses Association: The largest nursing association in the country, ANA dates back to 1896. The association publishes research, offers continuing education opportunities, and issues certifications in several specializations.
Financing Your Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program
Many nursing students pay for their degrees through a mix of savings, loans, and scholarships/grants. Students can see if they qualify for federal funding opportunities by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid each year. Federal funding may include loans, grants, and/or work-study opportunities, and students earning a graduate degree can qualify for several types of support. In addition to federal opportunities, many private organizations and professional associations offer scholarships and grants to support nursing students.
Scholarships for Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Students
Who Can Apply: Any student currently enrolled or accepted into nursing school can apply for this award. Applicants must create a 30-45 second video on ways to improve mental health awareness.
Who Can Apply: Nurse practitioner students qualify for this scholarship fund, which grants one scholarship each quarter. Students enrolled in an accelerated program or those considering careers as nurse educators may receive preference. Applicants must already be enrolled at an AACN-accredited program to apply.
Who Can Apply: Offered by the American Red Cross, this scholarship funds volunteers or employees of any American Red Cross Unit. Students completing a graduate degree in nursing qualify and can use funds to pay for tuition, books, or academic fees.
Who Can Apply: AANP offers several grants to students enrolled in nurse practitioner programs. Students pursuing an MSN or DNP can apply for these awards; to do so, they must submit a project description and budget, as well as several other documents.
Who Can Apply: AANP also offers multiple scholarship awards each year, with categories for students pursuing an MSN, a DNP (after already completing a master’s degree), or a BSN-DNP.
Who Can Apply: RNs currently enrolled in a graduate program with a focus on maternal-child nursing can apply for this award. Applicants must hold membership with either the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses; the American College of Nurse-Midwives; or the National Association of Neonatal Nurses.
Who Can Apply: MSN and DNP nursing students attending an accredited nursing program on a full-time or part-time basis may apply. Students must have completed a certain number of credits in their program and hold a minimum 3.6 GPA. Applicants also submit a personal essay and goal statement.
Who Can Apply: Offered by the National Black Nurses Association, nurse practitioner students who hold membership with NBNA can apply for several scholarship opportunities. Students should have at least one full year remaining in their program and submit an essay, two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a headshot.