The Best Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022

March 4, 2022 , Modified on May 12, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Neonatal nurse practitioners care for newborns and their families in the NICU. Explore this guide to find an online NNP program with convenient classes and local clinical placements.

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The Best Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs of 2022
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Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) work in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where they care for premature babies and newborns with health issues.

This guide can help you decide if becoming an NNP is the right career move for you. We also look at neonatal nurse practitioner programs, how to apply to nursing schools, and how to pay for your degree.

We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best online NNP programs, making it easier for you to find an option that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.

Keep reading to learn more about online NNP programs, or go straight to our list of the best online neonatal nurse practitioner programs.

What Can You Do as a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner?

NNPs are advanced practice nurses who work in intensive care teams, where they care for premature infants and newborns facing complications due to low birth weight, infections, heart or lung abnormalities, or other conditions. Some NNPs also care for children up to two years of age.

While most NNPs work in hospital NICUs, they may also assist in delivery, operating, or emergency rooms. Some work in outpatient clinics, caring for infants after they are discharged from the NICU. A survey from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) estimates that full-time NNPs earn a median annual salary of $140,000.

What To Look For in an Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program

Admission requirements vary among neonatal nurse practitioner programs. While a program should fit your professional background and personal interests, metrics like graduation and National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) pass rates can help you evaluate its quality.

A program's admission requirements tell you if you are qualified to apply. Most programs expect applicants to hold an undergraduate degree, a current RN license, and a certain amount of work experience. While many NNP programs include similar core elements, specialization options and focus areas may vary. Your chosen program should include coursework and experiences that prepare you for your future career. All neonatal NP programs include a clinical component. Some programs allow nurses to fulfill their clinical requirements through their workplace, while others expect candidates to travel to a certain facility or at a series of different locations. It is important to attend an accredited program. Accreditation indicates a quality program. You must attend an accredited program to receive federal financial aid, transfer credits to many schools, and qualify for doctoral programs, licensure, and certification. Most neonatal NP programs consist of 40 credits plus clinical hours, requiring 2-3 years of full-time study. Doctoral programs typically require up to 80 credits plus clinical hours and take about 3-4 years to complete. Studying part time may extend your graduation timeline. Although you have already taken and passed the NCLEX to earn a nursing license, check your prospective school's NCLEX pass rate for undergraduate programs. This information can tell you if an institution prepares nurses for real-world practice. A school’s graduation rate can also indicate how well a program supports student success. High graduation rates suggest that the school provides ample resources to keep nurses on track and complete their studies. Some online NNP programs feature asynchronous classes that students can review at their convenience, while others require learners to meet online at designated times. Be sure to choose a program that fits your schedule and learning style.

Applying to an Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program

Master’s- and doctoral-level neonatal nurse practitioner programs prepare candidates to care for high-risk newborns. Courses and clinical rotations focus on topics like health assessments, diagnostics, clinical management, caring for neonatal patients, pediatrics, health informatics, and pharmacology.

Some online NNP programs enroll a single cohort each year, while others admit new students quarterly or each semester. Although deadlines and details vary, most programs include some common requirements.

Admission Materials

Expect to submit an official application, transcripts from all schools where you earned college credit, standardized test scores, a resume or CV, documentation of clinical experience, and a copy of your nursing license. Most schools also request a personal statement and professional recommendations.

GPA Requirement

Master’s programs often require a minimum GPA of 3.0 out of 4.0. Doctoral programs typically require a 3.5 GPA or higher.

Other Requirements

Many programs require applicants to complete prerequisite courses before enrolling. If you haven’t already taken these courses, you may be able to do so at a local community college.

Some programs also require a personal interview, which can often be done remotely.

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Why Is Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program Accreditation Important?

Choosing an accredited online neonatal nurse practitioner program is crucial to ensure that the program meets quality standards and prepares candidates for effective practice. Accreditation also shows licensing agencies and employers that a program provides quality nursing education.

On a personal level, why is choosing an accredited program so important?

  • Credits from an unaccredited program may not transfer to accredited programs.
  • An unaccredited degree may not qualify you to apply to graduate or postgraduate programs.
  • You cannot receive federal financial aid if you attend an unaccredited institution.
  • Employers often prefer to hire candidates who graduate from accredited programs.

Paying for Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

The cost of online NNP programs varies, and depends on whether you qualify for in-state tuition rates, the type of school you plan to attend, and whether you remain employed while you study. Other expenses, like books, supplies, and fees also influence how much students pay in total.

Fortunately, nursing students enjoy many financial aid options. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can determine if you qualify for federal loans and grants. Many nursing organizations, including the AANP, offer scholarships and grants, and colleges and universities often sponsor financial aid options for eligible candidates.

You may also qualify for educational assistance through your employer. Many healthcare organizations provide tuition assistance or reimbursement opportunities for nurses who further their education.

Learn More About the Top Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs & Schools

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs


Can I become a neonatal nurse online?

Prospective NNPs can earn a master’s degree or doctorate online. However, all NNP programs include clinical rotations, which must be completed in person. Some programs may let you complete your clinicals at your current workplace or another local healthcare facility.

How long does it take to become a neonatal nurse practitioner?

Neonatal NP programs typically require 2-3 years of full-time study for a master’s degree and 3-4 years for a doctorate. Most online NNP programs expect candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of work experience. At minimum, you can expect to spend at least 6-8 years becoming an NNP.

How do you become a neonatal nurse practitioner?

The first step to becoming an NNP is to become a registered nurse (RN) by earning a bachelor of science in nursing. You should also complete at least two years of work experience, preferably in a NICU, before applying to a graduate program. Once you have earned a master's degree, you can take the NNP exam administered by the National Certification Corporation and pursue certification.

Can a Family Nurse Practitioner work in neonatal?

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) care for patients of all ages, including newborns. However, they generally do not complete the specialized education and training required to treat high-risk newborn patients. While FNPs may work within a collaborative team to serve individual families, NICU care is usually beyond the scope of their practice.

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