Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career Overview

Maura Deering, J.D.
Updated November 29, 2022
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    Board certified as advanced practice registered nurses, PNPs pursue their careers out of a desire to care for and treat children and teenagers. Discover PNP career specializations, job outlook, and how to become one.
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    Pediatric Nurse Practitioner tending to baby

    how long to become

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    average earning potential$81,410-$152,160 (10%-90%)SOURCE: American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)

    Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career in Brief

    MSN required
    certification required

    Pediatric nurse practitioner (PNPs) work alongside physicians to provide healthcare services to children of all ages, ranging from birth up to the age of 21. All states require licensure through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board to specialize practice in acute care or primary care.

    Key Responsibilities

    • Assessing and diagnosing
    • Ordering and interpreting laboratory tests and other diagnostics
    • Developing, ordering, and managing therapeutic care plans, including prescribing medications
    • Participating in research studies and practicing evidence-based medicine
    • Coordinating care with other healthcare professionals
    • Counseling and educating patients, their families, and caregivers

    Skills Needed

    • Effective communication
    • Critical thinking
    • Compassion
    • Attention to detail
    • Interpersonal skills
    • Leadership
    • Resourcefulness

    Credit: kali9 / E+ / Getty Images

    Where Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Work?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top industries that employ nurse practitioners, including PNPs, are physicians’ offices, hospitals, specialty clinics, and home healthcare.

    • minusPhysicians’ Offices

      PNPs work with pediatricians, other healthcare professionals, and staff to provide well-child care, school and sports physicals, vaccinations, and the management of common pediatric acute illnesses and chronic conditions.

    • minusHospitals

      PNPs staff emergency rooms, intensive care units, and pediatric units.

    • minusOutpatient Care Centers

      PNPs perform preventative, diagnostic, and treatment services at primary and specialty clinics, such as urgent care, school-based health centers, or convenient care clinics.

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    The Pros and Cons of Becoming a PNP

    As in all careers, the decision to become a PNP includes an examination of the pros and cons. The table below lists a few to consider.

    Advantages to Becoming a PNP

    • check-circleGreater autonomy and responsibility compared to other nursing professions like certified nursing assistants, licensed practical/vocational nurses, and registered nurses (RNs)
    • check-circleStrong career outlook fueled by high demand for NPs, including PNPs
    • check-circleHigh NP average salaryof $118,040 for NPs
    • check-circleAbility to manage and focus on acute and chronic illnesses in the pediatric population, leading to high job satisfaction

    Disadvantages to Becoming a PNP

    • x-circleChallenging and lengthy education process, which includes earning an undergraduate nursing degree and a master’s or doctorate in nursing
    • x-circleMust earn RN licensure, national board certification to practice as a PNP, and continuing education units to maintain advanced practice licensure
    • x-circleChallenging work schedules, often with long hours of standing and walking
    • x-circleLegal responsibility that comes with diagnosing and treating patients

    How to Become a PNP

    Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

    The two primary routes to becoming an RN comprise 1-2 year ADN programs and four-year BSNs. Both options include classroom time and supervised clinical experiences.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive RN licensure.

    ADN- or BSN- degree holders take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) about a month after graduation.

    Gain nursing experience.

    Prospective PNPs will need 1-3 years of nursing experience, preferably in pediatrics. PNP programs are competitive, so hands-on nursing experience will set applicants up for success.

    Earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP).

    The MSN curriculum takes 2-3 years to finish and focuses on pediatric pharmacology, pathophysiology, health assessment, and nursing administration and ethics. Students also complete 500-600 clinical hours. DNP programs may take longer to complete.

    Pass the certification exam offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

    Graduates of PNP programs choose between two certification exams: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care.

    Pediatric Acute Care versus Primary Care

    PNPs can become certified in primary care or acute care. Duties and work settings differ between the two practice focuses.

    Pediatric Acute Care versus Primary Care
    FocusPediatric Primary CarePediatric Acute Care
    • Focus on providing ongoing care to ages 0-21
    • Provide well-child care and the prevention and management of common pediatric acute illnesses and chronic conditions
    • Prescribe a comprehensive therapeutic treatment plan including pharmacological and nonpharmacological strategies
    • Focus on providing acute care, or short-term care, to ages 0-21
    • Treatment and management of unstable chronic, complex acute, and critical health conditions
    • Coordinate with multidisciplinary teams to optimize patient outcomes in the acute care setting
    Work SettingPrivate practice, school-based clinics, community clinics, or home careHospitals, emergency rooms, subspecialty surgical services, or specialty clinics

    How Much Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Make?

    A 2019 compensation overview by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) lists the median annual salaries for PNPs in three different specialty areas. Pediatrics primary care and pediatrics acute care NPs earned a total annual income of $115,000. Pediatrics primary care mental health NPs made $128,000.

    In addition to high salaries, the BLS projects an employment change of 52% from 2020 to 2030 for all NPs. According to the AANP report, only 3.7% of NPs became certified in pediatrics primary care, 0.8% in pediatrics acute care, and 0.4% in pediatrics primary care mental health.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

    How long does it take to become a PNP?

    PNPs spend 2-4 years earning their undergraduate degrees in nursing. Once they have completed their ADNs or BSNs, they take the NCLEX-RN and begin work as an RN. Most graduate nursing programs prefer (or even require) applicants to gain clinical nursing experience prior to applying. MSN or DNP degrees can be completed in 2-3 years.

    Can PNPs prescribe medicine?

    PNPs can prescribe medication, including controlled substances and medical devices. However, depending on the state, the PNP may need to do so with a physician’s supervision. PNPs who require supervision prescribe under a collaboration agreement with a pediatrician or other physician.

    How much does a PNP make in a year?

    Most PNPs earn average annual salaries of $115,000, but certain specialists may make higher salaries; for example, primary care mental health PNPs bring in $128,000. Other considerations that can affect wages include whether PNPs hold doctoral degrees and the geographical locations in which they practice.

    Where do PNPs work?

    A large portion of PNPs work in physicians’ offices (such as pediatricians), hospitals, outpatient facilities like specialty clinics (e.g., dermatology, gynecology, and oncology), urgent care, community health centers, and behavioral health services. Other potential employers include school- or employer-based clinics, long-term care facilities, and home healthcare.

    Resources for PNPs

    • The American Association of Nurse Practitioners

      The AANP supports NPs with free continuing education courses, clinical resources, scholarships and grants, online forums, and advocacy at the state and federal levels. The organization hosts an annual conference and provides free member subscriptions to the Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
    • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

      NAPNAPs 52 local chapters, special interest groups, and partner-based initiatives strive to improve the lives of children and youth. An annual conference and other events cover topics applicable to pediatric nurses. Members can access pediatric continuing education and advocacy resources. NAPNAP offers a discounted career starter/student membership rate.
    • American Nurses Association

      ANA serves as a resource for all nurses, including pediatric NPs. ANAs website features a community discussion board, career center, and professional development resources like free webinars and discounted continuing education courses online. Members receive the American Nurse journal monthly and can access professional liability insurance and student loan repayment assistance.
    • National Black Nurse Practitioner Association

      NBNPA seeks to empower advanced practice nurses of color with news briefs, online networking and educational events, job listings, and provider and preceptor directories. Members also receive a $10 discount on AANP membership, legislative updates, and continuing education opportunities. Free monthly meetings take place in the Houston area.
    • Institute of Pediatric Nursing

      IPN conducts research in pediatric nursing and advocates for pediatric nursing organizations, pediatric nurses, and childrens hospitals. Anyone can access its website and materials free of charge; IPN does not impose membership fees. IPNs online information includes news articles, nursing student resources, and links to continuing education resources.

    Related Pages

    Page last reviewed February 19,2021

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