Neonatal Nurse Degree and Certificate Program Information

Oct 14, 2019

Nurses who want to care for newborns have to earn a Master of Science in Nursing and a post-graduate certificate. These programs focus on topics such as neonatal assessment and maternal and newborn physiology.

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Essential Information

Neonatal nurses care for newborn babies immediately after birth and also work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Programs in neonatal nursing emphasize topics such as neonatal assessment, maternal and newborn physiology, and pharmacology. Candidates for neonatal nursing certification must pass a related examination.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) - Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)

A Master of Science in Nursing prepares current nurses to provide care for critically ill newborns. NNPs may practice in the NICU, where they use their advanced knowledge and clinical judgment in the treatment of newborns. Graduates are prepared for the certification examination appropriate to their state.

Applicants to MSN programs must have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and be currently licensed to practice as a registered nurse (RN). Additionally, most programs require a satisfactory score on the GRE, a course in statistics and current employment in the field. Classes for NNP students emphasize advanced technology and scientific knowledge necessary for students to care for healthy and critically ill newborns. Topics of study include:

  • Maternal-fetal-newborn physiology
  • Advanced neonatal assessment
  • Assessment of clinical evidence
  • Pathophysiology of high-risk neonates (newborns under 28 days old)
  • High-risk delivery
  • Genetics for advanced nursing practice
  • Medical ethics
  • Research methods in nursing
  • Health care policy

Post-Masters Certificate for Neonatal Nurse Practitioners

Nurses who have a master's degree in another nursing specialty may pursue a post-graduate certificate, which allows them to obtain nurse practitioner certification in neonatal care. These programs prepare students to manage problems commonly seen in the NICU. The credits required for program completion may depend upon prior coursework.

Students must be currently licensed as RNs and have completed a master's degree in nursing prior to seeking training as an NNP. Up to two years of professional experience in caring for critically ill infants may be required for admission to some programs. Both classroom work and clinical experiences make up the post-master's certificate program. Specific areas of training include:

  • Neonatal assessment
  • Neonatal pharmacology
  • Primary care of high-risk infants
  • Childbearing

Popular Career Options

The NICU isn't the only site that employs NNPs; additional options include clinical jobs in other facilities and positions in education. Opportunities include the following:

  • Hospital neonatal wards
  • Non-profit health care organizations
  • Private practices
  • University neonatal nursing teaching departments

Career Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for registered nurses were expected to be excellent, with predicted 12% growth between 2018 and 2028 ( reported that neonatal nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $99,205 as of September 2019.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates of accredited nurse practitioner programs are generally eligible to sit for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner examination, which is administered by the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties. Applicants must have a current nursing license.

Nurses who want to work with newborn patients must get a Master of Science in Nursing and post-graduate certification. When they do this, they are able to sit for the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner exam.

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