Pediatric nurses must earn the registered nurse (RN) credential and be licensed to practice in their states. Many nurses prepare for this career by earning Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Master of Science in Nursing degrees, after which they may choose from a number of professional certifications in pediatric care. To qualify for these credentials, nurses must have completed clinical practice hours and passed related examinations. Continuing education is required to retain licensure and certifications.
Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
While completing a diploma or associate's degree program in nursing qualifies graduates to take the national RN exam, students interested in pediatric nursing may find a bachelor's degree program offers more flexibility for advanced practice and graduate education. In addition to fundamentals of nursing, this program explores academic electives that can be useful in the nursing field, such as socioeconomics, cultural studies and second languages.
Applying to a bachelor's-level nursing program requires a high school or General Educational Development (GED) diploma with strong performance in biology, chemistry, math and writing. Some nursing programs accept students only after they have completed college-level courses in subjects such anatomy, microbiology and psychology.
Because a Bachelor of Science in Nursing prepares students for general practice, many programs design coursework to expose students to a variety of work settings, such as women's or men's health, aging and neonatal health. The core curriculum for a BSN degree is heavy in sciences and includes topics in:
- Pathology and epidemiology
- Psychology and mental health
- Human anatomy and physiology
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
Graduate degree programs in nursing prepare students to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) and expand certification options for pediatric nurses. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center offers the Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pediatrics (CNSP) credential to nurses with master's degrees who pass a national exam. Graduate students with a nurse practitioner concentration may be eligible to become a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP) in primary care, acute care or mental health through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
Applicants to Master of Science in Nursing programs must hold bachelor's degrees in nursing, often with a minimum set grade point average. Some schools require students to obtain a license to practice, while others only require applicants to be eligible to take the state licensure exam. Other prerequisites may include CPR certification, health insurance with proof of disease immunizations and basic computer proficiency.
Students pursuing master's degrees in nursing complete a combination of classroom courses and supervised clinical experiences. Graduate programs with a concentration in pediatric care may offer classes such as advanced human development, child psychology, pediatric assessment and neonatal care, in addition to standard MSN coursework including:
- Advanced nursing practice and healthcare organization
- Research methods and statistical analysis
- Advanced pharmacology and drug therapy
- Advanced pathophysiology
- Health policy and medical ethics
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of registered nurses in general was $71,730 as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). With a projected growth of 12% percent from 2018-2028, the BLS anticipates employment for registered nurses will be bolstered by an aging population with health care needs, as well as by advances in medical and preventive health.
After completing an undergraduate degree program in nursing, students are eligible to take the national licensing exam to become a registered nurse. The National Council Licensure Examination - Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and passing is required to secure state licensure.
While additional credentials may not be legally required in order to work with children, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board states registered nurses with pediatric certification earn higher salaries than their uncertified counterparts (www.pncb.org). Two options for nurses with undergraduate degrees are the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) and the Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN) credentials, both of which require documented practice hours, passing a national exam and maintaining annual recertification.
To summarize, a bachelor's degree in nursing is a common path to becoming a pediatric registered nurse; however, master's degrees are also available for those seeking advance practice nursing positions. Licensure is required for all nurses, and specialty pediatric nursing certification may lead to a higher salary.