Pediatric Nurse Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pediatric nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Pediatric nurses work in hospital and clinical settings with pediatricians, monitoring and providing care to children and infants. To become a pediatric nurse, an associate's or higher in nursing is required. Students interested in pediatric nursing can focus their education on pediatric related programs and electives in order to prepare for their career choice. In order to get a job as a pediatric nurse, professionals must pass the national registered nurse licensing examination.

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Essential Information

A pediatric nurse is a registered nurse who specializes in the care of infants, children and adolescents. These nurses must be licensed by the state after having completed a minimum of an associate's degree in nursing and passing a national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. Many pediatric nurses are employed by hospitals, community centers and clinics. The overall job market in nursing is strong, and pediatric nurses may choose to obtain optional certification to better their job prospects.

Required Education Associate's degree at minimum; graduate programs in pediatrics nursing are available
Additional Requirements State nursing license required; specialty certification is available and may be required by some employers
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 16% for registered nurses
Average Salary* (2015) $71,000 annually for registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Education Requirements for a Pediatric Nurse

In order to work in pediatric nursing, students must become registered nurses (RN). An RN education may be achieved in a few different ways - through hospitals or educational institutions. Although the coursework may be slightly different, graduates from these programs are eligible to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse.

Nursing Diploma

Hospitals offer nursing diploma programs which may take 2-3 years to complete. Students take courses in anatomy, physiology and child psychology in addition to working with healthcare professionals to learn nursing skills. Once ready, students may begin to manage patient care.

Associate's and Bachelor's Degree Programs

Aspiring pediatric nurses may also complete a 2-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing(BSN). Like nursing diploma programs, these degree programs offer classroom education combined with clinical experience. Coursework may include nursing ethics, health assessments and patient management. Students hoping to work as pediatric nurses may be able to enroll in pediatric-related electives or focus on pediatric care during their clinical education.

Licensing Requirements

All working nurses must be licensed and registered. Aspiring pediatric nurses must become registered nurses by successfully passing the NCLEX-RN exam. This exam proves an understanding of fundamental skills and principles required for providing quality care in the workplace. Some states have additional requirements for licensure, so prospective candidates may consider consulting their respective state board.

Master of Science in Nursing

While registered nurses may be able to focus on pediatric care in their work, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) allows students to focus on a specialty area. Individuals who wish to become advanced practice nurses and specifically care for children and infants may become pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs).

Applicants to a MSN program must either have a BSN. They may register in a 4-year BSN program or, if they have a diploma or associate degree, enter a 'bridge' program. Examples of bridge degree programs are LPN-BSN, LVN-RN, RN-MSN or ADN-MSN.

An MSN program with a focus on pediatric care may be completed in 2-3 years. Some programs require the completion of a research project in addition to their classroom education and clinical care experience. Courses introduce advanced concepts in nursing practice, addressing topics such as diagnostic reasoning, clinical pharmacology and acute childcare.

Career Information

Pediatric nurses work closely with pediatricians to administer medication and provide routine medical care to children and infants. Some typical duties include inserting catheters, taking a patient's blood pressure and taking blood samples. Pediatric nurses also assist families with the psychological impact of having a child diagnosed with a disease or illness.

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 16% increase in the employment of registered nurses was expected for the 2014-2024 period. This growth is much faster than the national average for all occupations. The BLS also reported that the average annual salary for registered nurses was $71,000 as of 2015.

Although only an associate's degree is required for licensure and employment, pediatric nurses will find more opportunities if they pursue higher levels of education. Only in a master's nursing program can a professional specialize in pediatric nursing, though courses in pediatrics are available in associate's and bachelor's degrees. Every state requires all nurses to be licensed and registered in order to work, but some states may have specific licensure requirements.

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