How to Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Individuals who want to explore how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner can review this guide to learn more about the career. This page details what pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are, what they do, and where they work. Individuals can also explore pediatric nurse practitioner requirements, including the steps to becoming a PNP.

Read on to learn more about credentials for the occupation, licensing and certification details, and helpful resources for PNPs. In addition to pediatric nurse practitioner degree options, learners can also browse information on how much PNPs make and projected field growth.

What Is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?

PNPs are medical professionals who specialize in providing care for children from birth to young adulthood. Focusing on primary care, growth and development, and managing chronic and acute illnesses, PNPs serve as essential healthcare figures. Nurses in the discipline focus on holistic care and patient education, performing well-child examinations, diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries, and administering vaccinations.

What Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Do?

PNPs conduct much of their work independently or with pediatricians and other healthcare providers across settings. They provide services that include teaching and counseling children and their families on health-related issues, performing routine developmental screenings, and treating and diagnosing common childhood illnesses.

These professionals perform health maintenance care, including administering immunizations to children and performing well-child examinations. PNPs who focus on acute care work with children suffering from chronic, critical, and acute illnesses. They interpret diagnostic and lab test results and conduct advanced physical assessments.

Where Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Work?

After completing pediatric nurse practitioner schooling, professionals find employment in a variety of healthcare settings. PNPs mainly work in doctors’ offices and hospitals. Some PNPs provide home care services. These practitioners can consider working in pediatric subspecialties including neurology, cardiology, orthopedics, infectious disease, dermatology, and gastroenterology.

Some of the most common workplace settings for PNPs include private practices, hospitals, community agencies, and outpatient clinics. Professionals with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) experience the largest scope of opportunities.

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Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Professionals researching how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner can review educational, licensing, and certification requirements in the section below.

  1. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree The first step to becoming a PNP is earning a BSN. Earning a bachelor’s degree allows professionals to meet the requirements to pursue registered nurse (RN) licensure. Additionally, earning a BSN allows professionals to pursue a master of science in nursing (MSN), required for licensure. Bachelor’s degrees typically take full-time students four years to complete.

  2. Obtain RN Licensure RN licensing requirements vary by state. All states require individuals to complete the same licensing examination: the NCLEX-RN exam. In addition to the exam, most RN licensing programs require students to complete an associate degree in nursing or a BSN.

  3. Pursue Specializations While Working as an RN in a Pediatric Setting Upon earning RN licensure, professionals can begin working in a pediatric setting. Pursuing field experience in their chosen discipline not only gives professionals the required background for licensing and certification programs, but also provides them with valuable hands-on experience. Completing these components can lead professionals to pursue the Certified Pediatric Nurse certificate or the Pediatric Nursing Certification.

  4. Gain Admission to an Accredited MSN or DNP Program With a Specialty in Pediatric Care After obtaining RN licensure and completing some experience, professionals can gain admission to an accredited MSN or DNP program, pursuing a specialization in pediatric care. Admissions requirements for MSN and DNP programs vary, but most schools require students to hold a BSN, RN licensure, and complete specific professional experience. DNP programs allow professionals to take advantage of a wider variety of career opportunities along with higher salary possibilities. Students can also choose to specialize in acute care or primary care, depending on their interests.

  5. Earn an MSN or DNP Students must earn an MSN or DNP in order to practice as a PNP. MSN programs typically take degree-seekers two years to complete and focus on building upon the skills and knowledge learned at the bachelor’s level. DNP programs require students to focus on the field’s most specialized, advanced concepts. Full-time students typically earn their doctoral degree in 3-4 years.

  6. Obtain Certification From the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) After earning an advanced degree, professionals in the pediatric nursing field can seek certification from the PNCB. The field’s two certification opportunities include the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care credential and the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care credential.

  7. Obtain NP State Licensure After obtaining certification, professionals can seek state licensure. Licensing requirements vary, but most states require a master’s degree in nursing. Professionals can review their state’s requirements with the nursing board.

  8. Find Employment After completing a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing along with the optional doctoral program and pursuing both licensure and certification, professionals can explore career opportunities in the field. Those with a DNP can pursue the most advanced and highest paying opportunities.

Becoming a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner FAQs

  • How Long Do You Have to Go to School to Be a PNP?

    To become a PNP, individuals must obtain a BSN along with an MSN. Optionally, individuals can complete a DNP. Students typically take four years to complete their bachelor’s degree, two years to earn a master’s degree, and 3-4 years to complete a DNP.

  • What Is the Difference Between a Pediatrician and a PNP?

    Pediatricians and PNPs provide different scopes of practice. Pediatricians direct patient care, perform major surgery, order diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications. PNPs provide nursing care, including administration of physician-ordered medication.

  • Can I Get Licensed if My Degree Is From an Unaccredited Program?

    In order to become a PNP, professionals must complete a BSN from a regionally accredited college or university along with an MSN from a regionally accredited school. Master’s programs should also feature specialized or programmatic accreditation.

  • What Happens if I Don't Renew My Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) License?

    Professionals must renew their APRN licensure in order to continue practicing professionally in their chosen specialty. Professionals who do not renew their license in time are unable to practice but can seek reinstatement through the state in which they are licensed.

  • What Are the Different Types of Pediatric Nurses?

    PNPs can specialize in neonatal nursing, direct nursing care, developmental disability nursing, and palliative pediatric nursing. Professionals in the pediatric nursing field can explore each discipline’s different responsibilities.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Credentials

PNPs must satisfy a variety of credentials before they can practice professionally. These practitioners must satisfy both licensing and certification requirements. RN licensing requirements remain specific to states but feature common aspects across the nation. Professionals must also earn APRN licensure along with national certification.

In the sections below, professionals can seek more information about the licensing requirements for RNs along with the requirements for APRN licensure. Individuals can also review the discipline’s different certification opportunities along with requirements for each type.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Licensing

Professionals must obtain both RN and APRN licensure. RN licensing requirements vary by state, but most jurisdictions require professionals to hold an associate degree in nursing or a BSN from a regionally accredited school. All 50 states use the same licensing examination: the NCLEX-RN exam. To begin the process of obtaining an RN license, professionals must submit an application for examination and establish their eligibility. Professionals can review their state-specific requirements before pursuing licensure.

APRNs must complete certification in their chosen specialties. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) features competency-based exams for family NPs, adult NPs, and adult-gerontology primary care NPs. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists offers the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist credential. The American College of Nurse-Midwives highlights the certified nurse-midwife designation and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification for clinical nurse specialists.

APRNs must complete specific continuing education (CE) requirements to renew their certification focused on their chosen specialty. Professionals must also meet state-specific CE requirements.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Certification

Across the PNP field, professionals can explore a variety of certification opportunities. The Certified Pediatric Nurse credential requires professionals to complete a competency-based exam, demonstrating their skills and knowledge of health promotion; health restoration of infants, children, adolescents, and their families; and management of chronic and acute illnesses.

The Pediatric Nursing Certification requires professionals to complete a competency-based examination to demonstrate pediatric skills and knowledge. The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care certification requires candidates to complete an exam demonstrating their skills and knowledge in the discipline.

The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care credential requires professionals to complete an exam demonstrating entry-level skills and knowledge gained in bachelor’s and master’s programs for acute care PNPs.

Each certification board requires individual, specific requirements for renewal, including parameters for professionals to meet to maintain renewal eligibility. Recertification requirements typically include CE activities, often offered by employers. Professionals with expired certifications can pursue reinstatement through the certification agency. They may not continue practicing if they do not renew in time.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Resources

Learn More About Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Related Careers

Professionals who want to learn how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner can use the resources below for more in-depth information. Learners can also explore related occupations, such as acute care NPs and neonatal NPs.

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Acute Care NP

Acute care NPs dedicate their careers to minimizing patient complications from acute illnesses. They evaluate risks, treat acute events, and develop treatment plans to maintain long-term health.

Neonatal NP

Neonatal NPs work as APRNs, diagnosing and treating infants experiencing a variety of health problems, such as prematurity, birth defects, chronic illnesses, and other health issues.


PNPs specialize in children’s health, designing therapies and treatment plans for chronic, acute, and critical illnesses. They educate children and their parents about specific health concerns.

Related FAQs


PNPs work as advanced practice nurses specializing in caring for patients from birth to young adulthood. Neonatal NPs specialize in caring for patients from birth to age two.

How Do I Become an Acute Care NP?

To become an acute care NP, professionals must earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, obtain RN licensure, gain 1-3 years of professional experience in acute care settings, earn a master’s degree in nursing, and obtain certification.

What Is a PNP?

PNPs evaluate individuals from birth to age 21. These nurses administer immunizations, conduct developmental screenings, perform well-child exams, and treat children for common illnesses.

How Much Does a PNP Make?

The AANP reports the average base salary of NPs specializing in pediatrics as $87,610 in 2011.

How to Become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Professionals interested in becoming a CNS must earn a BSN, obtain an RN license, gain 1-2 years of clinical experience, earn an MSN, and accomplish board certification.


An acute care PNP (PNP-AC) focuses on patients experiencing critical, acute, and chronic injuries and illnesses. A primary care PNP (PNP-PC) provides a variety of healthcare services across the lifespan.

How Do I Become a Nurse Executive?

To become a nurse executive, professionals must earn a BSN, become a licensed RN, complete 1-2 years of professional experience, earn a graduate degree in nursing, and earn professional certification.

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