Neonatal Nurse Jobs: 5 Specialties to Consider

Neonatal nurses care for newborn babies. Learn about specializations, including in the NICU and surgical settings, along with neonatal nurse salary data.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published August 12, 2022

Reviewed by Elizabeth M. Clarke, MSN, FNP, RN, MSSW

Our Review Network

BestColleges is committed to delivering content that is objective and accurate. We have built a network of industry professionals across healthcare and education to review our content and ensure we are providing the best information to our readers.

With their first-hand industry experience, our reviewers provide an extra step in our editing process. These experts:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Our growing Review Network currently consists of professionals in fields like business, nursing, social work, and other subject-specific industries; professionals in higher education areas such as college counseling and financial aid; and anti-bias reviewers.

Reviewers typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for BestColleges as a side project. Our reviewers are members of the Red Ventures Education Freelance Review Network and are paid for their contributions.

See a full list of our Review Network contributors.

Edited by Taylor Gadsden
Share this Article
Neonatal Nurse Jobs: 5 Specialties to Consider
Image Credit: rubberball / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images


Neonatal nurses care for newborns, including premature babies and high-risk newborns. These nursing careers require compassion, strong communication skills, and clinical decision-making abilities. Neonatal nurses also benefit from many career advancement opportunities, including as nurse practitioners.

If you're interested in neonatal or pediatric nursing, consider the many neonatal nurse specialties. Some neonatal nurses work in intensive care settings, while others provide advanced care. Our guide introduces specializations and neonatal nurse salary information for in-demand roles.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

How to Become a Neonatal Nurse

The process of becoming a neonatal nurse takes 2-4 years, depending on the nursing program.

After gaining experience in neonatal nursing specialties, nurses can continue their education. A master's in nursing prepares neonatal nurses for roles like neonatal nurse practitioner.

5 Types of Neonatal Nursing Specialities

Neonatal Nurse

  • Average Salary (July 2022): $70,690
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 9%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Registered nurse license

Neonatal nurses care for infants immediately after birth. They may also assist laboring and postpartum patients. These nurses conduct neonatal tests during pregnancy and after birth. They also implement care plans for newborns.

Most neonatal nurses work in hospitals, where they typically work nights and weekends. Many neonatal nurses work 12-hour shifts. They bring strong teamwork and communication skills to their role, along with the ability to address emergency situations. The role typically requires a bachelor's degree in nursing.

NICU Nurse

  • Average Salary (July 2022): $71,060
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 9%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Registered nurse license

NICU nurses work in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). They care for newborn babies that require additional medical care, including premature newborns and infants with illnesses or medical conditions. In addition to caring for newborns, NICU nurses also communicate with families and provide emotional support.

The role typically requires clinical experience as a neonatal nurse before moving into the NICU setting. NICU nurses work day and night shifts in a hospital setting. They typically hold a bachelor's degree in nursing with specialized training in neonatal and critical care.

Pediatric Surgical Nurse

  • Average Salary (May 2022): $71,830
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 9%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Registered nurse license

Pediatric surgical nurses care for children undergoing surgery. Those who specialize in neonatal surgical care monitor newborns before a surgical procedure and assist surgeons performing medical procedures. After the procedure, these nurses check on patients to aid in their recovery. They may also communicate with families.

Surgical nurses typically hold a bachelor's degree. They may bring a background in neonatal nursing or medical-surgical nursing. The role requires strong communication skills along with the ability to work in operating room environments. Pediatric surgical nurses commonly work in hospitals or surgical centers.

Nurse Midwife

  • Median Salary (May 2021): $112,830
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 11%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Certified nurse midwife credential and advanced practice registered nurse license

Certified nurse midwives can provide well-woman's care along with midwifery care. They can also offer care to women who are not pregnant and in need of typical gynecological care. This can include addressing medical issues such as endometriosis, providing birth control information, and conducting yearly visits for patients.

Nurse midwives counsel patients on reproductive health and family planning. They also educate patients on prenatal health and wellness. As advanced practice nurses, nurse midwives must hold a master's degree or doctorate. They also pursue certification and licensure to practice.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

  • Median Salary (May 2021): $120,680
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 52%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Board certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner and an advanced practice registered nurse license

Neonatal nurse practitioners provide specialty care to high-risk newborns and infants. Their patients include premature newborns, infants with medical conditions, or infants with infections.

Neonatal nurse practitioners conduct regular health assessments on patients to determine their needs. They also order diagnostic tests and interpret their results. In addition, these nurses can perform procedures in the NICU.

As advanced practice nurses, these nurse practitioners can also prescribe medications in many states. Neonatal nurse practitioners must hold a master's degree or higher with clinical training as a nurse practitioner. They must also pursue board certification and a state-issued license.

Neonatal Nurse Salary

The earning potential for a neonatal nurse varies from $53,000 for the lowest-paid nurses to $107,000 for the highest-paid nurses, according to July 2022 data from Payscale.

The average neonatal nurse salary for entry-level roles is around $34.50 per hour, while more experienced neonatal nurses earn around $41.00 per hour. Advanced practice roles like neonatal nurse practitioner or nurse midwife offer a higher earning potential.

How to Find a Neonatal Nursing Job

Nurses interested in neonatal nurse jobs can begin their job search during nursing school. Taking neonatal, obstetrics, and pediatric nursing courses prepares future neonatal nurses with the skills and knowledge necessary for the job market. During clinical rotations, nursing students gain hands-on skills and expand their professional network.

Joining neonatal nurse professional organizations as a student offers several career benefits. In addition to professional development support, many of these organizations offer scholarships and job boards. For example, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses job board lists neonatal nurse jobs.

Finally, neonatal nurses can reach out to their nursing school for career services support. Networking events, recruiter connections, and job fairs can help nurses identify roles in neonatal care.

Neonatal Nurse Professional Organizations

AWHONN advocates for neonatal nurses and connects members with research, patient care resources, and professional development tools. The association also offers scholarships. ANN provides educational resources for neonatal nurses, including a resource hub, leadership toolkit, and certification review course. Nursing students can also apply for an academic scholarship. APSNA represents surgical nurses who specialize in caring for neonatal and pediatric patients. The association holds conferences, publishes a journal, and offers educational resources for nurses.

Frequently Asked Questions About Neonatal Nursing Jobs

What is the highest-paid neonatal nurse speciality?

The highest-paid neonatal nurse specialties include advanced practice roles like nurse midwife and neonatal nurse practitioner. In May 2021, nurse midwives earned a median pay of $112,830, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse practitioners reported a median salary of $120,680.

Among RN neonatal nurse jobs, nurses can expect to earn around $70,690 per year, according to July 2022 data from Payscale. Salaries vary based on experience and location. The lowest-paid neonatal nurses reported salaries of $53,000, while the highest-paid earned $107,000 per year.

What neonatal nursing speciality is the most popular?

Neonatal nurse practitioners benefit from the highest demand. According to BLS projections, nurse practitioners may see 52% job growth from 2020-2030. However, hospitals may employ more neonatal nurses, NICU nurses, and surgical nurses than neonatal nurse practitioners. While over 3 million registered nurses work in the U.S., there are around 235,000 nurse practitioners.

RN neonatal nursing specialties also benefit from a positive job outlook. The BLS projects around 194,500 job openings for registered nurses annually from 2020-2030. Nurses interested in neonatal jobs can research demand in their area for more specific information.

Can I become a neonatal nurse with an online degree?

Yes, you can become a neonatal nurse with an online degree. Nurses interested in neonatal specialties can earn their degree from an accredited online nursing school. Online neonatal nursing schools provide specialized training. In these programs, nursing students take classes online and complete virtual simulations. They also meet clinical rotation requirements at local sites.

Nursing students have several education options. They can enroll in an online BSN program to complete their nursing degree in around four years. Current RNs can also advance their education with an online RN-to-BSN program. These programs take as little as one year.

How much money can I make as a neonatal nurse?

The earning potential for neonatal nurse jobs depends on the setting, location, and experience. In general, neonatal nurses with an RN license make an average of about $70,000 per year, according to July 2022 data from Payscale. Salaries vary widely, with lower-paid neonatal nurses making around $50,000 and higher-paid nurses earning over $100,000.

In addition to location influencing salary, the neonatal nursing specialization affects earning potential. For example, neonatal nurses who pursue a master's degree can become neonatal nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners reported a median pay of $120,680 in May 2021, according to BLS data.

What is the fastest way to become a neonatal nurse?

Prospective neonatal nurses can join the profession with a two-year nursing credential. Nursing schools offer associate programs or nursing diplomas that prepare graduates for licensure as a registered nurse. After completing a program, nurses apply for their RN license and pursue neonatal nursing jobs.

However, a four-year BSN program can help neonatal nurses stand out in the job market. Over 82% of employers strongly prefer to hire nurses with a BSN, according to a 2020 survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.