If you’re a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree who works in a pediatric environment and wants to grow your career, there’s a productive next step you may want to consider: Earn your master’s degree in nursing and become board certified to start working as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Even if this path doesn’t fit you perfectly, becoming a nurse practitioner may be worth considering. Nurse practitioners ranked third in the 2021 list of the top 100 jobs compiled by U.S. News & World Report, landing two places ahead of physicians.
Nurse practitioners enjoy a great deal of job flexibility. While some need to work under the supervision of a physician, others are allowed to practice independently, prescribe medication, and develop patient care plans. Often, these health care professionals help fill a medical need in areas where physicians are in short supply.
Those who specialize in this category also enjoy a relatively secure job market with low competition. An analysis of job postings collected by Burning Glass Technologies concluded that it took more than 50 days to fill pediatric nurse practitioner roles in 2019. Additionally, U.S. News & World Report stated that the unemployment rate for all nurse practitioners was just 1.2% in 2020.
As you deliberate on how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, it is important to consider some of the role’s basic educational and certification requirements.
Why pursue a career in pediatric nursing?
The first step in how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner: Evaluate your motivation. There are a number of reasons to pursue this career path. Job satisfaction in pediatric nursing is high. A 2019 survey of nurse practitioners by medical data provider Medscape found that an impressive 96% of respondents were glad they’d become advanced practice nurses. Nurse practitioners also said the most rewarding aspect of their job was the ability to make a difference in people’s lives.
Pediatric nurse practitioners have the opportunity to truly provide an essential service for young people, especially in medically underserved areas. They are also well compensated for their efforts.
You’ll be a trusted source of support for young people and their caregivers
For 18 straight years, a Gallup poll of American adults found that nurses were believed to be the most honest and ethical professionals in the country, according to a press release from the organization. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you will likely enjoy a high level of trust and respect from your young patients and their guardians.
You can help bring health care to underserved locations
Access to quality health care is uneven in America, and many communities are underserved, especially in rural areas. In fact, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are about 14 million people living in 3,431 designations that are considered medically underserved areas (2021).
As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you could help improve medical care in these communities. Increasingly, health care organizations are turning to nurse practitioners to help address physician shortages. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to relocate, though. Nurse practitioners can qualify to work in a wide variety of medical settings, from urgent care clinics to educational facilities and more.
You can improve your earning potential
According to the compensation website PayScale, the median salary for pediatric nurse practitioners was $91,410 as of July 2021. For comparison, the median salary of a registered nurse supervisor was $75,584 as of July 2021. Nurse supervisors do not require the additional education that nurse practitioners must earn.
Becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner can represent a significant increase in earning potential compared to the general career path available to registered nurses who don’t hold a master’s degree or advanced practice certification. Through furthering your education, you can usually earn more than you would by following a nursing management career path.
Industry trends in pediatric nurse practitioners
There is continued debate about how much independence nurse practitioners should have, as they are not granted the same work authority everywhere. In some states, they can only perform under the supervision of physicians, or must abide by other mandates that narrow the scope of their work.
However, states and federal organizations are increasingly loosening these restrictions to give nurse practitioners full practice authority. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs did just that, a press release from the organization noted. As state legislation changes, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) keeps tabs on how these regulations vary between states.
Given the increased demand for health care services across the country and the impact of the physician shortage, it’s likely that organizations will continue to advocate for nurse practitioners to have full practice authority.
COVID-19 will continue to impact the amount of autonomy that nurse practitioners have
The COVID-19 pandemic has also left an enduring mark on how states approach the issue of full practice authority. Many locations temporarily altered their guidelines as the pandemic persisted, the AANP noted.
While some of these limited waivers have already expired, others may remain unlimited. Based on how the public health situation progresses, some states might begin to push for further empowerment of nurse practitioners on a more permanent basis.
Areas of opportunity for nurse practitioners
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) identified several clinical settings in which nurse practitioners work, including the following.
Children’s hospitals may be a particular area of focus for pediatric nurse practitioners who are looking for opportunities, and those who have full practice authority may also be able to operate their own offices.
Where are the pediatric nurse practitioner jobs?
The BLS found that some of the most populous states had the largest number of working nurse practitioners in 2020. These include:
● New York
On the other hand, several smaller states had a high concentration of nurse practitioners, perhaps due to the presence of specific health care facilities that cater to the role. The metro areas anchored by these cities had the highest concentrations of nurse practitioners in 2020.
● Jonesboro, Arkansas
● Johnson City, Tennessee
● Hattiesburg, Mississippi
● Hammond, Louisiana
● Jackson, Mississippi
Mean wages vary significantly across the country. Metro areas centered around the following cities were found to be the highest-paying regions for nurse practitioners in 2020.
● Vallejo-Fairfield, California
● San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California
● Salinas, California
● San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Washington
● Napa, California
While working under the supervision of a physician, pediatric nurse practitioners may collaborate with their colleagues to conduct physical examinations, order and analyze lab work, assess medical conditions, and develop treatment plans for their patients.
Becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner means that you could practice in a specialized department of a general hospital. This could entail providing ongoing care and treatment for younger patients suffering from a variety of conditions. Alternatively, you may treat a specific subset of patients in children’s hospitals and specialize further in one of many medical disciplines.
Outpatient care centers
There is a wide variety of clinical settings beyond physicians’ offices and hospitals where pediatric nurse practitioners may work. These environments include urgent care facilities that handle non-emergency concerns in a timely manner, as well as offices that treat children, adolescents, or young adults who have more specific concerns.
Nurse practitioners may provide health services in school settings. This could include university clinics, support for athletic programs, and more. Here, pediatric nurse practitioners may provide initial health care services and offer referrals to outside hospitals or other medical facilities.
For pediatric nurse practitioners who have less than a year of experience, the average annual total compensation, according to PayScale, was $86,261. Once you’ve been in the field for one to four years, you might expect to earn around $90,020. The highest-paying cities for pediatric nurse practitioners were New York City and Dallas, where they earned 19.3% and 17.4% more than the national average, respectively.
Advanced job options
PayScale found that pediatric nurse practitioners who had been on the job between five and nine years made an average of $91,682. For 10 years of experience and beyond, however, you could see your earnings likely reach between $98,196 to $99,616.
Top skills and digital tools for pediatric nurse practitioners
Like all health care professionals, nurse practitioners are expected to demonstrate medical expertise as well as emotional intelligence. Since they work with children, it is particularly important that pediatric nurse practitioners possess a strong sense of empathy and sharp technical skills. As you think about how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, here are some of the core skills to master.
The most sought-after skills in pediatric nursing
If you’re interested in working as a pediatric nurse practitioner, developing the fastest-growing skills in the field is a good way to improve your employment prospects for the most desirable positions. Based on an analysis of data from Burning Glass Technologies, you can expect to see the following skills in a growing number of job postings over the next few years.
Projected Posting Growth (2018-2023)
Clinical Care Nursing
Ensuring Patients’ Comfort
Catheterization Laboratory (CATH LAB)
Handling of Crisis or Emergency Situations
Interaction with Patients and Medical Personnel
For jobs that require a hybridized skill set entailing a nursing degree and tech-based duties, there are several in-demand technological competencies that could help you stand out from the competition. Data from Burning Glass Technologies reveals the most sought-after capabilities, followed by the percentage of job posting in which they appeared for hybridized roles.
● SQL: 38.9%
● SAS: 37.2%
● R: 29.4%
● Microsoft Excel: 24.5%
● Python: 23%
● Tableau: 22.7%
● Microsoft Office: 14.5%
● Microsoft PowerPoint: 11%
● Data Visualization: 8.7%
● Oracle: 7.9%
Soft skills in pediatric nursing
If you’re wondering about what other skills you might need to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, don’t let the medical sophistication of this career path fool you. Pediatric nurse practitioners also need to be competent in a broad range of soft skills to work effectively with their colleagues and deliver quality patient care.
An analysis of job postings from Burning Glass Technologies indicates these baseline skills are the most desired, followed by the percentage of job postings in which they appeared. These are the skills you’ll probably need to brush up on.
● Communication: 42.7%
● Teamwork and collaboration: 38.1%
● Research: 34.8%
● Planning: 26.1%
● Problem solving: 24.3%
● Writing: 18.4%
● Attention to detail: 15.7%
Top emerging skills
Working as a pediatric nurse practitioner means you’ll be part of a dynamic field. To keep up with employment trends, pay attention to the following skills, which are expected to appear in more job postings as the years go on, according to data from Burning Glass Technologies.
Projected Posting Growth (2018–2023)
Medical History Review
Patient Issue Resolution
Pediatric nursing fellowships
Fellowships can help you acquire a great deal of experience in pediatric care. Consider applying to these leading health care organizations once you’ve completed the necessary education and certifications.
● University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
● Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
● Seattle Children’s
● UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
Pediatric nursing industry groups
Given the complicated technical requirements for working in the health care field, belonging to a pediatric nursing industry group can be the best way to stay up to date with current legislation, medical research, and job opportunities. Consider the resources available from these organizations.
● American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
● American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS)
● American Nurses Association (ANA)
● National Student Nurses Association (NSNA)
Get ready for the next step in your nursing career
Completing your master’s in nursing (MSN) and earning an advanced practice certification could represent a new chapter in your nursing career. After earning certification, you may be able to pursue greater specialization and better compensation as a pediatric nurse practitioner.
Being a pediatric nurse practitioner offers many benefits, including job security, the potential to advance your career and professional autonomy, and the ability to make a difference in the lives of children. You could also help address medical coverage gaps throughout the country.
As you continue to think about how to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, explore our recommendation engine for more details about further opportunities.