Neonatal Nurse salary in 2023

Neonatal Nurse salary in 2023

All You Should Know About Neonatal Nurse Salary

Earning a good salary is everyone’s dream. The effort and financial investments you put into your education are usually rewarded with a decent salary. The amount of money you earn depends on several factors, the main one being your profession. There are many career paths with varied salaries and other benefits. Some of these careers are in high demand and offer more competitive salaries and benefits. Careers in the medical and technology fields are highly ranked in terms of salaries. The amount you earn is a return on the efforts invested in the pursuit of your career. Most of these careers require you to spend a lot of time and money in school, which discourages many people from pursuing them.


Neonatal nursing is one of the many career paths you can follow in the medical field. It involves caring for premature babies or those born with health issues until they can thrive on their own. Neonatal nurses are highly paid due to the intense nature of the work they do. This technical field plays an integral part in securing the health of the most vulnerable patients. It is the efforts of neonatal nurses that reduce child mortality rates across the world.


Although it pays well, neonatal nursing is not an easy career path. Therefore, you should consult career experts and practicing professionals in this field before pursuing it to ensure that it is the right path for you.


To further understand neonatal nursing and what it entails, including a neonatal nurse salary, we explore the following in this article:


  1. Responsibilities of a neonatal nurse
  2. Expected salary for neonatal nurses
  3. Qualities of a successful neonatal nurse
  4. Degrees and certifications needed to become a neonatal nurse

Responsibilities of A Neonatal Nurse

Neonatal nurses have various responsibilities which depend on the institution they work in or the nature of the workplace. However, some responsibilities are common for all neonatal nurses. Understanding what is expected of you in this role makes it easier to decide if this is the career for you. Here are some common responsibilities of neonatal nurses:


  • Infant Care

The main responsibility of neonatal nurses is caring for medically fragile infants. There are various levels of practice in infant care. One of them is a nurse case manager, who manages the overall care of each patient. Some infants are born with significant health complications, including those who are underweight or born weeks before their due date. Neonatal nurses ensure these infants are stable and healthy enough to be taken home and cared for by their parents. When the infants have critical complications, they are put in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). A NICU nurse has the skills to operate NICU equipment, including IV pumps and monitors, and manage every aspect of patient care.

  • Administer Treatment to Infants

Neonatal nurses work closely with neonatal physicians. Part of a neonatal nurse’s job is to administer treatments, interventions, and medications prescribed by the physician. In most cases, treatment is required around the clock. Physicians are usually tasked with looking after many patients in the unit, while each nurse provides care for only one or two at a time. Involving neonatal nurses in treatment procedures increases consistency or care. As a result, the infants recover faster. The nurses report how infants respond to care, and the physician decides whether the treatment is working or has to be altered. In some cases, the infants might not respond well, forcing the physicians to come up with another treatment plan.

  • Administer Tests

A neonatal intensive care nurse administers various tests to infants under their care, and the results are forwarded to physicians for diagnosis and prescriptions. As a neonatal nurse, you are tasked with drawing blood and fluid samples from the infants under your care for laboratory tests. You will also have to communicate the findings to the physician and reassure the parents of the infants. Treatment procedures require consent from parents, so you must have good communication skills to help them understand what their newborns could be suffering from. Documenting the infant’s medical history is also the responsibility of the neonatal nurse. Medical history allows physicians to decide the best treatment to administer as it gives details of all previous treatments.

  • Attend Childbirth

Neonatal nurses often work in conjunction with labor and delivery, especially with women who are considered high-risk pregnancies. They often attend the birth so they are on hand to provide care to the infant immediately if needed. Some complications start during birth and affect the development of the infant. For such cases, the neonatal nurse should be there to determine whether the infant will need to go to a special care nursery or the NICU.


There are many more responsibilities of neonatal nurses. Neonatal nursing is emotionally and mentally draining. In this career, you face high-intensity situations that require fast and accurate thinking. For example, if an infant is born in respiratory distress, a neonatal nurse must react quickly to stabilize the patient, moving them to the NICU for further intervention when necessary. Losing an infant is emotionally overwhelming to both the parent and neonatal caregivers. You might be faced with such situations while working as a neonatal nurse.


Other high-intensity moments occur when the infant doesn’t respond to treatment. As a neonatal nurse, you must examine the medical record of the infant, work with the physician to determine why the treatment isn’t working, and come up with another approach.

Expected Salary for Neonatal Nurses

Salaries of neonatal nurses vary depending on many factors. For this reason, it is hard to find standardized salaries in all neonatal health care institutions. However, an average neonatal nurse is expected to earn more than $50,000 per year. The amount is not so different from other medical professionals, such as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Here are some of the factors that determine how much you earn in salaries as a neonatal nurse:


  • The Level at Which You Practice

There are many roles available in the neonatal nursing profession, and each has a different salary level. Nurses in managerial and administrative positions earn more than those who work at the bedside. The hierarchy in the facility where you work determines your salary. If you hold leadership positions within the profession, you are likely to earn more. Generally, you start your career at the low end of the salary scale, and as you gain more experience, you receive more pay.

  • Your Skills

According to most employers in the neonatal nursing profession, salaries are directly impacted by skill level. Skillful nurses with years of bedside experience are paid more since employers seek to keep them on staff. This is the main reason why experienced neonatal nurses earn more than junior nurses. The work experience of a neonatal nurse boosts parents’ confidence in the institution. As a result, the institution makes more money from neonatal care. The skillfulness of neonatal nurses in an institution is seen through infant recovery rates. When nurses are well-skilled, they increase the rate of recovery of infants born with complications. Additionally, being multi-skilled allows you to perform more than one role in the neonatal care institution. When your skills apply to many areas of neonatal nursing, you earn more than other nurses.

  • Your Employer

Your employer is the main factor that determines how much you earn as a neonatal nurse. Renowned institutions pay higher in most cases. However, the requirements for employment could be stringent. Some institutions have minimal education requirements. For example, many NICUs seek to hire only nurses with a BSN. Those who have a diploma or an associate’s degree are only considered if they have hands-on experience in neonatal care.


Many other factors affect how much you earn as a neonatal nurse. However, those named above are the main ones. There is no limit to how much you can earn as a neonatal nurse. This field has a lot of opportunities for professionals, especially those who go on to advance their education with an MSN or DNP. These degrees open the doors to private practice or working as a nurse educator.


In addition to different degrees, there are many certifications you can get as a neonatal nurse, too. Certifications might vary from one state to another, so you might need additional qualifications if you plan to work in another part of the country or internationally. Getting an opportunity to practice at the international level will earn you higher salaries. Besides needing an internationally recognized neonatal nursing license, you also need an international work permit to operate beyond national borders. Ultimately, this experience makes you more marketable and puts you in a better place to ask for higher compensation.


Negotiating nursing salaries requires excellent communication skills. You should also master relevant labor laws and regulations to successfully negotiate your contract. It is normal for starting salaries to be lower and increase as you gain more experience and put in more time with the institution. However, this is not the case with experienced individuals transferring from one employer to another in the profession.

Qualities of A Successful Neonatal Nurse

Being a successful neonatal nurse takes more than just the desire to earn a high salary. There are many factors used to determine success in the neonatal nursing career. There are various qualities you must have to succeed as a neonatal nurse in the modern world. These qualities include:


  • Discipline- Discipline is essential for success in all careers. As a neonatal nurse, you must be disciplined to get your foot in the door. Self-discipline will help you complete your coursework during your nursing education, which is essential to be a neonatal nurse. For some certifications, you are required to complete over 2000 hours of training with a supervised internship to be registered. Having discipline allows you to carry out your duties in a professional manner, which helps increase parent confidence in you and the facility. Being disciplined ensures that you are considered resourceful in both your institution and the entire profession. Financial discipline is another necessity you should have.
  • Patience- The nursing profession requires patience, particularly when working with neonates. In some cases, the infants respond slowly to treatment. Patience allows you to look after them until they are in stable health without rushing or pushing them too hard. In cases where infants don’t respond to treatment, a neonatal nurse should be patient when trying to find treatments that work. This virtue is also necessary for dealing with parents. Parents of neonates are coping with some of the most stressful things that they’re ever encountered, and the neonatal nurse needs to be calm, patient, and supportive during this difficult time.
  • Communication skills- One of the main duties of a neonatal nurse is communicating the condition of the infants to both parents and physicians. After obtaining test results, a neonatal nurse should report to the neonatal physician for changes in diagnosis and treatment. A neonatal nurse is also expected to communicate the infant’s condition to parents. Effective communication skills make it easier for parents to understand what their newborn could be suffering from. In some cases, the infant might need specialized treatment that requires authorization from parents. The neonatal nurse must educate the parents about what to expect from the treatment and give advice on all risks that could be involved. Effective communication promotes efficient treatment and recovery of infants under neonatal nursery.
  • Problem-solving and cognitive skills- Taking care of infants require a lot of attention. Successful neonatal nurses have sharp cognitive skills that allow them to notice small changes that could indicate a problem or improvement in the infant’s health. Problem-solving skills are essential for neonatal nurses. With these skills, a nurse could easily find a temporary solution in high-intensity situations while waiting for the physician. Finding solutions to sudden problems in the neonatal care units translates into saving lives, which improves the credibility of the nursing institution and the nurse.
  • Computer and technical skills- Operations in neonatal care units are steadily changing with technological advancements. To be successful as a neonatal nurse in the modern world, you need to master the use of technology in this profession. Digitization of treatments and the introduction of high-tech equipment will render you ineffective if you can’t use them. Mastering technical skills allow you to contribute to the creation of programs that facilitate operations in the neonatal intensive care units.


Many other skills could help elevate your career as a neonatal nurse. These skills are usually developed over time as you practice. Some you learn in school. But many, like patience and discipline, are inborn skills that you can improve with a bit of effort. Keeping yourself up to date is the best way to stay relevant and grow in your career. Continuous learning keeps you relevant in the profession. Additionally, advancing your studies to higher levels increases your chances of succeeding in this career. If you have an MSN or a DNP, you have many more opportunities in your career, such as working as a nurse midwife or neonatal nurse practitioner.

Degrees and Certifications Needed to Become A Neonatal Nurse

Like other careers, neonatal nursing involves various educational requirements before you are registered to practice. These requirements depend on the technicality of the roles you wish to play in the neonatal nursing field. For instance, neonatal nurses taking care of infants in need of Class III care are subjected to more stringent requirements. Class III cases are usually kept in the neonatal intensive care units. In most cases, neonatal care institutions demand a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. However, you can practice as a neonatal nurse with a variety of degrees, from BSN to DNP. Here are the common degrees with which you can be registered as a neonatal nurse.


  • Associate Degree in Nursing, AND

The degree allows you to practice as a registered nurse but with fewer technical duties. In most cases, AND holders work under the supervision of more experienced nurses. The AND takes less than three years to complete. The duration of study could be longer depending on the program you enroll in. Advancing your education to a bachelor’s degree or higher improves your credibility and skills. Some places may hire an AND to work with neonates, but most high-level NICUs require at least a BSN due to the level of specialized care these patients require.

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing, BSN

This is the lowest acceptable educational requirement in many institutions. Having a bachelor’s of science in nursing allows you to practice independently as a registered nurse. The duration of studying for a BSN degree depends on the program you enroll in. However, it usually takes about four years with at least 1000 hours of supervised internship. It is easy to advance your studies to higher levels with a BSN, mainly due to extensive coverage of neonatal nursing concepts that form the basis for advanced education. BSN degree programs focus heavily on practical sessions. These prepare you for practice and high-intensity situations during your career providing patient care. Various institutions offer different modes of studying for BSN degree programs. However, online programs are not common since the career involves a lot of practical sessions.

  • Master of Science in nursing, MSN and Doctor of Nursing Practice, DNP

These are advanced levels of study in the nursing and neonatal health care profession. Having a doctorate in nursing practice or DNP sets you apart from many practitioners in the same field. A DNP is considered the highest academic level in the nursing profession. These degrees require you to submit research on various topics related to neonatal care. The research is considered your contribution to the neonatal nursing profession and used to grade you for your degree. 


Most MSNs practice at administrative and managerial positions in neonatal institutions. DNPs, on the other hand, practice as consultants and resource persons for the profession. They are involved in making policies that govern the operations of neonatal nurses within the country. Before enrolling in an MSN or DNP degree program, some institutions ask for work experience, so it is not always beneficial to continue straight through school without gaining any hands-on experience.


Although degrees are the primary requirement, you need various other certifications to practice as a neonatal nurse. Registered nurses are certified by different organizations, depending on specialization and region of practice. As a registered nurse, you bear a license that allows you to operate within a certain jurisdiction. There are also specialist certifications available, demonstrating that you have the specialized skills needed to work with neonates. Some of the licensing bodies include:


  • National Association of Neonatal Nurses- This is the primary registration body for neonatal nurses in the country. The National Association of Neonatal Nurses considers the welfare of neonatal nurses. Before registration as a member of this association, you must meet various requirements, specifically minimum educational achievements. You must also have at least an associate degree in nursing and experience working with neonates.
  • Association of Critical Care Nurses (ACCN)- If you wish to practice in a neonatal ICU, most facilities will require you to pursue certification from the ACCN. ACCN is responsible for regulating service provision in all ICUs, including NICUs. To be registered, you must fulfill various requirements. NICUs are a sensitive work environment; therefore, the requirements for registration are stringent compared to other areas in the profession. Some skills tested for ACCN registration include communication and cognitive skills as well as a deep knowledge of the medical conditions you’re likely to see in the NICU.


There are other certifications you might need during your years of practice as a neonatal nurse. International organizations might require you to have additional certifications to be employed. These differ from one region to another due to factors such as the environment and patient population. 


Neonatal nursing licenses have to be renewed after certain periods, usually every two or three years, which is one of the main reasons to stay updated with relevant information about the profession. You might have to go through certain tests for renewal of the license.  


There are many ways of staying updated in the neonatal nursing field. One of the best ways is by networking with other practitioners. There are many networking opportunities for neonatal nurses. Various workshops organized by professional neonatal nurses provide a great opportunity to interact with other practitioners. Thanks to technological advancements, you can now access information from the internet. Various websites and social media platforms provide useful information for neonatal nurses. There is a lot of reading material on internet libraries that you can access to get updated information. Research papers and articles about new neonatal complications and breakthrough treatments are published on online platforms. This makes access to information easy since you can read from the comfort of your home.


Networking also plays an essential role in securing your future as a professional neonatal nurse. It allows you to create meaningful connections with potential employers and future business partners. At school, you learn concepts better and faster by sharing with fellow students of professionals in the neonatal nursing field. It is easier to identify and explore opportunities during your career life if you interact with other professionals.

In Summary

Neonatal nursing is an important profession in the medical field. It plays an essential role in ensuring the health and welfare of the most vulnerable patients. Although this profession has high returns on investment, it involves a lot of work and can be emotionally taxing. Therefore, you should consult a career expert or a practicing neonatal nurse before deciding to pursue this profession. Knowing what to expect before joining the career gives you a clear picture of what you will face in your future career. This allows you to choose a specialization that suits you best. What you specialize in determines the trajectory of your career, so you must pay close attention to avoid ending up in the wrong field. Doing what you love makes your work life enjoyable, and while this is a difficult field to work in, it can also be extremely rewarding.


Nursing degrees are the main requirement for working as a neonatal nurse. Although most institutions require a bachelor’s degree, you can practice as a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing with the right combination of skills and experience. Other than obtaining a nursing degree, there are several factors needed for licensing. These include a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised internship or clinical hours from a recognized institution. Neonatal nursing licenses need to be renewed regularly, which is why you should stay up to date with medical advancements in treatment and diagnosis. Advancing your education after obtaining a license has many advantages. It places you in a better position to compete for higher positions and better salaries in the profession.

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