Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Role

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) are experts in neonatal care and provide advanced medical management and support to families during times of significant stress. Practitioners work collaboratively with other health care providers in both acute and non-acute settings as they assess, diagnose and manage the health of newborns and infants. Family-centered and development care are also focuses of a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice

An NNP is an advanced practice nurse who specializes in the care and treatment of pre-term and full-term newborn infants through the first few years of their lives. The NNP manages high-risk infants in an intensive neonatal hospital setting independently and often in collaboration with a neonatologist or other specialist. NNPs also may work in private practices outside of the acute care setting.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Salary

The increased demand for advanced nurses means that neonatal nurse practitioner salaries are high, especially for experienced practitioners who work in private practice settings. ON average, salary for a neonatal nurse practitioner is $77,000.



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How to Become a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Eligibility Requirements

Prior education, certification and clinical practice are among the requirements for acceptance into a nurse practitioner program. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner.

  1. 1. Become a registered nurse. In order to apply to a neonatal nurse practitioner program, one must have completed a degree in registered nursing and be certified as a registered nurse in a U.S. state or territory. Passing the NCLEX-RN examination is required for certification as a registered nurse. Working as an RN for two years before applying for an NNP program is required.
  2. 2. Apply to NNP programs that meet National Certification Corporation (NCC) requirements. These programs must be master’s, postgraduate or doctoral programs. (Additional information on NNP programs and coursework requirements is provided below.)
  3. 3. Complete 600–700 faculty-supervised clinical hours related to the NNP role and population.
  4. 4. Apply to take the neonatal nurse practitioner exam administered by the NCC within eight years of completing an NNP program to earn your neonatal nurse practitioner certification. The exam tests comprehension of general assessment, general management, the disease process and professional issues. Final transcripts and proof of education are required. More information about certification can be found at the bottom of this page.
  5. 5. Apply for state certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner in the state in which you wish to practice. Go to our state certification pages to find out the requirements and how to apply. Many applications can be submitted online.
  6. 6. Certification must be renewed every three years. In addition to renewing certification through the board, renewal through the state is also required and additional fulfillment of continuing education contact hours may be necessary.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

NNP programs are part of a master’s degree program, and RNs are required to have current, valid experience to be considered for admission to the program. In addition to having a current RN license, applicants must have proof of at least two years (or about 4,000 hours) of full-time experience with critically ill newborns in the last five years, with a minimum of one year (2,000 hours) of experience in a Level III neonatal intensive-care unit. These requirements will vary from school to school, but applicants can expect admission requirements to be stringent. Some institutions will allow RNs to take classes that do not require clinical time while they are gaining the necessary experience to move forward with the degree.

Neonatal nurse practitioner programs are offered across the country in both on-campus and online formats. Because many nurses are working full time while taking classes, programs may offer a mix of weekends on campus, phone conferences, online blackboards and clinicals in the nurse’s hometown to avoid the need for frequent travel to campus or relocation while in school.

Class credits are approximately 45 hours with 600–700 hours or more of clinical time to graduate. Course curriculum focuses on evidence-based learning and includes pharmacology, neonatal physiology, embryology, genetics, family dynamics and more. Classes are taught by physicians, established NNPs, respiratory therapists and other leading neonatal medical providers.

on graduation, students will be able to sit for the national certification exam offered by the NCC and then work as entry-level providers. Many schools will post pass/fail rates on the NCC certification as it relates to their graduates, and applicants may consider this data when applying to the school.
Students who enroll in a full-time NPP program can expect to graduate in approximately two years, depending on how quickly the clinical hours can be completed.

Depending on the program, nurses with an associate degree may apply without a BSN but should be prepared for at least two additional semesters of class time before starting NNP courses. While attending the program full time will reduce time to degree completion, it is not always possible for working RNs. Individual program length will vary according to a student’s personal circumstances and schedule. Part-time students can expect to spend about three years on their degree. Nurses who already hold a master’s degree may apply for a postmaster’s certificate program and will complete classes as determined by their university’s program administrators.

Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

For working registered nurses who do not want to put their careers on pause or uproot their lives to attend an on-campus program far from where they live, online neonatal nurse practitioner programs can be a flexible and high-quality option. When looking for an online NNP program, make sure that it offers interactive features such as live classes, rigorous coursework and excellent placement services that will help you get the most out of your education. Some universities offer online programs that are identical to their on-campus programs, allowing students to earn a degree from a university they know and whose reputation they trust, without having to relocate. Online programs are growing in popularity and are a great way to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Certification

National Certification Corporation (NCC)

Types of Certification
NNP-BC (Neonatal Nurse Practitioner—Board Certified)
Eligibility Requirements
Active RN license, master’s degree or higher from a graduate nurse practitioner program with at least 500 clinical hours from a board-approved program.

Certification Process
Computer-based exam (offered year-round, but must be taken within 90 days of whenever the application is processed)


Certifications must be renewed every three years; the renewal fee is $100.

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