Top Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) play an important role in the care of infants, especially those born prematurely or needing special care due to sickness or acute health challenges. Neonatal refers to an infant in the first month of life, although neonatal nurse practitioners may continue to work with children who have ongoing problems from birth for a short while longer.

NNPs often work in neonatal units or neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) which are specially designed and staffed to care for newborns with health challenges such as heart abnormalities, birth defects, infections, and lung, kidney, liver, immune, or digestive problems.

Most of the babies who are admitted to NICUs are premature, which means they are born before 37 weeks of gestation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in ten babies worldwide is born prematurely each year, and this statistic also applies to the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Complications from premature birth “are the leading cause of death among children under 5 years of age” (WHO, 2018).

These statistics demonstrate the acute need for neonatal care. The complexity and life and death nature of caring for neonates, combined with the difficulty of supporting their families through the related challenges, has created a demand for advanced nurses who are well equipped, nimble, and NICU-savvy. Enter neonatal nurse practitioners.

Fortunately, there are several online NNP programs available throughout the United States at the masters, post-masters, and DNP levels. These programs offer mostly online study with less than 10 campus visits, offering flexibility to working professionals and those with family and other obligations. Because these are nurse practitioner programs, students must also complete clinical practicums at approved locations in addition to online coursework and any required campus immersions. Upon graduation, neonatal nurse practitioner students will be eligible to take the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Core Certification exam through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

Online NNP Program Rankings

Aspiring neonatal nurse practitioners must earn a master of science in nursing (MSN), post-master’s certificate (PMC), or doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and then procure professional certification in neonatal care prior to practicing. Many NNP programs require incoming students to have a year or more of NICU experience, and all require that incoming students be licensed RNs prepared with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), non-nursing bachelor’s, bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), or master of science in nursing (BSN).

Programs vary in terms of which of those degrees they will accept. Most MSN programs are designed for BSN-prepared RNs, for instance, but not all. Some will accept ADN-prepared RNs, and a few will offer an accelerated option to ADN-prepared RNs with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree.

Given this, we have tried to specify a program’s degree path in its program name. In cases where it remains unclear, please click on the corresponding nursing school name to view program names, requirements, and other specifics in detail.

In their graduate-level NNP programs, students study pathophysiology and advanced physiology, embryology, the development of neonates, infants, and toddlers, and advanced practice in neonatal patients. Other areas of focus may include evidence-based practice, population health, and statistics.

All students also complete a preceptorship, which in the case of most (but not all) online programs may be completed at an approved facility near where the student lives and works. Again, please click the school name to visit the school profile for further detail.

The online neonatal NP programs listed here are ranked by our AdvanceU score, which factors in cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety, and drawn from the NPSchools.com program database, which includes more than 700 online NP programs at the MSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate levels.

The NPSchools.com team has compiled what we believe to be a comprehensive list of all of the online NNP programs accepting students at the outset of the 2019-2020 school year. Only NNP programs that require a total of nine campus visits or less qualified for inclusion as online programs.

The NPSchools.com team works to ensure the accuracy of the data on our website. Should you wish to report a new program, missing program, or an informational error, please contact us to bring it to our attention.

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Neonatal NP Career and Salary

According to the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN), while the number of licensed nurse practitioners in the United States increased from 107,000 to 234,000 from 2007 to 2017, only about 5,433 of these are neonatal nurse practitioners (AANP, 2017). NNPs work with health care teams to provide the necessary advanced medical care to infants, and to support families through very stressful situations. In addition, neonatal nurse practitioners may work with healthy infants and children and focus on family-centered care and the development of the infant and young child. Typically neonatal NPs work with infants until they are discharged from the hospital, but may work with infants and children up to three years of age.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nurse practitioners with an MSN degree earn about $80,670 to $182,750 per year with a median annual wage of $107,030 (BLS, 2018). In addition, nurse practitioner positions are expected to rise by 28 percent between 2018 and 2028, while the average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent (BLS, 2018).