Top Online Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs
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Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) play an essential role in caring for 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 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, congenital disabilities, infections, and lung, kidney, liver, immune, or digestive problems.
Most babies admitted to NICUs are premature, meaning they are born before 37 weeks of gestation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about one in 10 babies worldwide are born prematurely each year. 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 five years of age” (WHO). This is a global statistic that applies to every country worldwide.
These sobering statistics demonstrate the acute need for increased neonatal care. NNPs are trusted with handling the complexity and life-and-death nature of caring for neonates. Supporting NICU families has created a demand for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who specialize in NICU care.
According to Gallup polls, for nearly 20 years, nurses have ranked as the most trusted occupation in the United States. NNPs can help vulnerable NICU babies, and their families thrive in the face of adversity and live healthier lives moving forward.
Fortunately, several online NNP programs are available throughout the United States at the master’s, post-master’s, and DNP levels. These programs offer mostly online study with fewer than ten campus visits, offering flexibility to working nurses with families and other obligations. Because these are nurse practitioner programs, students must complete clinical practicums at approved locations, 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).
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nurse practitioners earn a median annual wage of $120,680 (BLS May 2021). Between 2021 and 2031, nurse practitioner positions, are expected to rise by 46 percent, a rate that’s much faster than the national average for all occupations (BLS 2021). Most nurse practitioners work in physicians’ offices and hospitals, while others work in outpatient care centers, educational services, or offices of health practitioners.
Overall, NNPs work with healthcare teams to provide the necessary advanced medical care to infants and support families through very stressful situations. Also, 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.
Read on to learn more about top-ranked online neonatal nurse practitioner programs.
Online NNP Program Rankings (2023)
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 1,008 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 2022-2023 school year. Only NNP programs that require a total of nine campus visits or fewer 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.
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, a nationwide shortage of NNPs exists. In 2006, there were 20 NNP-specific programs compared to 40 accredited programs in 2020 (NANN 2020). Moreover, from 2014 to 2016, NANN shows that neonatal NP positions remained unfilled, 50 percent and 73 percent, respectively (NANN 2020)—the latest data available as of August 2022.
Data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows nurse practitioners are one of the fastest-growing careers. From 2020 to 2030, nurse practitioner openings (an occupational category that includes neonatal NPs) will grow by 52 percent, nearly seven times faster than the national average for all occupations (8 percent). This equates to 29,400 new openings each year in the same decade, adding 121,400 new positions (BLS 2021).
NNPs work with healthcare 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.
As for salary, according to the BLS, nurse practitioners with an MSN degree earn an average annual salary of $118,040 per year. The lowest 10th percentile earns $79,470 while the top 10th percentile earns $163,350 per year (BLS May 2021). Payscale, an aggregator of self-reported salaries, showed that in August 2022 that neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) earned $111,000 on average based on 147 reported salaries.