Top Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) play a vital role in the lives of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses and well-visit checkups and preventive care. PNPs also seek to meet their patients’ physiological and psychological needs and help parents and families properly care for their children and infants for their optimal health and well-being.

The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) offers three types of certifications for pediatric nurse practitioners: primary care, acute care, and mental healthcare. Earning certification shows employers and patients that a pediatric nurse practitioner has passed national knowledge and critical thinking competencies. 

Primary care pediatric nurse practitioners (CPNP-PCs) work in primary care settings, schools, hospitals, home care situations, and specialty clinics and refer patients to other healthcare team members when necessary. 

The role of a PNP-PC is to “provide care to children from birth through young adults with an in-depth knowledge and experience in pediatric primary healthcare including well-child care and prevention/management of common pediatric acute illnesses and chronic conditions” (PNCB 2021). They are able to assess, evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients across the spectrum of primary care. The primary care PNP advocates for infants, children, and young adults to promote quality, cost-effective care and safety for all involved.

Acute care pediatric nurse practitioners (PNP-ACs) work with the same age ranges with patients who suffer from “acute, complex, critical, and chronic illness across a variety of care settings” (PNCB 2021). Acute care PNPs typically work in emergency departments, hospitals, intensive care units, home healthcare situations, and subspecialty clinics. They collaborate directly with healthcare teams responsible for the patient’s care and well-being, developing care plans, and monitoring patient care and recovery. In addition, they secure parental/guardian permission when caring for their patients.

Mental health pediatric primary care specialists (PMHSs) are pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and family nurse practitioners (FNPs) who specialize in “strengthening care to children and families experiencing developmental, behavioral, and mental healthcare concerns” (PNCB 2021). The pediatric primary care mental health specialist certification enables NPs to assess, diagnose, treat, and manage mental health conditions in children, adolescents, and young adults. PMHSs work in pediatric primary care, family practices, school-based clinics, and other specialty areas. NPs with certification in mental health collaborate with other healthcare providers such as therapists, psychiatrists, and physicians. 

Nurse practitioners with their sights set on specializing in pediatrics have a full slate of options. For those who know they want to focus on pediatric nursing, earning an online NP master’s, doctoral, or post-master’s certificate degree and certification from the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board opens up a wide range of careers in general, acute, or mental health nursing practices. 

Online Pediatric NP Program Rankings

Distance-based PNP programs typically offer online coursework, flexibility in course load and time to completion, and a minimal number of required campus visits. Preceptorships are usually completed local to the student.

The team compiled a complete list of online PNP programs for the 2021-2022 academic year and ranked them by an “AdvanceU” score that combines cost, admissions flexibility, and program variety. Our database contains entries for 928 online NP programs at the MSN, DNP, and post-master’s certificate levels, including PNP-PC, PNP-AC and dual PNP-PC/PNP-AC programs. In order to qualify for inclusion in the rankings below, a PNP program must require no more than nine campus visits in total.

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Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Career and Salary

The pediatric nurse practitioner field attracts about 9 percent of those studying to become nurse practitioners (AANP, 2018). Pay scales range from $80,670 to $182,750 for nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists, with the median wage for nurse practitioners landing at $107,030 (BLS, 2018).

The nurse practitioner field is growing at a much faster pace than average with an expected increase of 28 percent between 2018 and 2028 (BLS, 2018). The average for all occupations is 5 percent.

Aspiring pediatric nurse practitioners must earn a graduate nursing degree such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). MSN- and DNP-prepared RNs may, alternatively, opt to earn a post-master’s certificate (PMC).