How Long Does It Take To Become A Nicu Nurse?

Nurses who specialize in neonatal care tend to infants younger than 28 days. Most of these infants require critical medical care. 

Despite the emotional and mental strain of the job, neonatal nurses can benefit from the satisfaction of aiding infants and their families.

Interested in a rewarding career as a neonatal nurse? Explore this guide to discover how long it takes to become a NICU nurse, including required education and credentials.

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What is a Nicu Nurse School Like?

The care of newborns with urgent health difficulties, such as infections, complications from preterm births or low birth weights, congenital heart defects, and other diseases, is provided by neonatal nurses. 

Their training as neonatal nurses equips them to perform a range of tasks in hospital intensive care units, nurseries, and labor and delivery suites. Home care settings, birthing facilities, and other healthcare settings are additional neonatal nurse settings. 

Depending on how long the baby stays in the ICU, NICU nurses may give care for a few days or for a longer amount of time. They carry out cognitive exams, analyze test results, and offer treatment in addition to monitoring progress. They inform parents about the potential need for specialized care for their child.

You need to have at least a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) in order to work as a neonatal nurse, while a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is increasingly prevalent. 

Additionally, you need to hold a registered nurse license. 

If they are working in the NICU, neonatal nurses must also be qualified in newborn resuscitation and get specific NICU credentials. A minimum number of years of clinical experience in a hospital setting may also be required of you. 

Before pursuing an advanced degree, you must have at least two years of clinical experience in a newborn critical care unit in order to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Obtaining an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN exam is the first step in becoming a registered nurse, which is also the first step in becoming a neonatal nurse. 

Be aware that some employers might favor neonatal nurses with a Bachelor’s degree, especially if you plan to work at a major hospital. 

The process becomes less linear once you have earned your degree and license. If you’re looking for a job in the NICU, you may be able to obtain a neonatal nursing post right out of school, but there’s a strong possibility you’ll need to first gain experience.

Your best option is to establish yourself as a nurse in a setting with a NICU and gain experience with baby care; pediatrics and well-newborn nurseries are wonderful choices if you can. 

This useful experience will demonstrate to potential employers that you possess the practical abilities required to care for infants, which facilitates a smooth transfer to the NICU.

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Is Attending a Nicu Nurse School Worth it?

Taking care of unwell infants and supporting their families can be very satisfying. However, a career in neonatal nursing has advantages besides the rewarding work of providing patient care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses was $71,730.1 in 2018. 

Within this specialty, there is considerable room for progress for neonatal nurses. According to NANN, you might become qualified for positions with titles like developmental care specialist, clinical care specialist, or nurse manager as your knowledge, experience, and educational level increase. 

You will be able to help workers and oversee educational initiatives that will enhance patient care all around in these advanced professions.

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What Schooling Do You Need to Become a Nicu Nurse?

Nurses who work with newborns must have at least an associate’s degree or nursing diploma. Given the sensitivity of NICU patients and the complexity of their medical conditions, many employers demand at least a bachelor’s degree for neonatal nurses. 

Additionally, NICU nurses frequently pursue specialty credentials in electronic fetal monitoring, advanced cardiovascular life support, or neonatal pediatric transport. A neonatal nurse may be more marketable if they possess one or more NICU-related credentials. 

Nurses should think about graduate school if they wish to specialize, make more money, or take on leadership roles. Neonatal nurses can advance to become nurse practitioners who provide primary care for their patients by pursuing a master’s or doctorate in nursing (NPs).

NICU patient care experience, graduate education, and other licensing criteria are necessary to become an NP. Neonatal nurses who have a master’s degree can also work as nurse midwives, who often make more money than registered nurses.

The NCLEX-RN exam and earning an ADN offer the quickest route to a neonatal nursing career, taking two years or less. However, RNs with at least a BSN will have more job options and earn more money. 

Neonatal nurse practitioners with an MSN or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree have the best chances of moving up to nursing leadership positions, which can pay more.

The quickest route to a job as an RN, particularly neonatal nursing, is through an ADN. Associate degree holders can start researching the subject before opting to enroll in a four-year nursing program because the degree prepares graduates to take the NCLEX-RN. Most BSN programs accept credits from ADN programs, on average. 

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  • Admission Requirements 

Official transcripts, a high school graduation or GED, a minimum 2.0 GPA, ACT or SAT scores, and letters of recommendation are required. essay 

  • Curriculum Program 

Medical-surgical nursing, microbiology and immunology, pediatric nursing, and nursing of pregnant women and new mothers 

  • Time of completion 

Two years 

  • Skills Acquired 

cooperating with healthcare experts; ensuring safe and high-quality treatment; being organized; and having strong communication and interpersonal skills. 

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BS in Nursing 

BSN graduates are frequently preferred by employers, and many of the highest-paying jobs are available to those with a BSN. Similar to the ADN, this degree qualifies graduates to take the NCLEX-RN, but it also grants them access to administrative nursing positions, higher wages, and the ability to meet the requirements for MSN or DNP training. 

To suit their individual needs, neonatal nurses can select from a variety of BSN programs, such as regular four-year programs, RN-to-BSN programs, and accelerated nursing programs for non-nursing majors. Online choices are available at many schools. 

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  • Admission Requirements 

Prerequisites in microbiology, physiology, chemistry, and anatomy; official transcripts; a minimum GPA of 2.5; a curriculum vitae or CV; recommendations; and an essay. 

  • Curriculum 

Program Content Pathophysiology, psychology, research, statistics, leadership, community health nursing, and pharmacology 

  • Time Required : Four years 
  • Skills Acquired 

Critical thinking and problem-solving, ensuring patient safety and receiving high-quality care, educating patients and their families, cooperation and collaboration, management and organizational abilities, and excellent interpersonal and communication skills are all required.

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How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Nicu Nurse in 2023?

Neonatal nurses, also referred to as Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses, must first become registered nurses before being permitted to perform their profession. As a result, being a NICU nurse may require 4 to 6 years of training. 

You can pursue an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program to become a registered nurse. 

Both of these programs, despite their variations, will give you the education you need to become a registered nurse. But since you’ll be specializing in neonatal nursing, earning a BSN will be a better choice for you. 

You must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses after receiving your nursing degree (NCLEX-RN). 

To start a career as a registered nurse, you must pass this exam. You will need to have successfully completed two years of clinical experience in newborn care at this time. You can apply for certification once you have finished this clinical experience.

Numerous organizations offer “registered nurse certified” neonatal credentials (RNC). An active RN license, a minimum of 24 months of RN experience, and a passing grade on the prerequisite exam are prerequisites for the RNC certification in neonatal intensive care nursing, which is given by the National Certification Corporation. Get more information on obtaining RNC certification. 

For RNs and APRNs, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers certificates. For nurses who directly care for newborn patients who are acutely or critically ill, the critical care registered nurse neonatal speciality certification requires completion of 1,750–2,000 hours of direct care and a passing score on the certification exam.

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How Much Does it Cost to Be a Licensed Nicu Nurse?

 Students must get a nursing degree, fulfill licensing requirements, gain experience, and obtain the necessary certifications before they can work as neonatal nurses. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that as of May 2020, the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $111,670. Neonatal nurses can pursue graduate training and career opportunities to become nurse practitioners (BLS).

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Salary and Job Outlook for Nicu Nurse After Study

Like other healthcare professions, neonatal nursing can pay well. As of July 2021, PayScale reported that the average yearly compensation for neonatal nurses was $68,760. 

The income of a neonatal nurse or NICU nurse can vary widely depending on a variety of criteria, including experience and education. 

According to the BLS, the median annual wage for nurses who decide to pursue extra education to become nurse practitioners or nurse midwives is $117,670 as of May 2020. 

Neonatal nurses working in metropolitan environments may make more money than those in rural ones.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that from 2020 to 2030, employment of registered nurses would rise by 9%. ( 

The expected increase in employment for all nurse practitioners was 52%. Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) and neonatal nurses can both work in clinics and hospitals as well as as consultants. 

According to, as of 2021, the mid 80% of salaries for neonatal nurses fell somewhere between $51,000 and $104,000, with the median salary being around $70,775. 

The median salary for a neonatal nurse practitioner was found to be $108,535, with the middle 80% lying between $87,000 and $136,000.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What level of schooling is required to work as a neonatal nurse? 

A registered nurse license and an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing are requirements for neonatal nurses. NICU nurses frequently obtain qualifications in neonatal care as well. 

What does a nurse in a NICU do? 

A NICU nurse offers specialized care to neonates with serious medical issues. They also operate medical equipment and deliver care. The majority of their patients suffer from congenital diseases, were born too soon, or had low birth weights. 

Is nursing in NICUs stressful? 

Due to the intense strain, NICU nurses may become stressed when confronted with complex scenarios. 

What do NICU nurses get paid? 

As of July 2021, PayScale reported that the average yearly compensation for neonatal nurses was $68,760. With further training or experience, neonatal nurses can make even more money.


Care for newborn babies is provided by neonatal nurses in collaboration with pediatricians and doctors. As a neonatal nurse, you’ll keep an eye on vital signs, request diagnostic tests, and take the initial readings of the results. 

You’ll show new mothers how to take care of their infants, and you might provide special care for mothers and babies who have had cesarean sections. The majority of the time, neonatal nurses care for children up to two years old, including preterm infants. 



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