Best Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs for 2021
Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Is a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner something you want to pursue? If so, have you considered an online pediatric nurse practitioner program? Distance learning is a growing trend among professionals who wish to obtain higher degrees, especially those who want to continue working or managing other responsibilities. In this article, we will discuss the difference between a pediatric primary care NP and a pediatric acute care NP. We will explore the requirements to become a pediatric NP and share the 10 best online pediatric nurse practitioner programs of 2021.
What Exactly is the Goal of a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program?
The goal of pediatric nurse practitioner programs is to educate and prepare advanced practice registered nurses to become part of the healthcare delivery team by providing quality care to infants, children, and adolescents. These programs are tailored to goal-oriented nurses who have the care for children in mind. Pediatric nurse practitioner programs are designed with the expectation that graduates will evaluate patient and family responses to sickness and health and use those evaluations to promote, restore, and help support the health and functional abilities of their clients.
What are the Different Types of Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs?
There are two different types of pediatric nurse practitioner online programs currently being offered.
Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program:
With particular emphasis on pediatric-aged patients, a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner program includes a focus on pediatric pharmacology, health assessment from infancy to adolescence, and advanced pathophysiology. They also involve education regarding well-child care, as well as the management and prevention of both acute and chronic illnesses spanning across various clinical settings.
Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program:
Pediatric acute care NP programs prepare advanced practice pediatric nurses to meet the needs of clients from infancy to early adulthood who have acute, critical, or chronic health conditions. These programs educate pediatric nurse practitioners to recognize and meet the psychological and physiological needs of their patients who require specialized care.
Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program vs. Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program: Which One Should You Choose?
When choosing between primary care or acute care online pediatric nurse practitioner programs, it's essential to understand that the difference in roles is based on patient needs, not practice settings. Therefore, knowing what type of care you prefer to provide will be helpful. For example, acute care pediatric NPs focus on providing care that is necessary following acute or sudden illness, critical illness, injury, or for patients who are medically unstable. Primary care pediatric nurse practitioners typically provide care that emphasizes the promotion and maintenance of one's health, prevention of disease, and management of chronic and/or minor health issues.
How Many Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs are Currently Being Offered?
According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners
, there are approximately eighty online pediatric nurse practitioner programs being offered in the United States. Of those programs, nineteen offer their programs online exclusively. The other sixty-one offer from fifty-one to ninety-nine percent of their program online.
|Programs Offering 100% Online Education|| 19|
| Programs Offering 51% to 99% Online Education|| 61|
| Total|| 80|
4 Advantages of Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs
According to statistics reported by the University of Texas at El Paso
, over six million Americans are currently pursuing higher education online. There are several advantages of pursuing an online pediatric nurse practitioner degree.
• Saving Money:
Any college degree can be expensive. However, by enrolling in an online PNP program, you can cut down expenses significantly. The costs associated with staying in dorms, classroom fees, or meal plans on campus may be eliminated entirely. Additionally, there will be less expense related to traveling to and from campus and car maintenance.
• Keep your job:
In today’s society, many families are faced with the need to have more than one income to help meet their family’s needs. By pursuing a degree online, students can often work at least part-time, some full-time, which means they can continue to contribute to their families.
• Flexible Schedule:
Students who attend school online often find that there is a great deal more flexibility with their schedules. This means you can study when and where it is most convenient for you. Additionally, some professors or instructors may offer more lenient deadlines for online students.
• Improve Collaboration and Communication Skills:
As a PNP, you will need to exercise effective communication skills and know how to collaborate with others to provide care to your patients. Online learning creates an opportunity for you to develop good communication skills and to improve your collaboration skills, both of which will be a plus for you long after graduation.
How Long are Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs?
The length of time it may take you to complete an online pediatric nurse practitioner program may vary. Some factors to consider are whether you enroll in school on a part-time or full-time basis. Also, the pathway you choose to follow will usually determine how long it takes you to complete. For example, online pediatric MSN-NP programs typically take a BSN educated nurse fifteen months to four years to complete. Other pathways may take from one year up to seven years to complete.
• The University of Iowa
offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice program and post-graduate certificate programs. Students at the university can choose a BSN to DNP program that can be completed in three- or four-year options or a two-year Post MSN-to-DNP program.
• The University of Alabama at Birmingham
offers MSN and BSN-to-DNP pathways. Both acute and primary care pediatric nurse practitioner programs at UAB take approximately two years to complete. Additionally, the college offers a dual pediatric acute and primary care nurse practitioner pathway that students can complete in as little as three years.
• Vanderbilt University
gives prospective students the choice of an MSN or BSN-to-DNP program. The MSN program can be completed in fifteen to thirty-six months, depending on whether you enroll as an ADN or BSN level registered nurse. The Doctorate program generally takes three to four years to complete.
| Pathway|| Length|
| BSN to MSN|| 15 to 48 Months|
| BSN to DNP|| 36 to 84 Months|
| MSN to DNP|| 12 to 48 Months|
How Much Do Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Online Programs Cost?
The cost of online pediatric nurse practitioner programs ranges from $17,660 to well over $250,000. Factors that may affect the program's cost include whether you must pay out-of-state fees if you are receiving any type of financial aid
and the pathway of study that you enroll in.
• Tuition at Duke University’s DNP program
averages $13,417 per semester. Students can complete the program in as little as five semesters, which means the program costs around $67,000 to complete.
• At Rush University
, tuition cost is approximately $1,166 per credit hour. The BSN-to-DNP pathway requires completion of sixty-eight credit hours and costs an average of $79,000.
• Students enrolled in the online pediatric nurse practitioner program at the Stony Brook School of Nursing
in Stony Brook, New York, complete a minimum of forty-five credit hours. In-State applicants pay $602 per credit hour while out-of-state students pay $1094 per credit hour. This brings the average BSN-to-MSN program cost to just over $38,000.
| Pathway|| Tuition Cost|
| BSN to MSN|| $18,810 - $185,280 |
| BSN to DNP|| $26,490 - $254,260 |
| MSN to DNP|| $17,660 - $169,510 |
Pediatric nurse practitioner online programs include courses that are relative to any advanced practice nursing degree. Core advanced practice courses include advanced pharmacology, physiology, pathophysiology, transition to the APRN role, and advanced health assessment. DNP programs also include healthcare economics and leadership in evolving healthcare. For a more detailed look at some of the coursework required in pediatric nurse practitioner programs, see the charts below.
BSN to MSN:
Following is the coursework for the MSN Pediatric Acute Care NP program at University of Alabama at Birmingham
MSN to DNP:
| Interprofessional Leadership and Role Development for Practice Excellence|
| Advanced Pathophysiology|
| Translating Evidence into Practice|
| Pharmacology and Therapeutics|
| Health Care Systems for Advanced Nursing Practice|
| Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning for Advanced Nursing Practice|
| Focus on Advanced Nursing Practice Specialization|
| Advanced Pediatric Nursing - Acute Care|
| Practicum: Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care|
|(Source: Pediatric Acute Care NP Coursework @ University of Alabama at Birmingham)|
Following is the coursework for the DNP Pediatric Primary Care NP Coursework at University of Pittsburgh
| Applied Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice|| Human Genetics and Clinical Applications|
| Clinical Diagnostics|| Introduction to Health Informatics|
| Data Analysis for DNP Projects|| Leadership Development|
| Database Management|| Manuscript Development|
| Diagnosis and Management of Psychiatric Conditions in Primary Care|| Methodologies for DNP Projects|
| DNP Np Role Practicum|| Nursing Graduate Orientation Module|
| DNP Project Clinical|| Organizational and Systems Management for Healthcare Leaders|
| Ethics in Healthcare|| Public Policy in Health Care|
| Family Theory for NPs: Principles, Implications, and Application Across the Life Span|| The Science of Health Care Delivery|
| Financial, Business, and Economics Drivers in Healthcare Management|
|(Source: Pediatric Primary Care NP Coursework @ University of Pittsburgh)|
The number of clinical hours a pediatric nurse practitioner student is required to complete depends on whether you are pursuing an MSN degree, a post-master's certificate, or a DNP degree. Most programs require nurse practitioners to complete at least 1,000 clinical hours of practice. Often colleges will allow students to apply five hundred BSN clinical hours toward their graduate degree. However, both primary care pediatric nurse practitioner students must complete at least five hundred supervised clinical hours in a pediatric primary care setting. Acute care PNP students must have 600 hours of supervised clinical hours.
Admission Requirements for Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Online Programs
Colleges and universities set their own admission requirements. To be accredited, however, there are some general guidelines that most schools follow. Typical guidelines for admission that most schools require include the following.
• Provide 2-3 letters of recommendation, one of which should be an academic or graduate-level professional
• Participate in an online or face-to-face admissions interview
• Minimum one year of nursing experience
• Most schools require a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
BSN to MSN Admission Requirements Example: Colorado University
offers an exceptional BSN to MSN program for registered nurses who wish to obtain a graduate degree in nursing. Admission requirements for the program include:
• Possess a current, unencumbered RN license
• Have a cumulative undergraduate nursing GPA of 3.0 or higher
• Have at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an ACEN or CCNE accredited program and a regionally accredited institution
• Resume or curriculum vitae
• Three letters of reference
MSN to DNP Admission Requirements Example:
The University of Pittsburgh
has implemented the following minimum standards for admission criteria into its online pediatric DNP-NP program.
• Hold a current, unencumbered license to practice as an RN in the United States or territory where the clinical component will be completed
• Have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA in an MSN program from an accredited nursing program OR
• Have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA in any master’s related field, as long as you hold a BSN from an accredited nursing program
• Complete a prerequisite statistics course with a grade of B- or higher
• Competitive GRE scores: The school may waive GRE requirements for students with a master's GPA of 3.5 or higher.
What Are the Do's and Do Not's of Getting Accepted Into any of the Top Online Pediatric NP Schools?
If being accepted into a top pediatric nurse practitioner online program is essential to you, take a look at these "Do's and Do Not's" for a little extra advice.
Things You Should Do to Help You Get Accepted:
1. Make sure you have at least three letters of recommendation available in your portfolio at all times. These letters should be from recent professional acquaintances, and at least one should be from someone with at least a master’s degree. If the letters you have are old or outdated, ask for updated letters or get letters from people who have recently worked with you.
2. Apply to several nursing schools. Although you may have your heart set on a specific school, applying to multiple schools could improve your chances of acceptance.
3. Practice for your admissions interview. Before acceptance into a graduate program, you will be expected to take part in an admission interview. Some of the frequent questions prospective students are asked include:
a. How much time do you plan to dedicate to studying?
Things You Should NOT Do If You Want to Be Accepted:
b. Why do you want to become a pediatric nurse practitioner?
c. What is something that challenges you?
1. Do not let your nursing license lapse. Even if you do not plan to continue working while in school, you need to be sure your RN license remains active and unencumbered to be eligible to enroll in any pediatric nurse practitioner program.
2. Do not wait until the last minute. Putting things off until there is little time left before the deadline means that you could forget things in the rush. Instead, take the time to plan ahead and show your interest and dedication by being intentional.
3. Do not ever give up! Deciding to become a pediatric nurse practitioner is a big step. If you face some obstacles along the way, remember to stay focused on your goal and don’t give up!
Following are the 10 Best Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs for 2021
1. University of Iowa - Iowa City, IAPrograms Offered:
DNP (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care
& Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care
2. Rush University - Chicago, ILPrograms Offered:
DNP (Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NP)
& Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (NP)
3. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA Programs Offered: MSN to DNP
4. Maryville University - St. Louis, MOPrograms Offered: MSN
, BSN to DNP
, and MSN to DNP
5. The University of Alabama at Birmingham - Birmingham, ALPrograms Offered: MSN
(Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner & Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner) and BSN to DNP
(Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner & Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner)
6. Colorado University - Aurora, COPrograms Offered: MSN
(Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care
& Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care
) and BS-DNP
(Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care & Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care)
7. Duke University School of Nursing - Durham, NCPrograms Offered:
MSN (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care
& Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care
) and DNP (BSN to DNP & MSN to DNP)
(Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care & Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care)
8. Vanderbilt University - TN.Programs Offered:
MSN (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care
& Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care
) and MSN to DNP (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care & Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Primary Care)
9. Stony Brook University - Stony Brook, NYPrograms Offered: MSN
and BSN to DNP
10.The University of South Florida - Tampa, FLPrograms Offered: MSN
and BSN to DNP
View Ranking Methodology
How to Become Certified as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
Pediatric Nurse practitioners must be both licensed and certified in their chosen specialty. While a license gives a PNP permission to practice, obtaining certification shows that you are proficient to provide care in your chosen specialty.
What Certification Options are Available:
Two organizations have been offering certifications for pediatric nurse practitioners.
1. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
administers examinations for Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (CPNP-PC) and Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care (CPNP-AC).
2. The American Nurses Credentialing Center
previously offered the Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner board certification exam but retired the examination in December 2018. Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners who took the exam before the retirement date can still maintain and renew their certification
by fulfilling renewal requirements. However, those wishing to pursue initial certification should consider certification through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
Eligibility requirements to become certified as a pediatric primary care NP include:
• Possess an active RN license
• Complete a master's degree or higher in a pediatric primary care nurse practitioner program at an accredited college
• Complete a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours in a primary care pediatrics setting
• Complete three graduate-level courses in advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, and advanced pathophysiology/physiology
The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) requires NPs to renew certification annually. Additionally, over a seven-year period, NPs must complete PNCB pediatric updates modules and pharmacology requirements.
The ANCC Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner certification is valid for five years. PNPs who maintain an active license and who meet renewal requirements in place at the time the time certification renewal is due are eligible to renew their certification for another five years.
Certification through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) requires a fee of $385 for initial certification, and the renewal fee for Primary and/or Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is $170 for modules only, $85 for continuing education, or $130 for module and continuing education combined.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a renewal of Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification only. The renewal fee for members is $275 and for nonmembers is $375.
Scope of Practice for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner in Your State
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners defines the NP scope of practice. However, every state has its own Nurse Practice Act that outlines the role of NPs practicing in that state, and that is designed to agree with that state's legislation regarding the scope of practice.
Individual states determine whether a pediatric nurse practitioner has full practice authority, reduced practice authority, or restricted practice authority. The chart below lists which states allow full, reduced, or restricted practice for nurse practitioners.
PNPs who are granted full practice authority
can evaluate, diagnose, order, and interpret diagnostic testing and treat clients as well as prescribe medications under the licensing authority of the state board of nursing. Reduced practice authority
refers to limitations set on a PNP’s role. In these states, PNP’s are usually required to practice in collaboration with a physician.
In restricted practice states, state practice and licensure laws restrict nurse practitioners' authority to participate in at least one element of practice. In these states, PNPs require career-long supervision, team management, or delegation by another provider to provide patient care.
| Full Practice States|| Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Wyoming|
| Reduced Practice States|| Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin|
| Restricted Practice States|| California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia|
Any practice setting where children are cared for is a possible place of employment for pediatric nurse practitioners. Primary care PNPs may work in physicians’ offices or in their own private practice. Some work in collaboration with specialists in certain areas of medicine, such as asthma and allergy doctors or pediatric cardiologists, to name a few. Acute care pediatric nurse practitioners may work in pediatric emergency departments, pediatric ICUs, or in inpatient hospitals or care centers that offer various subspecialty care options.
A few career opportunities that PNPs may find appealing include the following.
• Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for Family Practice Clinic
• Acute Care PNP Emergency Room staff
• Nursing Instructor
• Pediatric Primary Care NP. Outpatient Services
• Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
• Pediatric NP ICU
The average annual salary of a pediatric nurse practitioner in the United States is $105,395. Years of experience as a nurse, especially working in pediatrics, can positively impact your earning potential. Even if you are a new PNP, having knowledge and experience working with pediatric patients will be a plus on your resume'. Also consider, if you are willing to work nights, weekends, holidays, or split shifts, you may be able to enjoy the perks of shift differential pay or overtime pay, both of which can mean an increase in overall earnings.
| Per Hour|| $50.67|
| Per Month|| $8,780|
| Per Year|| $105,395|
The Top Paying States
In addition to years of experience and scheduling options, geographical location often plays a big part in the salary you may earn as a pediatric nurse practitioner. The cost of living and the ratio of qualified practitioners compared to the general population both influence earning potential. Currently, the state that pays the highest salary to PNPs is New York, with an average of $55.58 per hour, or a little over $115,600 annually. For a closer look at the top ten paying states, see the chart below.
| Rank|| State|| Per Hour|| Per Year|
| 1|| New York|| $55.58|| $115,604|
| 2|| Massachusetts|| $55.05|| $114,511|
| 3|| Washington|| $54.67|| $113,712|
| 4|| New Hampshire|| $53.58|| $111,446|
| 5|| Hawaii|| $52.87|| $109,979|
| 6|| Maryland|| $51.02|| $106,124|
| 7|| Connecticut|| $51.00|| $106,090|
| 8|| Rhode Island|| $50.59|| $105,228|
| 9|| Alaska|| $50.52|| $105,092|
| 10|| Vermont|| $50.32|| $104,656|
While there is currently no data that specifically addresses the demand for pediatric nurse practitioners exclusively, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that job opportunities for nurse practitioners collectively should see an increase of at least twenty-eight percent from 2018 to 2028. According to the CDC, there are approximately 3.7 million births
in the United States annually. This population growth, coupled with an increase in childhood illness and disease, is suggestive that the need for pediatric nurse practitioners will continue to grow to accommodate the need for qualified healthcare providers.
Organizations & Associations
Being involved in nursing associations is an excellent way to network, make friends with like-minded people, and learn from other professionals. Many PNPs find that organizations and nursing associations give them the opportunity to take on leadership roles within the industry.
National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP):
The NAPNAP has over 8,000 members whose mission and vision statement is, "to empower pediatric-focused advanced practice registered nurses and key partners to optimize child and family health." Members of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners include authors, practicing clinicians, and national child health experts.
Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (AFPNP):
The AFPNP is a national organization that is comprised of nursing educators who teach school, family, and pediatric nurse practitioner programs. Its members collaborate with other healthcare professionals regarding pediatric nurse practitioner practice and educational issues.
NAPNAP Partners is a 501(c)(3) organization that focuses on improving the mental and physical health of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. NAPNAP Partners is made up of a team of PNPs, nurses, pediatricians, and specialists who provide care related to child health and wellness. One of the organization's missions is to help coordinate and unite healthcare providers and citizens' efforts to end the sex trafficking and labor of youth and children.
The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Foundation works to encourage and support, improving the quality of life for children and families. The foundation does this by awarding funds to increase the number of people seeking an advanced pediatric nursing education and by supporting clinical projects, research, and initiatives related to pediatric care.
As a pediatric nurse practitioner, you will have the opportunity to impact the lives of the youngest and most vulnerable of the patient population. Whether you want to work in primary care or acute care as a PNP, there are several career opportunities for professionals in this field. If you are interested in pursuing this career but aren't sure about attending school on-campus, or if you need more flexibility with your school and study schedule, choosing to enroll in an online pediatric nurse practitioner program could be an excellent option for you.
Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert
What Does a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Do?
Pediatric nurse practitioners provide care to infants, children, and adolescents. This includes performing assessments, ordering tests and reviewing results, prescribing medications or other therapies, educating parents and caregivers, and providing on-going follow-up care, as needed.
What Essential Skills are Required to Be a Successful Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
Most people who are asked this question automatically think of skills such as the ability to figure medication dosages or perform assessments. While these are essential skills for a successful pediatric NP to possess, there are other skills that are just as important. For example, strong observation and communication skills are a must. The ability to show empathy and compassion and to think quickly are important, as well. It’s important to remember that children do not communicate the same way adults do, so having these strong interpersonal skills first and then building upon them with clinical skills will improve your chances of becoming successful as a PNP.
What is the Difference Between a Pediatric Nurse and a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner?
Pediatric nurses are registered nurses who possess either an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing and hold a license to practice as a registered nurse. Pediatric nurse practitioners hold a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing with a pediatric specialty track. While pediatric nurses must only possess an active RN license to practice, PNPs must have a current license to practice and must become certified.
Can I Become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by Attending Online Classes Part-Time?
Yes, you can complete a PNP program while attending school part-time. In fact, many professionals opt to attend classes part-time while continuing to work their regular jobs or care for families. The amount of time it takes you to complete the program and become a pediatric nurse practitioner will, of course, be lengthened since you will not be attending school full-time. However, it is still possible to obtain your degree on a part-time basis.
What is the Nurse Licensure Compact, and Does it Affect Pediatric Nurse Practitioners?
The Nurse Licensure Compact allows RNs and LPNs to practice in other states without the need to apply for an additional license in those states. Currently, there are twenty-five states in the Compact, but more are expected to follow. The APRN compact was adopted as model law on August 12, 2020. This Compact would allow advanced practice registered nurses to hold one multistate license with the privilege to practice in other states that are part of the Compact. The APRN Compact will not be implemented until seven states have enacted the legislation pertaining to it.
Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.