Neonatal nurses work primarily in intensive care units for newborns. Registered nurses usually need an associate or bachelor's degree before they can be licensed to work. Certifications for neonatal nurses are available from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) and the National Certification Corporation (NCC), and often increase the pay and employment opportunities of neonatal nurses.
Uncertified Neonatal Nurses
According to the ADVANCE for nurses website, maternal/child nurses in the U.S. who lacked specialty certification earned the highest average salary in the West region as of 2011, at $85,935 per year. Those employed in the Northeast also earned a high average salary, at $71,723 per year. By comparison, those working in the Lower Great Lake and Mid-Atlantic states averaged $59,445. Those in the Midwest averaged $57,333, while those in the Southwest earned the least, at an average of $54,456 per year. Geographic salary variations are due to a number of factors, including cost of living.
Specialty-Certified Neonatal Nurses
According to the 2011 ADVANCE salary survey, maternal/child nurses who were specialty-certified earned an average of $82,920 per year in the West. In the Northeast, specialty-certified maternal/child nurses brought home an average of $73,334 annually. Specialty-certified maternal/child nurses working in the Midwest averaged $71,000 per year, followed by $70,618 in the Mid-Atlantic and Lower Great Lake states and $64,700 in the Southeast.
Advanced Practice Nurses
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have gone back to school to get a master's degree or a doctoral degree. According to a 2012 salary survey conducted by ADVANCE, full-time nurse practitioners employed in neonatal intensive care units earned an average salary of $105,220 per year, the second-highest paid NP specialty. Nurse practitioners working in neonatal units in a part-time capacity reported an average hourly wage of $54.13.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for registered nurses in most specialties is excellent -- especially for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses. While the U.S. economy is expected to add jobs at an average rate of 14 percent between 2010 and 2020, jobs for registered nurses are expected to grow at a much faster rate of 26 percent. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of American Medicine, demand is particularly high for neonatal nurses, as many of the nation's neonatal intensive care units are understaffed.
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