How Do You Become A Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric NursingFor nurses with a special interest in pediatric medicine or psychology, pediatric nursing offers an opportunity to work in a specialized setting. Nurses usually specialize in pediatric nursing through a combination of clinical training and professional certification; however, if you think you want to work as a pediatric nurse, it is also possible to start specializing while you are in nursing school.

Establishing Your General Nursing Training

The first step toward becoming a pediatric nurse is to complete the necessary general nursing training. There are several different levels of nursing from certified nurse’s assistant (CNA) to registered nurse (RN), along with several educational pathways to nursing certification; most pediatric nurses are registered nurses, and many also possess advanced nursing degrees. It is possible, though not necessary, to become a registered nurse through a four-year college program; there are also associate’s degree programs that lead to RN licensure. You should determine which pathway to nursing is most appropriate for your educational goals and financial circumstances. However, some advanced nursing degrees, such as a nurse practitioner degree, require completion of a four-year nursing program, as well as additional graduate work; prospective nurse practitioners should therefore consider attending a four-year college.

Each additional level of education contains the possibility for additional specialization, and many pediatric nurses specialize at these advanced educational stages. However, in becoming a registered nurse, there is also coursework available in pediatric nursing. Prospective pediatric nurses should complete as much of this coursework as possible during their nursing education.

Getting Clinical Experience

For nurses considering a specialization in pediatrics, it is essential to pursue the relevant clinical experience. As part of your path to licensure as a registered nurse, you will complete various clinical rotations; including pediatric care in at least one of these rotations will help you establish your qualifications as a pediatric nurse and may help you obtain full-time employment in a pediatric care setting. Full-time pediatric clinical experience will be extremely beneficial for those pursuing certification, advanced degrees, or highly specialized positions. Possible pediatric clinical settings include a pediatrician’s office, the pediatric unit of a hospital, or even a school or daycare center. If you lack appropriate clinical experience, but still want to become a pediatric nurse, consider volunteering in a pediatric clinical setting instead. However, before volunteering, you should determine whether you will be able to include volunteer hours in professional certification applications.

In addition to clinical experience, pediatric nurses may also find it helpful to join a relevant professional association. For example, the Society of Pediatric Nurses holds events of interest to pediatric nurses and publishes pediatric nursing news. Their website also offers a job board for available positions in pediatric nursing.

Professional Certifications

It is not always necessary to obtain professional certification in order to become a pediatric nurse. However, depending on your specific job title, your state licensure requirements, and your employer’s preferences, such certification might be a professional asset. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board offers certification as a pediatric nurse for registered nurses who have completed 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical practice and successfully pass the Certified Pediatric Nurse exam. The PNCB website has additional information on eligibility requirements and exam details.

In addition to PNCB certification, certain other sub-specialties of pediatric nursing. Pediatric surgery nursing, for example, may require additional certification by other nursing boards.

Related Resource: Become an ICU Nurse


Pediatric nursing can be a rewarding career for nurses with a special interest in pediatric medicine or child development. If you would like to become a pediatric nurse, consider which type of nursing most appeals to you; your desired sub-specialty will help you identify which education and licensure pathways to choose as you pursue pediatric nursing.