Do You Need a Master's in Nursing to be a Pediatric Nurse?

Pediatric NurseNursing students mapping out their desired career paths may wonder if it is necessary to earn a Master’s in Nursing to be a pediatric nurse. While acquiring a master’s degree certainly expands a nurse’s career options, it is not required to find work as a pediatric nurse.

What Does a Pediatric Nurse Do?

A pediatric nurse provides health care services to infants, children and teens. Those who work in primary care settings like doctor’s offices assist the physician in providing traditional health maintenance care like well-child exams, school physicals, routine developmental screenings and immunizations. They are also expected to help the doctor offer guidance about typical childhood health concerns and diagnose and treat illnesses. Pediatric nurses employed by hospitals care for both children who are battling acute illnesses or injuries and children struggling with chronic conditions. Their duties typically include performing health assessments, administering medications and overseeing therapeutic treatments.

How Does Someone Become A Pediatric Nurse?

The first step to becoming a pediatric nurse is to earn either an associate or a bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited college or university. If possible, students hoping to work in pediatrics should try to complete the clinical parts of their program in a pediatric setting. After completing their degree program, aspiring pediatric nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Exam for Registered Nurses, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Once licensed, they should seek a position in a pediatric setting to gain experience. Many times, nurses who earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing are given preference over those who hold associates degrees when it comes to placements, so aspiring pediatric nurses may want to bear that in mind as they select which nursing degree to pursue. Once a pediatric nurse has amassed a minimum of 1800 hours of clinical experience, they are eligible to sit for the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board’s Certified Pediatric Nurse exam. Pediatric nurses who work in emergency care settings and who have accumulated at least 1000 hours of clinical experience in dealing with pediatric emergencies also have the option of sitting for the Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse exam. This exam is a joint venture of the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Obtaining either of these certifications provides proof of a nurse’s expertise in their chosen field and may open the door to additional professional opportunities.

When Might a Pediatric Nurse Choose to Earn a Master’s Degree in Nursing?

If a pediatric nurse wishes to further develop their professional skills by becoming a type of advanced practice registered nurse known as a pediatric nurse practitioner, they must earn a master’s degree in nursing. Nurse practitioner degree programs include both rigorous academics and clinical experience to train nurses to offer more advanced patient care in a particular specialty. Although some of these programs can be completed in as little as a year, most require at least two years. After completing their degree, graduates must pass their state’s licensing exam. They may also decide to become certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.

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As with other areas of nursing, the possibilities for working in pediatrics expand as a nurse gains more education. While it is not necessary to earn a Master’s in Nursing to be a pediatric nurse, professionals who wish to become pediatric nurse practitioners will need to complete an appropriate graduate-level degree program.