Cheryl - let me try and answer some of your questions.
For schooling, you need to go to either a 2 or 4 year college to get your nursing degree, and then pass the state boards. This is to get a general nursing degree, and there is very little coverage of neonatology during this time. At the end of your nursing program, you might get the chance to choose a specialty to spend time in, like a short internship. If this is possible, jump on it so that you get some NICU experience before graduation. Otherwise, many NICUs hire new grads, and you get all your necessary education during orientation. It's not necessary to spend a year or two doing general adult or pediatric nursing because NICU is a different kind of medicine, but some people find it helpful to work in a normal newborn nursery first.
The future of neonatology is wide open. Over the past 10 years, the age of viability has dropped down to 23 weeks gestation, and 400 grams in weight. Because of this, there have been increased complications related to such extreme prematurity, so much research is being done right now to develop new treatments. Between the age of viability being lowered and popular infertility treatments producing more multiple births, this field will continue to thrive. Much research is also being done into new treatment options for full-term babies that are critically ill, from either surgical, infectious, cardiac, or respiratory conditions. It's very exciting, the kinds of things they're coming up with to help these babies survive!
The benefits of nursing are many, and the biggest thing is that right now there is a shortage. You will always be able to find work as a nurse, wherever you go. There are so many different types of nursing, and so many kinds of jobs, that you will never be bored. Even if you stay in the same place forever, it is quite possible to learn something new everyday. Other benefits include very flexible scheduling - you can work full or part time, any time of the day. It really helps with things like child-care. And of course hospitals offer lots of sick and vacation time, and some are even paying off student loans for new grads.
Overall, I have to say that NICU nurses seem to have a higher job satisfaction than other types of nurses. We might not like hospital politics, but usually our actual jobs are reasonable. We typically still have safe nurse to patient ratios, and from what I've seen, most units are very teamwork oriented. Many NICUs have very low nurse turnover rates, so you'd be working with very experienced coworkers who have seen neonatology grow and change over the years. And working with babies and their families has its own benefits. It's an amazing feeling.
Dream2BAneoNurs - yes, there is a HUGE difference between being a NICU nurse and a neonatologist, or even a neonatal nurse practitioner. Basically, if you're a doctor or NNP, your job is to plan babies' medical treatment and make decisions about their futures, do procedures, attend deliveries, consult with other specialists, cover the entire unit population, etc. If you're a NICU nurse, you are actually the one at the bedside working with the babies and their families. You are the one doing all the hands-on caring for the babies. It goes way beyond giving medications and doing procedures - you are the one responsible for the well-being of these kids. It's an amazing responsibility. Overall, if you want to be the one in charge, making decisions, "curing" babies, doing major procedures, giving orders...that's a doc or NNP. But if you want to be the one actually spending time with the babies and their families, caring for them physically and emotionally - that's a nurse.