Our well-baby nursery uses CNAs, so that's where nursing students who want to go into NICU try to work. Some also are unit secretaries. Since med/surg is so different from NICU, working as a CNA there might not help much.
The more education you have, the better - it opens more doors, but you may want to work as a BSN before you go on for your Masters. Now days, a Masters is required for most research and management positions and certainly for Nurse Educators. There isn't much if any difference in day-to-day bedside NICU nursing between those with ADN degrees or those with BSNs or Masters, but with an advanced degree, you aren't "stuck" at the bedside.
What does being a neonatal nurse include as far as duties go? That is a very big question and it depends on the unit. There are wide variations in the types of babies that different hospitals have, what the duties of others are (like Residents, or RTs) so what the nurses do varies.
Assessment is a big part of what we do. Babies can't tell us that their tummy hurts, their IV site is leaking or swelling, they're having a little trouble breathing, etc. so it is up to us to do a thorough assessment and monitor them for any problems.
There are a lot of tasks that we do and every task has an assessment component: a diaper change isn't just a change of pants for the baby,; it is an opportunity to check the tummy, monitor output and observe the stool for signs of problems like feeding intolerance ore NEC. If the baby has an umbilical line, we check for circulatory compromise. Other tasks we do: start and maintain IVs, give medications, feed babies either with a tube into their stomach or with a bottle, and at my hospital we do a lot of breastfeeding teaching. Draw labwork. Suction ETT tubes and little noses. The list could go on and on.
Evaluation of all of the info we collect during assessments, data from the monitor, labwork and everything else we do, see, feel, smell. All of this has to be tucked into our brains and pulled together to assist us in decision making.
Teaching parents how to care for their babies is a big part of what we do to, as is explaining tests and procedures.
These are just some very general categories of things we do. Do a search for threads. Here are a few:
Read "Baby E.R.: The Heroic Doctors and Nurses Who Perform Medicine's Tiniest Miracles" by Edward Humes to see what goes on in a large NICU.