11 Best Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) Programs in 2024

Passionate about neonatal nursing? Explore the best neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP) programs in 2024 for career advancement, plus roles and pay. Programs

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Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) hold a special place in the dynamic and rewarding nursing field. These advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) specialize in caring for newborn infants, particularly those critically ill or requiring special medical attention.

Their role is vital in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), delivery rooms, and other healthcare settings. Beyond these intense environments, they work across various settings, including specialized outpatient clinics and follow-up care services, ensuring continuity of care for infants who have graduated from the NICU.

If your calling is to make a significant impact in the lives of newborns and their families, exploring the top NNP programs available in 2024 is a step towards fulfilling that mission. These programs offer a blend of advanced clinical training, cutting-edge research opportunities, and the mentorship of experienced nurses, all of which are integral to shaping competent, compassionate, and resilient NNPs.

Best Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs

Selecting the best nursing programs requires an evaluation of factors such as accreditation, faculty expertise, clinical experiences, student-to-faculty ratio, available specialties, admission and graduation rates, cost, location, and overall reputation. To make an informed decision, allnurses' methodology involved surveying readers to gather feedback about what they value most when choosing from the most popular schools in the United States.

1. Duke University School of Nursing 

Duke University School of Nursing in Durham, NC, offers flexibility with its distance-based learning, high-fidelity simulation exercises, expert faculty, and wide clinical network, which helps students complete clinicals near their location. 

Duke offers MSN and Post-Graduate Certificate NNP programs, which are accredited through the CCNE. The MSN program prepares students for NNP certification within 2.5 years, with a total of 43 credits and 616 clinical hours. The total tuition is $14,525 per semester.

2. The Ohio State University 

Located in Columbus, The Ohio State University College of Nursing offers some of the nation's best online CCNE-accredited NNP programs. They offer a traditional MSN, BSN-to-DNP, Post-Master's Study program, and Graduate Entry Master of Science Program.

Students have the flexibility to complete the distance learning program part-time or full-time and even complete their clinicals where they live. It has a streamlined and well-thought-out curriculum backed up by professional and expert professors in this field. Students are also expected to accomplish 600 hours of clinical experience, which includes providing care to healthy children, those with common acute illnesses, and children with stable chronic conditions under preceptor supervision

3. Vanderbilt University 

Out of Nashville, TN, Vanderbilt University's comprehensive curriculum, instructed by highly qualified faculty and renowned NNPs, provides students with personalized attention due to low faculty-to-student ratios. This personalized approach leads to students achieving above-average results on the NNP certification exam and securing employment shortly after program completion. Additionally, the program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

The school offers MSN and Post-Master's Certificate programs. The MSN NNP program can be completed within three semesters of full-time study and requires 41 credits in core MSN and NNP-specific courses.

4. University of South Alabama 

USA in Mobile, AL, provides a range of CCNE-accredited NNP programs, including a Post-Graduate Certificate, MSN, DNP, as well as an MSN program tailored for RNs holding non-nursing bachelor's degrees. The NNP specialty within their curriculum prepares graduates to provide advanced nursing care to neonates across various clinical contexts. Furthermore, these graduates have the option to pursue doctoral studies, showcasing their capacity to apply advanced knowledge and contribute to the advancement of nursing practice.

The tuition fee is $423 per credit hour for in-state residents and $846 for out-of-state residents. 

5. University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing 

The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing offers an MSN and a post-graduate program in Philadelphia, PA. The MSN program can be completed full-time or part-time, with a curriculum including core, theory, clinical, and electives. This college stands out for its comprehensive preparation in neonatal care, addressing a range of infant medical needs, and its collaborative approach with other pediatric programs, providing students with valuable and unique experiences in the field.

Apart from this, Penn also ensures that it accommodates students with busy schedules. While most courses are conducted in person, some are offered in online or hybrid formats. All clinical experiences, however, are required to be completed in person, either at Penn's campus or affiliated clinical sites. 

The MSN NNP program at UPENN can be completed in 2-3 years, depending on whether students choose to study full-time or part-time. It requires completion of 12-course units, with a total program cost of $84,552.

6. University of Pittsburgh 

In Pennsylvania, the Doctor of Nursing Practice NNP program at the University of Pittsburgh trains graduates to manage high-risk infant and child health within families, performing an expanded clinician role in collaboration with neonatologists and other pediatric specialists. Graduates take on leadership roles in different clinical settings, particularly in intensive care nurseries and high-risk follow-up clinics, with a strong focus on the care and management of critically ill newborns. This comprehensive approach and specialized training make it one of the best programs for aspiring NNPs.

Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the University of Pittsburgh offers BSN-to-DNP, MSN-to-DNP, and Post-Professional Certificate NNP program pathways. The BSN-to-DNP program requires 93 credits in MSN, DNP, and NNP-specific courses, with a total tuition cost of $26,136 for full-time enrollment per academic year.

7. University of Alabama at Birmingham 

The MSN NNP program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), equips students to provide advanced nursing care for newborns, infants, and toddlers up to two years old, whether they are acutely ill or facing long-term health issues typical in the neonatal population. It offers RN-to-MSN, MSN, Post BSN-to-DNP, and Post-Graduate APRN Certificate programs. The RN-to-MSN program requires 35 didactic credits and 10 credit hours in clinical practicum completed over six consecutive semesters.

To cater to the needs of working nurses, the curriculum is offered part-time in a distance-accessible format. This approach combines synchronous online classes with on-campus intensives where students participate in planned laboratory and simulation experiences focused on mastering essential skills. Tuition is $525 per credit hour for residents and non-residents.

8. University of Connecticut 

Out of Storrs, CT, the University of Connecticut offers MSN, BSN-to-DNP, and Post-Graduate Certificate programs. Online NNP programs mandate a minimum of 2 years of full-time RN-level experience in a level three neonatal intensive care unit before commencing clinical practicum courses. Your options include:

  • MSN: 44 credit hours that can be completed within five semesters full-time.
  • DNP: 76 to 82 credit hours
  • Post-Graduate Certificate: 29 credit hours

9. University of Cincinnati 

The NNP program at the University of Cincinnati is CCNE-accredited and open to residents of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. It features online core courses and offers students the choice to participate in intensive components, either in-person or virtually. Pathways include MSN and Post-Master's Certificate programs. The NNP MSN program requires 44 credits and can be completed within five semesters if enrolled full-time. 

The tuition fee is $836 per credit for part-time resident students and $8,359 per semester for full-time.

10. University of Missouri 

The University of Missouri offers a CCNE accredited Post-Master's Certificate and an MSN in NNP. This program in Kansas City, MO, utilizes a blended delivery method, combining online coursework with mandatory on-campus visits. It follows a semester-based structure, allowing full-time students to complete three courses per semester within two years, while part-time students can choose to take one or two courses each semester and graduate in three years.

It is also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Total credit hours is 45, and tuition is $40,213.80.

11. Rush University 

Rush University's online DNP NNP program offers a comprehensive and dynamic curriculum that prepares students for advanced practice in neonatal care. The program located in Chicago, IL, emphasizes the integration of cutting-edge research and clinical experiences to develop the clinical skills and leadership qualities necessary for providing high-quality care to neonatal patients and their families. With a focus on evidence-based practice and interprofessional collaboration, graduates of the program are equipped to address the complex healthcare needs of neonates and their families.

The DNP NNP program at Rush University is designed to accommodate the needs of working professionals, with both part-time and full-time pathways available. The BSN to DNP pathway requires 68 credit hours, while the MSN to DNP pathway requires 56 credit hours. The program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), ensuring that students receive a high-quality education that meets rigorous national standards. With a tuition cost of $1,344 per credit hour, Rush University's DNP NNP program offers an accessible and affordable option for advancing your career in neonatal nursing.

Neonatal NP Program Overview

A Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) program is a specialized educational track for Registered Nurses aiming to focus on the care of neonates, particularly those with critical health conditions. This program equips nurses to provide comprehensive health care services, including the assessment, diagnosis, and management of various neonatal conditions. NNPs are vital in settings like neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), hospitals, and specialty clinics.

Achieving NNP through MSN, DNP, or Post-Graduate Certificate

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): An MSN program specializing in neonatal care is a common pathway to becoming an NNP. Typically, this degree takes 2-3 years to complete and involves rigorous coursework along with clinical practicums. Graduates are eligible for NNP certification exams.

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): A DNP degree represents a more advanced practice focus, generally taking 3-4 years to complete. A DNP with a neonatal specialization deepens clinical skills and often includes a significant project or dissertation that showcases expertise in neonatal nursing.

Post-Graduate Certificate: This option is suitable for nurses who already possess an MSN or DNP in another nursing specialty but wish to transition into neonatal care. These programs are shorter, focusing specifically on the competencies required for NNPs, and can usually be completed in about a year.

NNP Coursework

Coursework for NNP programs covers specialized topics essential for advanced neonatal care, including:

  • Neonatal Pathophysiology: Understanding the physiological processes and anomalies in neonates.
  • Advanced Neonatal Nursing Practices: Techniques for managing complex neonatal conditions.
  • Pharmacology for Neonates: Specific considerations for medication administration in newborns.
  • Developmental Care: Strategies to support the developmental needs of neonates and their families.
  • Ethics in Neonatal Care: Navigating ethical considerations unique to neonatal patients.
  • Advanced Health Assessment of the Neonate: Comprehensive assessment techniques for neonates.
  • Neonatal Nutrition: Nutritional needs and feeding strategies for premature and ill neonates.
  • Family-centered Care in Neonatology: Approaches to involving families in the care process.

NNP Clinical Training

Clinical training is a cornerstone of the NNP program, providing practical experience in neonatal care through:

  • Hands-on Patient Care: Direct care of neonates under expert supervision, focusing on critical care, developmental support, and family involvement.
  • Diverse Clinical Environments: Exposure to various clinical settings such as NICUs, delivery rooms, and specialized pediatric clinics.
  • Care for High-risk Populations: Training includes managing premature infants and those with congenital abnormalities or critical illnesses.
  • Team Collaboration: Learning to work effectively with a multidisciplinary team including pediatricians, neonatologists, and other healthcare professionals.

NNP Clinical Hour Requirements

  • National Task Force Standards for Quality Nurse Practitioner Education (NTFS): Requires 750 direct patient care hours for all NP students.
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Requires 1,000+ practice hours for DNP students.

Neonatal NP Program Admission Requirements

Admission prerequisites are designed to ensure that candidates have a robust nursing foundation and relevant experiences. The minimum requirements for most NNP programs are:

  • Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN): Typically required from an accredited nursing school.
  • RN Licensure: Candidates must hold a current RN license without encumbrances.
  • Neonatal Clinical Experience: Prior experience in a neonatal setting is often required, emphasizing direct care of high-risk infants.
  • Undergraduate Coursework: This may encompass subjects such as statistics, research methods, as well as physical and behavioral sciences.
  • Minimum GPA: A GPA of typically 3.0 or higher is required for entry into most programs.
  • Background Check: A comprehensive background check is often required to ensure patient safety and integrity.
  • Drug Screening: Applicants may need to pass a drug screening test.
  • Health Assessment: Proof of up-to-date immunizations and a recent physical health assessment are typically required.

Neonatal NP Job Description

Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) specializing in neonatal care, focusing on providing specialized medical treatment to critically ill newborns. They play a crucial role in managing newborns who are premature, underweight, or diagnosed with conditions such as congenital anomalies and infections. NNPs care for both premature and full-term infants, addressing a wide range of conditions that require intensive medical attention.

While NNPs are primarily based in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), they also work in delivery rooms, emergency departments, and specialized clinics, collaborating closely with neonatologists, pediatricians, and other healthcare professionals. In these diverse settings, NNPs are integral members of multidisciplinary teams dedicated to delivering comprehensive care to newborns, ensuring they receive the best possible treatment and support during their critical early stages of life.


The responsibilities of a NNP include:

  • Patient Assessment: NNPs conduct thorough physical assessments of newborns, monitor vital signs, and interpret diagnostic tests.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment: They diagnose health conditions and develop treatment plans, including administering medications, providing respiratory care, or performing medical procedures.
  • Patient Management: NNPs monitor their patients' progress, adjust treatment plans as necessary, and provide emergency care when needed.
  • Family Support: They provide education and emotional support to the families of newborns, helping them understand their baby's condition and care needs.
  • Collaboration and Consultation: NNPs collaborate with a team of healthcare professionals and consult with specialists to ensure that newborns receive the best possible care.

To learn more about the role, responsibilities, and steps to become a Neonatal NP,  click Here.

Neonatal NP Program Costs

The financial commitment for pursuing a Nurse Practitioner (NP) education varies, with several factors influencing the overall cost:

  • Tuition Fees: These fees depend on the type of institution and whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student. At institutions like the University of Cincinnati, tuition costs are $8,359 for in-state students and $8,509 for those from out of state, per semester.
  • Pathway Selection: Choosing a post-master's certificate can be a cost-saving alternative compared to enrolling in a full MSN or DNP program due to the focused nature of the curriculum.
  • Supplies and Textbooks: Outlays for educational materials and medical equipment can vary widely.
  • Online Resource Costs: Students may incur additional costs for digital resources required in online or hybrid learning formats.
  • Laboratory Expenses: Some courses may charge additional lab fees for the usage of specialized equipment or materials.
  • Administrative Charges: Students should consider application, graduation, and other miscellaneous institutional fees.
  • Maintenance Costs: The cost of living, including accommodation, food, and transport, is a significant factor for students, particularly for those who will not be earning an income during their studies.
  • Licensure and Certification Fees: After completing the NP Program, there are fees associated with board certification and state licensure that must be factored into financial planning.

Financial Aid Insights

NP programs require significant financial investment, so students should explore federal grants, loans, work-study options, and scholarships. Planning ahead can help manage costs effectively

Neonatal NP Salary Expectations in 2024

The income of a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) may fluctuate significantly based on factors like their geographic area, professional experience, environment, and the extent of their education and certification.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for NPs was $124,680 or $59.94 hourly. 

The top-paying states for NPs are:

  • California: $158,130
  • New Jersey: $143,250
  • Massachusetts: $138,700
  • Oregon: $136,250
  • Nevada: $136,230

While BLS does not go into the specifics between the various types of NPs, ZipRecruiter reports that the salary range for NNPs can vary between $94,000 to $148,000, depending on the state of practice. 

The top-paying states for NNPs are:

  • Washington: $164,675
  • New York: $147,372
  • Vermont: $144,538
  • California: $140,530
  • Maine: $136,715

Industries that have the highest levels of NP employment:

  • Office of the Physicians: 122,830
  • General Medical & Surgical Hospitals: 58,080
  • Outpatient Care Centers: 23,760
  • Office of Other Health Practitioners: 10,950
  • Home Health Care Services: 7,460

Are Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs Worth It?

Embarking on a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program is a significant career move for nurses keen on specializing in neonatal care. As with any specialized educational program, it's important to weigh the potential benefits against the challenges.

Pros of NNP Programs

  1. High Demand: NNPs are critical in the healthcare field due to the need for specialized care in NICUs and beyond. As medical advancements increase survival rates for high-risk newborns, the demand for NNPs remains robust.
  2. Competitive Salary: The specialized skill set of an NNP is often met with lucrative salary offerings, reflecting the advanced level of care they provide.
  3. Professional Autonomy: NNPs enjoy a greater degree of independence in their roles, often making key decisions in the care management of their patients.
  4. Job Satisfaction: The role of an NNP can be extremely gratifying, with the opportunity to make a life-changing impact on newborns and their families.
  5. Diverse Work Environments: NNPs have opportunities across various settings, including hospitals, specialty clinics, and follow-up outpatient services, offering a range of workplace options.

Cons of NNP Programs

  1. Emotional Intensity: The NICU environment can be emotionally intense, dealing with critically ill newborns and anxious families may contribute to stress.
  2. Education Investment: NNP programs require a substantial time and financial commitment, considering the advanced level of education and clinical training involved.
  3. Liability Exposure: The high-stakes environment of neonatal care carries inherent risks, making liability a serious consideration for NNPs.
  4. Credentialing: NNPs face strict credentialing and ongoing certification, which can be demanding and vary by state.
  5. Practice Limitations: Depending on geographic location, NNPs may encounter practice limitations that can influence the scope of their autonomy and responsibilities.

Deciding on an NNP program involves a balance of the professional and personal rewards it offers against the emotional, financial, and regulatory demands of the specialty.

Neonatal NP State Scope of Practice

The professional scope and operational independence of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs) are governed by regulatory frameworks that vary from state to state. These frameworks dictate the extent to which NNPs can exercise clinical responsibilities, ranging from full autonomy in some regions to mandated physician oversight in others.

For those considering a career as an NNP, a comprehensive understanding of these state-specific guidelines is crucial. It is important to recognize that not all advanced practice nursing programs are universally accepted across states, and some may fall short of meeting local practice requirements. Therefore, selecting a program that aligns with the regulatory environment of the state in which one aims to practice is critical. This alignment ensures that the program will adequately prepare the student for the specific roles and responsibilities unique to the NNP field in that state.

Key considerations for aspiring NNPs include:

  • State Licensure: Obtaining licensure tailored to the specific state of practice is a prerequisite for working as an NNP. Relocating often necessitates undergoing the licensure process anew.
  • Practice Autonomy as Outlined by American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP):
    • Full Practice States: In states like New York, Washington, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, NNPs can independently diagnose, prescribe, and manage patient care.
    • Reduced Practice States: States such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, Illinois, and Louisiana require NNPs to engage in collaborative agreements for certain clinical tasks.
    • Restricted Practice States: In jurisdictions including Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, and South Carolina, NNPs are subject to strict supervision or team management mandates.

Aspiring NNPs should meticulously research the specific regulations of the state where they wish to practice, particularly if they are educated in a different state, to ensure compliance with all local Board of Nursing requirements and professional standards for NNPs.

NNP National Certification 

Although specific licensure requirements may differ from state to state, a consistent requirement for all Nurse Practitioners, including those specializing as Neonatal Nurse Practitioners (NNPs), is to secure national certification. For NNPs, this means achieving the NNP-BC credential through the National Certification Corporation (NCC), which is an essential step for those entering this specialized field. National certification is required prior to licensure in most states. 

How to Choose the Best Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Program

Selecting the right NNP Program depends on various personal preferences. Some students emphasize tuition costs, while others prioritize APRN certification pass rates, academic reputation, or other considerations. A survey by allnurses revealed the top reasons nursing students chose their programs:

  1. Cost
  2. High Pass Rate
  3. Location
  4. Academic Reputation
  5. Availability of Financial Aid and Scholarships
  6. Length of Time to Obtain Degree
  7. Flexibility of Schedule
  8. Curriculum
  9. Campus and Surroundings
  10. Nursing Clinicals Location
  11. Availability of Online Courses

For prospective NNP students, consider these additional factors when considering the right program for you:

  • Specialization: Ensure the NP Program's concentration is for Neonatal NPs
  • Accreditation: Verify accreditation from CCNE or ACEN to ensure educational quality.
  • Certification and Licensure: The program should meet the requirements for APRN certification and state licensure.
  • Certification Pass Rates: Investigate the program's success rates to gauge exam preparedness.
  • Clinical Training: Look for programs that offer diverse and high-quality clinicals and clinical placement support. 
  • Faculty Expertise: Confirm that faculty members are qualified and experienced in mental health disciplines.
  • Support Services: Assess the availability of mentoring, career services, and academic support.
  • Technology and Resources: Check for access to the latest technology and resources in mental health education.
  • Alumni Network: Consider the strength of the alumni network for job placement and professional growth.
  • Interprofessional Education: Ensure opportunities for collaborative learning with other healthcare disciplines.
  • State Regulations: Make sure the program is recognized by the state Board of Nursing in your intended state of practice.

Choosing the right program depends on your preferences and learning style. By evaluating these factors, you can make an informed decision on the best NNP school for you. For students who love to learn at an accelerated pace, consider exploring the Best Fastest NNP Programs in 2024.

10 Reasons NNP Program Accreditation Matters

  1. Guaranteed to meet nursing education standards
  2. Ensures compliance with state regulations
  3. Guarantees minimum clinical hour requirement
  4. Supports APRN licensure eligibility
  5. Prepares for certification exams
  6. Facilitates credit transfers
  7. Enhances professional credibility
  8. Improves employment prospects
  9. Enables access to financial aid
  10. Promotes long-term career success

Given these considerations, it is vital students verify their chosen NNP programs is accredited by reputable bodies like the Commission onCommission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE),  Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), or the NLN Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What kind of education is required to become a NNP?

To become a NNP, one must first obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN). After gaining some experience, they can then pursue an MSN or a DNP with a specialization in neonatal care. After graduation, they must pass a national certification exam to become a certified NNP.

Q: Can NNPs prescribe medication?

Yes, NNPs can prescribe medication. However, the specific regulations regarding prescription authority can vary by state.

Q: What are the benefits of becoming a NNP?

Becoming a NNP can be a rewarding career choice. NNPs have the opportunity to impact the lives of newborns and their families significantly. They also have a high degree of autonomy in their practice, and the field offers excellent job prospects and competitive salaries.

Q: What skills are important for an NNP?

NNPs require various skills, including excellent communication and interpersonal skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, the ability to work under pressure, and a deep understanding of neonatal care. They also need to be compassionate, patient, and able to support families emotionally.

Editorial Team / Admin

Julia Liou has 4 years experience as a RN and specializes in Postpartum/Public Health.

10 Articles   210 Posts
Specializes in Neonatal Nursing. Has 4 years experience.

The University of Florida no longer offers the NNP program, and has not for many years.


4,288 Posts

The University of Pittsburgh no longer offers the MSN NNP option.  I believe the only NNP option is the MSN to DNP option for master's prepared nurses whose degree is with an NNP focus.

Edited by chare

Oof, this comment section is pretty hard to read. UW also had a great program, and it closed a few years ago, too. Penn still has a program, but the recent cohorts have only been 2-3 students from what I understand. So many programs are closing because they aren't financially viable since the cohorts are so small.

A lot of NICUs are already in an extremely tough spot with APP staffing as experienced NNPs continue to retire in the setting of all of these schools closing, and I anticipate that it's only going to get worse.  Some of the bigger children's hospitals are trialing NICU residency programs for new grad PAs with no pediatrics background, and that's going...about as poorly as you'd expect (considering NNP programs mandate a full two years of NICU experience before you can even apply). As we continue to resuscitate smaller and sicker kids and the census of NICU kids requiring NICU care continues to grow, I'd imagine the NNP-patient ratios are only going to get worse. At some of my former NICUs, open NNP positions would go unfilled for *years* because the hospital/neonatology practices weren't willing to provide competitive salaries. What a mess.

Specializes in Nursing student.
NICU_Nurse_Casti said:

The University of Florida no longer offers the NNP program, and has not for many years.

My sister went there, I thought they did. Oh well I will reach out and ask her