How much do neonatal nurses make?

Updated June 13, 2017

Salaries for neonatal nurses vary significantly depending on the state and city where the nurse works, her educational degree and years of experience, the type of unit she works on, her role within the organisation and the employer she selects. While the median salary for neonatal nurses working at the bedside is £39,760 to £46,156, neonatal nurse practitioners with master's degrees boast a median income of £53,683.


Within the first 28 days of life, newborns receive care in various hospital speciality units: postpartum floors, also known as mother-baby units; newborn, or well-baby, nurseries; and newborn intensive care units (NICUs) designated successively as Level I (least ill) to Level III nurseries (most critically ill).


Neonatal staff nurses provide direct patient care to one or more newborn babies, or a number of mother-baby pairs known as couplets, on designated shifts. Neonatal nurse practitioners typically direct the care delivered to newborns in an NICU by writing orders for nurses and other health-care providers to follow.


While new graduate nurses typically start in units with more stable infants and advance to progressively more intensive nursing care as they become more seasoned, some hospitals do provide new graduate residency programs with a combination of classroom experience, clinical experience with a preceptor and guidance from a mentor that allows a novice nurse to start his career in NICU. Nurses can expect to earn progressively higher salaries as they gain expertise and become more independent in their practice.


Neonatal nurses are generally RNs who have earned either a two-year associate degree or a four-year baccalaureate degree in nursing (BSN) and passed a standardised national licensing exam known as the NCLEX. Advanced-practice nurses such as neonatal nurse practitioners meet all the requirements for RNs and then complete graduate work in their speciality to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) and become licensed in a particular state.

Factors Influencing Salary

Nurses who work in large metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles usually make higher salaries and receive better benefits than those in smaller areas. Reimbursement also varies by region, with California nurses enjoying a median hourly rate of £21.90 while those in Texas earn £16.80. Certification as either a low-risk neonatal nurse (RNC-LRN) or an NICU (RNC-NIC) nurse can lead to either a higher salary or an annual bonus. Non-profit hospitals pay a little less than for-profits.

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About the Author

Sandy Keefe, M.S.N., R.N., has been a freelance writer for over five years. Her articles have appeared in numerous health-related magazines, including "Advance for Nurses" and "Advance for Long-Term Care Management." She has written short stories in anthologies such as "A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs."