What are Neonatal Nurse license requirements?

To become licensed as a Neonatal Nurse, you must first be trained to obtain a nursing degree. You must complete all requirements for licensure, gain experience and obtain any necessary certifications.

Already a Registered Nurse, they may consider Neonatal Nursing as a career option if they are attracted to this area of nursing. Neonatal Nursing are the nursing professionals charged with assisting in the care of infants who are premature or are considered at risk.

Of all the specialties in the nursing field, Neonatal Nursing requires more specialization to enter. For that reason, a prospective Neonatal Nurse must have certain character traits, educational requirements and certifications before pursuing a career in Neonatal Nursing.

Characteristics and skills a prospective Neonatal Nurse should possess

Neonatal Nurses must possess, in addition to all the skills of a registered nurse, the skills necessary to treat at-risk newborn infants and their families. They must possess a love for babies and a strong desire to care for them. Must be tolerant and understanding of how babies act.

Must be patient and caring and have the ability to work with the great emotional stress of newborns who are in a life or death situation. Have excellent communication skills, empathy and compassion. Possess the ability to have their personal feelings not interfere with their critical judgment.

They must be professional in every good sense of the word, with attention to detail and the ability to make decisions quickly and independently.

What education is required to qualify for a Neonatal Nurse license?

As mentioned above, the first requirement to aspire to become a Neonatal Nurse, is to be a registered nurse. This means, you must obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing or an Associate’s Degree. They must go through a stage of supervised clinical practice and attain a nursing license.

In order to become a registered nurse (RN), you must pass the National Board Licensure Examination, in addition to any other requirements of the state in which you live. Upon graduation, a Neonatal Nurse candidate can gain experience working in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).

It is recommended for an aspiring Neonatal Nurse to have an internship in the level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. To become an advanced practice nurse, such as a Neonatal Nurse, one must obtain either a Master’s Degree or a Doctoral Degree. It is of utmost importance to have the necessary education and experience in this demanding field of nursing.

Why is a Neonatal Nurse license necessary?

Newborns, because they have a different physiology, unique health conditions and because they do not fight infections and diseases as an adult can, need nurses with special training. This training is not only in the care of newborn infants, but also in the pathological processes and pathophysiology of neonates.

Training to perform appropriate assessments of Neonates is very important. Obtaining licensure is the proof of the Nurse’s training in Neonatology. Also in order to work, some employers require Neonatal Nurse certification for NICU, ER and other Neonatal specialty areas.

Certifications and Licensure

After working in a Neonatal Unit and receiving their graduate degree, nurses often choose to take the examination to certify and validate their knowledge. Certification can be obtained for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing through the National Certification Corporation.

There are 4 areas of competency for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RN), These include:

  • General assessment
  • Physiology and pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Professional practice.

Where can one obtain a Neonatal Nurse certification?

Nurses can obtain a certification as a Neonatal Nurse from one of these sites:

‘American Association of Critical Care Nurses’ (AACN).

Certification obtained:

  • Intensive Care Registered Nurse (Neonatal).
  • Critical Care Nurse Practitioner (Neonatal).
  • Acute care clinical nurse specialist (Neonatal).


  • CCRNN (Neonatal).
  • CCRN-K (Neonatal).
  • ACCNS-N (Neonatal).


Requirements for certification are going to depend on the type of certification desired. For CCRN certification the requirements include:

  • A current unencumbered RN or APRN license.
  • A minimum of 1,750 hours as an RN or APRN in the previous two years. Half of those hours must have been in the year most recent year to the completion of the application.
  • Have been for a minimum of 5 years practicing as an RN or APRN, with a minimum of 2,000 hours worked in the direct care of critically ill neonates. Of those hours, 144 must have been in the year prior to application.

‘National Certification Corporation’ (NCC).

Certification earned:

  • Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Practitioner.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.
  • Low-risk neonatal nurse practitioner.
  • Inpatient obstetric nurse midwifery.
  • Maternal nursing for newborns.


  • RNC-NIC.
  • RNC-OB.
  • RNC-MNN.
  • RNC-LRN.
  • NNP-BC.


  • Current RN license.
  • 24 months minimum specialty experience as an RN with a minimum of 2000 hours is required. These hours may be obtained in direct patient care, administration or research.
  • Hours and practice time must be met.


The requirements for Neonatal Nursing licensure differ for each state. Monetary fees and other state-specific criteria are also associated with all license renewals and certifications.

NICU Nurses have no specific requirements beyond state-mandated continuing education. However, advanced certification, such as CCRN and RNC-NIC, requires specific CEUs. All NICU Nurses regardless of advanced certification must maintain an RN license.

Marlene J. Shockley

My name is Marlene J. Shockley, and I am a Registered Nurse (RN). I have always been interested in helping people and Nursing seemed like the perfect career for me. After completing my Nursing Degree, I worked in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and home health care. I have also had the opportunity to work as a Travelling Nurse, which has allowed me to see different parts of the country and meet new people. No matter where I am working, I enjoy getting to know my patients and their families and helping them through whatever medical challenges they may be facing.