Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse salaries in the United States

Average Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Salary

High Confidence

$3,254/week

This is 1% lower than the travel nursing US average of $3,295.

Estimate based on 9309 active jobs in the last 90 days.

What is a Neonatal ICU RN?

Neonatal intensive care unit nurses, also called NICU nurses, care for the most vulnerable patients and make a difference in the lives of infants and their parents. They frequently work in children’s hospitals, medical centers, and public and private hospitals with NICUs. Neonatal ICU nursing is among the highest paying nursing specialties. Work setting, along with several other factors, impacts a NICU nurse’s salary.

NICU nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for newborn infants with serious health issues, such as birth defects, congenital infections, premature birth, and other critical illnesses or specialized needs. They may care for premature or sick infants for weeks or even months until they’re healthy enough to go home.

Prospective neonatal ICU nurses must complete the educational requirements to become registered nurses. They must earn at least an Associate Degree in Nursing from a nursing program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). However, many facilities prioritize NICU nurse applicants with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. All graduates must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam to become an RN.

How a Neonatal ICU RN salary is based

Naturally, time and experience affect how a neonatal ICU RN’s salary is based. Most NICUs require nurses to have a year or more of experience in pediatrics or postpartum/labor and delivery or at least in another area of critical care. Besides impacting base salary, most won’t accept new graduates and many hesitate to accept RNs who only have adult med-surg experience. Once an RN has the experience to transfer to NICU nursing, entry-level NICU nurses usually have smaller starting salaries than those with several years of experience. 

Another primary factor that can impact base earnings is where a NICU RN works, which includes work setting and geographically. Nurses typically earn more working in hospitals, the most common work settings for NICU RNs, but each facility may have differing salary bases. Geography also plays a huge role in the size of a NICU nurse’s paycheck, which includes the state and city. Urban areas tend to pay more than rural areas. Nurses in northern and western states also tend to earn more than those located in the north-central and southeastern parts of the country. California typically is the highest paying state in most nursing specialties. This trend generally holds true for NICU nurses but not always.

NICU nurse salaries are often also based on level of education. Since many hospitals prefer BSN-educated NICU RNs, base salaries will likely reflect this preference. While a nurse with a BSN can expect to earn more than one with an ADN, nurses with advanced degrees can expect to earn even more. 

It’s customary for NICU nurses to have certifications in Basic Life Support, Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support. Completion of the Neonatal Resuscitation Program is also required. Specialty certifications aren’t required, but they’re often recommended and can impact salary and career advancement.

How to increase your Neonatal ICU RN salary

As with most jobs, NICU nurses can expect their salaries to rise with time and experience. However, you can potentially accelerate the pace at which your salary increases while advancing your career through additional education and professional certifications.

Pursue an advanced practice RN position by completing an accredited graduate nurse practitioner program specifically for neonatal nurse practitioners, which can be a master’s DNP or post-master’s program. Within eight years of graduation from your program, take the neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP-BC) certification exam through the National Certification Corporation (NCC).

Other specialized education can also help increase your salary. The Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) from the American Academy of Pediatrics is usually required for employment. It utilizes a blended learning approach that educates you on the care of newborns at birth with a focus on critical communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. The S.T.A.B.L.E. Program is a neonatal education program exclusively focused on the post-resuscitation/pre-transport stabilization care of sick infants.

Specialty certifications can further increase an ICU RN’s salary. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers CCRN (Neonatal) certification after obtaining 1,750 hours in the direct care of critically ill neonatal patients within a two-year period or 2,000 hours within a five-year period and passing an examination. After 24 months of specialty experience and a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct care, earn RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC) through the NCC through examination.

Where do Neonatal Intensive Care Nurses get paid the most?

StateAverage Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
New Hampshire$4,356$4,649
Alaska$4,171$6,473
New Jersey$3,883$6,314
Maine$3,872$5,250
Arizona$3,836$7,135
Colorado$3,772$7,117
Iowa$3,682$5,801
Oregon$3,674$5,751
Idaho$3,605$4,550
Delaware$3,604$4,680

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What cities pay the most for Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse?

CityAverage Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
Ontario, California$7,242$7,242
Fresno, California$5,391$9,621
Gainesville, Florida$5,050$5,050
Mesa, Arizona$5,046$7,135
Stony Brook, New York$5,018$5,018
Greeley, Colorado$4,937$7,117
Rochester, Minnesota$4,933$4,958
Salisbury, Maryland$4,918$5,065
Oak Lawn, Illinois$4,767$4,942
Valhalla, New York$4,757$5,702

Top Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse Jobs

View job details for Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

  • San Luis Obispo, CA
    • 3x12 hrs
    • Nights
Travel
2 days ago

$3,954/wk

View job details for Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

  • Anchorage, AK
    • 3x12 hrs
Travel
2 days ago

$3,916/wk

View job details for Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

  • San Luis Obispo, CA
    • 3x12 hrs
Travel
2 days ago

$3,852/wk

View job details for Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

  • Washington, DC
    • 3x12 hrs
    • Nights
Travel
2 days ago

$3,271/wk

View job details for Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

Travel Nurse RN - NICU - Neonatal Intensive Care

  • Washington, DC
    • 3x12 hrs
    • Nights
Travel
2 days ago

$1,883/wk

What are the highest paying Agencies for Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse jobs?

Average Weekly SalaryMax Weekly Salary
GQR Healthcare$8,400$8,400
LRS Healthcare - Travel Nursing$7,420$7,420
DirectShifts$6,240$6,240
Healthcare Support$5,225$5,225
USSI$5,149$6,023
Gifted Healthcare$5,121$6,512
Voca Health$5,023$7,140
CrossMed$4,701$5,040
MedWave Healthcare Staffing$4,692$5,687
Gale Healthcare Solutions$4,620$6,316