Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse Salary Guide

A PICU nurse works in the pediatric intensive care unit of a hospital. They work specifically with toddlers, children and adolescents who are critically ill or injured, often in life-threatening situations. PICU nurses typically only work with a few patients at a time since the children in their care need constant monitoring and treatment. They use specialized skills to assess and care for their patients, working alongside doctors, specialists and other care team members.

How do you become a pediatric intensive care RN?

Your first steps toward becoming a pediatric intensive care RN are to earn a nursing degree and become a licensed RN in your state. Most nurses don't go straight to the PICU after receiving an RN license. You need hands-on experience to gain PICU skills. This experience might happen during nursing school with practicum hours in a PICU setting. As you start working, you might gain skills and experience in pediatrics or the ER that you can transfer to the PICU.

What credentials/licensing does a pediatric intensive care RN require?

The most basic credential you need to become a PICU nurse is a current RN license in good standing. All RNs must obtain Basic Life Support credentials, and since you work with children, you also need Pediatric Advanced Life Support certification. Some hospitals may require Neonatal Resuscitation Program completion.

Although additional certification isn't usually required to work as a PICU nurse, earning advanced credentials in the field can help you advance in your career. Many of these certifications require you to work with pediatric patients for a certain number of years. Some certifications for pediatric nurses include:

Average Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse Salary

$43.42/hour

The average salary for a Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse is $43.42 per hour. This is 2% higher than the nursing US average of $42.53.

Last updated on June 16, 2024. Based on active jobs on Vivian.com.

Salaries for Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse compared to Registered Nurse National Averages

$43.42/hour

2% higher than the nursing US average.

$42.53/hour

United States

Where do Pediatric Intensive Care Nurses get paid the most?
StateAverage Hourly SalaryMax Hourly Salary
Oregon$58$85
North Carolina$50$52
Pennsylvania$50$66
New York$48$70
Texas$43$50
Washington$41$58
Connecticut$40$54
Florida$39$44
New Jersey$35$55
What are the highest paying Employers and Agencies for Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse jobs?

Last updated on June 16, 2024. Information based on active jobs on Vivian.com and pay data from BLS and around the web.

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Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse Career Guide

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How can you increase your pay as a pediatric intensive care RN?

Gaining as much experience in pediatrics and critical care as possible could help you earn more. As you gain experience in pediatrics, you can work toward obtaining pediatric nursing certifications, which could help you get a raise or find a higher-paying job in a PICU. 

The type of PICU you work in can also affect your pay. Community PICUs deal with more common pediatric critical illnesses and are usually housed in general hospitals. Tertiary PICUs offer more advanced care than community-based PICUs to address the complex needs of specific patient populations. Quaternary PICUs focus on highly complex cases and often deal with specialized situations, such as cancer or cardiovascular diseases. Tertiary and quaternary PICUs are likely in specialty hospitals, which according to the BLS, paid more than general hospitals in May 2022. Working in a PICU that handles more complex cases could come with higher pay.

How much does a staff pediatric intensive care RN make?

Staff pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) registered nurses (RNs) earned an average of $44.47 per hour, according to Vivian Health's salary data sourced on May 1, 2023. That was 9% higher than the average hourly staff nurse pay of $40.57.

Is pediatric intensive care nursing a growing career?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides job outlook information for the entire registered nursing profession and doesn’t break down data by specialty. It predicts that the employment of registered nurses will increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031. Like other specialties, the potential growth for pediatric intensive care RN jobs may increase further as nurses leave the field or retire.

What types of employers/facilities have the most pediatric intensive care RNs?

Pediatric intensive care RNs typically work in hospitals due to the nature of their positions. The children they work with are critically ill and need the higher-level resources found in hospitals. Hospitals employing PICU nurses could include state, local or private hospitals, with children’s hospitals a popular option for pediatric intensive unit RNs. According to May 2021 BLS data, hospitals employed 60% of all RNs. In May 2022, general medical and surgical hospitals employed nearly 31% of RNs, while specialty hospitals employed just over 23%.

Which employers/facilities have the highest pay?

Per May 2022 data from the BLS, outpatient care centers paid the highest rates among healthcare facilities at $97,200, with specialty hospitals coming in second at $91,290. However,  nontraditional workplaces, such as wholesale trade agents and pharmaceutical manufacturing, paid more than traditional settings. Because these employers typically employ RNs for occupational health programs, it’s doubtful a PICU nurse would seek these employment options.

How does PICU nursing pay compare to similar healthcare jobs?

PICU nurses often earn more than RNs working in other specialties in less critical medical settings. According to salary data from Vivian Health on May 1, 2023, PICU RN wages were higher than family medicine nurse salaries, which paid an average of $40.57 per hour on this date compared to $44.47. Other specialties with lower pay rates on this date included endoscopy nurse salaries, averaging $40.49 per hour. Nurses taking on low-level leadership roles earned comparable wages on this date. A case management nurse's salary averaged $44.46 per hour, just one cent less than PICU nurses.

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Pediatric Intensive Care Nurse FAQs

What is a Pediatric ICU RN?

Pediatric intensive care unit nurses, also called PICU nurses, work at major hospitals in specialized departments that provide intensive care for babies, children, and adolescents. They excel at using kid-friendly approaches that put their young patients at ease during potentially painful and/or scary exams and treatments. Because they efficiently handle the stress of high-acuity patients in busy community and children’s hospitals, PICU nurses are always in demand and among the higher-paying nurse specialists.

PICU nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for children of all ages with serious medical conditions that require them to be monitored in an intensive care unit. PICU patients may suffer from a wide variety of potentially life-threatening ailments or conditions. Because these patients tend to be unstable and require constant monitoring, PICU nurses usually only care for one to three patients at a time to ensure swift intervention when necessary.


Becoming a PICU nurse requires earning either an Associate Degree in Nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Some facilities may prioritize applicants with a four-year BSN over a two-year ADN and may require additional pediatric education and support training. All nursing graduates must pass the NCLEX-RN licensing exam to become practicing registered nurses.

How a Pediatric ICU RN salary is based

PICU nurses can expect a higher salary base than some nursing roles simply because it’s a more intense working environment. However, numerous factors can impact base salary, such as education. Since facilities often lean towards BSN-educated RNs for critical care roles, your level of education may affect your base PICU nursing salary. Other key factors include experience, certifications, workplace, and location.

Time and experience naturally influence the base salary of PICU RNs. Experienced nurses have a much higher earning potential than entry-level nurses who’ve just begun their careers. Therefore, PICU nurses with less than five years of experience can expect a base salary on the lower end of the pay scale than those with 10 or more years of experience.

Earning key certifications can impact your salary and some are required before you can begin working. RNs must have Basic Life Support certification and ICU nurses need Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification. Because PICU nurses work with children, they also need advanced skill certification in Pediatric Advanced Life Support. Specialty certifications aren’t usually required but are often recommended, and they can impact your salary and career advancement.

Each healthcare facility may have its own unique factors that determine salary bases. Therefore, location factors like the specific hospital you work at and the size of the unit within the hospital could affect your base salary. Where the hospital is physically located often has an even bigger impact, because PICU salaries widely vary across the country. Both the state and the city in which the hospital is located can make a tremendous difference in salary. For example, hospitals in California generally pay a lot more than those located in the Midwest and urban locations usually pay more than rural ones. However, the cost of living will also be much higher.

How to increase your Pediatric ICU RN salary

There are also steps you can take to increase your PICU RN salary. An obvious course of action is to earn an advanced degree. Completing an accredited nursing master’s or doctoral degree with a concentration in pediatric acute care helps qualify you for Advanced Practice Registered Nursing positions in PICUs with expanded responsibilities and higher pay. You may increase your salary further by passing the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care (CPNP-AC) exam offered by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. 

Even without an advanced degree, you can pursue numerous pediatric-related professional certifications that can all potentially boost your salary. Certified nurses usually earn more than those who aren’t certified, so consider pursuing:

Some employers will even reimburse you for the cost of certification, which presents a win-win situation. The certification process varies for each organization, but they usually have similar prerequisites.

What professional certifications can potentially increase my salary as a Pediatric ICU RN?

Earning your Pediatric Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional (CCRN-K) or Pediatric Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN) often increases your salary potential as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse or makes you eligible for another position with greater responsibilities, which also might include a bump in wages.

Can having a Pediatric Certification in Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN) boost my salary as a Pediatric ICU RN?

Yes, having a Pediatric Certification in Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse.

Can having a Pediatric Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional (CCRN-K) boost my salary as a Pediatric ICU RN?

Yes, having a Pediatric Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional (CCRN-K) or any relevant professional certification has the potential to boost your salary as a pediatric intensive care unit nurse.

Where can I learn more about working as a PICU Nurse?

Take a look at Vivian's PICU Nurse Career Guide for more information, including required education, responsibilities, pros and cons and more.