Neonatal Nurse Salary: A Complete Guide to Earnings and Benefits

Did you know that roughly 12.5% of infants require extra attention in the hospital, postnatal ward, or occasionally in a specialist neonatal area? There is undoubtedly a high demand for healthcare professionals that take care of preterm babies or those with unique health needs.

Neonatal nursing is a highly specialized field that demands a wide range of skills and expertise to address the complex challenges of caring for newborns. The rewards of this profession are not only financial but also emotional, as you play a critical role in improving the health and well-being of infants and their families.

In this article, we will delve into the world of neonatal nursing and explore the responsibilities and challenges of the profession. Additionally, we will discuss the competitive salary of neonatal nurse practitioners and other benefits of pursuing a career in this rewarding field.

What Is a Neonatal Nurse?

A neonatal nurse is a particular type of nurse whose primary patients are premature or sick babies that require special care and monitoring until they are healthy again or develop enough to be sent home. Such nurses also care for infants suffering from severe illnesses or long-term complications related to premature birth. 

Neonatal nurses also work closely with the parents, in addition to hands-on patient care. They help provide emotional support and comfort to the parents and, most importantly, educate them about their newborn’s condition.

Neonatal Nurse Salary

According to recent data, the average neonatal nurse salary in the United States is $117,091 a year ($56.29 an hour, $2,251 per week, or $9,757 per month). The salaries of neonatal nurses can vary greatly, with the lowest percentile earning $29,000 and the highest earning up to $183,000. Various factors such as location, level of experience, and work environment can affect the reported salaries for this profession.

Neonatal nurse salary by state

The Big Apple tops the list as the state with the highest average salary for neonatal nurses, followed closely by Idaho and California. The majority of states stay within the six-figure range, with only some exceptions. So, generally, you can expect to earn a high salary across all states.

Below, you can see all fifty U.S. states and the average neonatal nurse salary for each one:

Neonatal nurse salary by years of experience


The more experience you have, the higher your earnings will be. Data shows that neonatal nurses that have just joined the workforce earn around $25.94 per hour. However, once they gain a few years of experience, their salaries can increase to $31.14 per hour.

In addition, neonatal nurses with 5-9 years of experience can earn about $33.79 per hour, whereas those with 10-19 years of experience make $35.60 per hour. Lastly, once you surpass 20 years of working as a neonatal nurse, you can expect to earn $40.87 for each hour you work.

Neonatal nurse salary by work setting


Neonatal nurses typically work in hospital environments, clinics, or medical centers. Generally, you can notice differences in pay when considering what areas within these work settings the neonatal nurse practices in.

For example, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurses, on average, earn $136,005 a year. This salary is much higher than the average associated with other neonatal nurses. On the other hand, nurses working in maternity wards earn significantly less. According to data, maternal and child health nurses earn $90,170 annually. Nevertheless, this is still higher than the average salary for many other nursing positions.

How To Increase Your Salary as a Neonatal Nurse

If you want to boost your salary, consider furthering your education. Generally, your level of education can play a significant role in the position you employ within the neonatal healthcare team, your work responsibilities, and your salary. 

Most neonatal nurses begin their careers right after completing their bachelor’s or associate’s degrees. But, you can stay on top of the competition by getting your master’s degree or other advanced degrees while also gaining experience in the field.

Another excellent tip is to obtain relevant certifications, such as the RNC Certification for Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC) and the Critical Care Registered Nurse or CCRN (Neonatal)  certification. By completing the courses and acquiring additional certifications, you’ll continue developing your skills and knowledge, making you a more valuable healthcare team member and opening up new career opportunities with higher salaries.

Should You Become a Neonatal Nurse?

If you have the desire to care, serve, and help others, particularly infants who are among the most vulnerable, then a career in neonatal nursing may be the perfect fit for you. 

Two key qualities you must possess include compassion and willingness to work hard. With those qualities at the forefront, it will be easier for you to put in the effort and acquire the experience and knowledge needed to perform your role accurately.

Neonatal nursing is a rewarding career. Below, we go through some of the top benefits associated with the job that might help you find an answer to whether you should become a neonatal nurse.

Benefits of being a neonatal nurse

  • You are part of something greater. You help provide babies with a chance at a healthy life.
  • You have job security. Neonatal nurses are in high demand and will continue to be
  • Being a neonatal nurse can be personally satisfying and emotionally fulfilling. According to a survey, 58% of neonatal nurse practitioners reported being very satisfied with their career choice, and an additional 37% were mostly satisfied.
  • Financial rewards—neonatal nurses have some of the highest salaries of any nurse type.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Neonatal nurses play a crucial role in the healthcare system, providing invaluable care to newborn babies in need. While the personal satisfaction of helping to give these tiny humans a second chance at life is immeasurable, it’s worth noting that the profession also offers financial rewards. As such, neonatal nursing is a career that can provide both emotional fulfillment and financial stability. 

We hope this guide has been a valuable resource for you in exploring the possibilities of a career in neonatal nursing. If you want to learn more about different career options in healthcare and the salaries they offer, you can click here and discover different pathways you can take as a nurse as well as find a high-paying nursing career that best suits you.

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