Top paying specialties–neonatal nurses

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We’re now in our ninth week running down the top 10 best paying nursing specialties. A little refresher on the top 8:





1. Certified RN anesthetists
2. Orthopedics
3. Geriatrics
4. Perioperative nurses
5. Clinical nurse specialists
6. Psychiatric nurse practitioners
7. General nurse practitioners
8. Certified nurse-midwife

Neonatal nurses


Salary: $57,000-$71,000

Why you might love this job:

This is an excellent option for nurses who love babies, though the job can come with high stress levels. A nurse will want to gain experience in a hospital setting before settling in as a neonatal nurse.

You get to spend all day working with infants up to 28 days of age. Neonatal nurses are a vital part of the neonatal care team. You also get to choose whether or not you wish to work in the NICU.

Hot tip:

Neonatal nurses are currently in high demand.

“Some hospitals will let you do sort of a job shadow kind of thing. If there is a hospital near you that has a NICU, you may want to check with that hospital or the nurse manager of the NICU in that hospital, if you can do a job shadow. This would be the best way for you to know if this is the specialty you want to pursue. What better than to see and experience what NICU nurses do.” -rnpic,

Technical jargon:

There are three different levels you can consider working in:

  • Level I is caring for healthy newborns, though Level I nurseries are now uncommon in the United States. Healthy babies typically share a room with their mother, and both patients are usually discharged from the hospital quickly.
  • Level II provides intermediate or special care for premature or ill newborns. At this level, infants may need special therapy provided by nursing staff, or may simply need more time before being discharged.
  • Level III, the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), treats newborns who cannot be treated in the other levels and are in need of high technology, such as breathing and feeding tubes, to survive. Nurses comprise over 90 percent of the NICU staff.

Are you a neonatal nurse? Share with the Scrubs community what you think about your field in the comments below.

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3 Responses to Top paying specialties–neonatal nurses

  1. zornowk

    I LOVE my job as a Neonatal Nurse in a Level III NICU! However, to clear up a couple of points in the description- We take care of newborns until they are discharged, not up to 28 days. I have taken care of a 2 year old who had been in the hospital since s/he was born, although this is an exception. It is not all about feeding babies- our babies have many problems and getting them to the point they can feed on their own is a major goal; one that often continues outside the hospital. Many of our kids go home with a mini-NICU in their house- monitors, oxygen, feeding tubes, intense follow-up. It is a tough, but extremely rewarding area to work in.

    • Scrubs Staff Scrubs Blogger

      Great points, zornowk–thank you so much for sharing.

  2. jschmitt82

    I just recently started in the NICU as a new grad and absolutely love my job!! Coming out of school I was sure that I wanted to work in a pedatric ED or the PICU, but since I got the opportunity to start in the NICU I don’t think that I will ever leave. Like Zornowk said there is a lot more to working in the NICU than holding and feeding babies. Some of the babies are so fragile that you can barely touch them let alone hold them. I think it take a special person to take on the stresses of working with this very specialized and fragile patient population, and I am glad that I am one of those people. Its great to see the smiles on the parents faces, but it just kills you when there is nothing for them to smile about and even worse when they leave the hospital empty handed:( We try and save them all, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.

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