Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Programs

Ready to develop the skills you need to become a pediatric nurse practitioner? Learn about program details, cost, job outlook, and how online learning can make earning the degree more convenient


Renee Warmbrodt

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Renee Warmbrodt is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with extensive experience working with pediatrics in a range of settings. She graduated from Saint Louis University with her MSN and currently works with a pediatric urology group in St. Louis, MO. Prior to becoming a nurse practitioner, Renee worked several years with critically ill children as a PICU staff nurse. She also has experience educating, precepting, and mentoring nursing students.

Best-in-Class Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs

Becoming a PNP requires advanced training in the form of a master’s or a doctorate degree in the field, which can be a real barrier for working professionals. Fortunately, quality online degree programs for PNPs exist, providing substantial flexibility to students as they begin their training. To help you find the right opportunity, we’ve researched and showcased the top online PNP programs for 2020. We considered affordability, curriculum, flexibility of study, and accreditation. Begin with detailed profiles of three great programs to better help you visualize the education path ahead of you. See which programs stand above the rest.

Old Dominion University


The online MSN Pediatric Nursing Practitioner program at Old Dominion University is offered in a hybrid format consisting of both online coursework and hands-on training and testing on the ODU Virginia Beach campus, as well as in-person clinical practicum experience on-site. Didactic courses are presented online using Blackboard course management system. These classes include live, online meetings, and instructors may schedule assignments, exams, and office hours at specific times. The clinical practicum experience consists of a minimum of 560 practice hours at a practice site that meets the requirements of the program, preferably within the student’s home community.

The PNP curriculum is designed to allow students a continuous path from a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to the MSN degree, and on to an Advanced Practice Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. However, students earning their MSN are not required to pursue their DNP. Both the MSN and DNP degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Admissions requirements for the MSN PNP program include a baccalaureate degree in nursing or related science field (minimum 3.0 GPA), and a current unencumbered RN license with at least one year of practice experience. The program requires completion of 49 credit hours of coursework. Both full-time and part-time study tracks are available. Tuition costs are $523 per credit hour for in-state Virginia residents and $568 per credit hour for out-of-state students. This program is not available to students residing in the State of Washington.

Rush University

Maryville University

Finding the Online PNP Program that Works for You

Every online PNP program is different, each with its own unique style, content emphasis, and student expectations. So, how do you know which program is the right one for you? Start by determining your own educational needs and career priorities. Then, carefully examine each program’s features, both in terms of content (degree levels offered, subjects emphasized, specializations available, etc.) and delivery (course format, in-person and practicum requirements, program length, cost, etc.). Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential programs, it’s a good idea to speak with counselors, faculty members, and (if possible) students at each school, to get a complete picture of what to expect.  

How Online PNP Programs Work

  • Synchronous:
    These online programs require PNP students to log on at set times along with the rest of their class to participate in discussions and lectures. Students enrolled in these courses may have flexibility in where the coursework can be completed, but not when. PNP students enrolled in synchronous online programs may still be required to complete hands-on clinicals in person as well.
  • Asynchronous:
    PNP students enrolled in asynchronous programs have the most flexibility in their education. With these programs, students can complete their coursework where and when is convenient for them. Asynchronous PNP courses will give students weekly or monthly deadlines for their work, but may still require visits to campus or clinics for hands-on training.

Types of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Degrees Offered Online

1. Masters of Science in Nursing
Curriculum requirements and program lengths for online PNP master’s degree programs vary substantially depending on whether the student chooses full-time or part-time study and the specific program’s structure. Some accelerated programs can be completed in as little as 12 months, while a few part-time programs may allow up to five years for completion. However, the completion time for most programs range from two to three years. Didactic coursework in the majority of programs is accomplished entirely online, but a few programs include classes that require some level of on-campus participation or testing. And, virtually all online PNP master’s programs include a clinical experience which is normally completed at a location near the student’s home. Total clinical hours required also vary significantly from program to program, but most demand anywhere from 550 to 1000 hours.

2. Doctor of Nursing Practice
There are two basic types of online doctoral-level pediatric nurse practitioner degree programs available: BSN-to-DNP and MSN-to-DNP. Most but not all schools with PNP doctorate degree programs offer both. As with master’s programs, program lengths for DNP PNP programs vary substantially depending on the choice of full-time or part-time study, and specific program allowances. For most MSN-to-DNP programs, students should expect to commit 18 to 42 months of study earning their degrees, while BSN-to-DNP programs normally require 36 to 42 months for degree completion. Most didactic courses are done entirely online, although some may include an on-campus component. Virtually all DNP degree programs additionally include a substantial clinical residency similar in length to those required in MSN programs. However, many MSN-to-DNP programs will apply clinical hours previously completed by applicants in earning their MSN degree to the DNP program requirement.

Understanding the Online PNP Curriculum

PNP degree program curriculums typically consist of two basic components: didactic coursework (case-based learning commonly presented through lectures and writings) and practical training (in-person, with hands-on active participation by students, including a substantial clinical experience requirement). First-year MSN students can expect to focus on a core curriculum for nurse practitioners geared toward the development of pediatric care knowledge, while second-year study will introduce courses covering a range of pediatric-specific topics. Below is a small sample of the types of courses PNP students can expect to encounter in their degree programs:

Advanced Pathophysiology

Analysis of pathophysiologic processes and their effects on individual and multiple body systems through an examination of classic and current research findings. Students are given a foundation for the clinical assessment, diagnosis, and management of patients experiencing alterations or the risks factors in the status of their health.

Advanced Pediatric Primary Care Preceptorship

Clinical practicum focusing on the role of the nurse practitioner in the delivery of primary care to pediatric patients. An emphasis is placed on providing comprehensive care in collaboration with other healthcare professionals to pediatric clients and their families in a range of practice settings.

Leading Collaborative Change: Improving Delivery of Healthcare to Patients and Populations

Development of leadership skills within the interprofessional team environment to resolve practice issues and improve the delivery of care. Students address the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s six aims for healthcare quality by planning evidence-based solutions. Prepares students to become advocates on the institutional, state, and federal levels for improved health of populations.

Health Assessment and Measurement: Pediatric Variation

Comprehensive, intensive introduction to history taking and advanced physical assessment of the pediatric patient in the primary care setting. Areas of emphasis include documentation of data, recognition of common health problems, differentiation between abnormal and normal findings, and the critical thinking process related to examining child health problems.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Survey of current research, theories, and issues related to health promotion and disease prevention for individuals, families, aggregates, and communities through the use of case studies. An emphasis is placed on the role of the nurse in risk assessment, screening, education, and counseling, as well as thinking broadly about health preservation from an ecological perspective.

Human and Family Development through the Lifespan

Overview of the research, theories, and concepts related to human development from the prenatal period to death. Research and theories concerning family development throughout the lifespan are additionally examined. Included are examinations of the strategies for intervening with family and individuals, and the related tools for assessing the development and functioning of those families and individuals.

Advanced Pediatric and Neonatal Pharmacology

Inquiry into the use of pharmacological agents in the care of infants, and through early childhood and adolescence. Topics covered include pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, drug use in disease prevention, drug monitoring, drug safety in the home, proper prescribing and record keeping, the use of natural and herbal remedies, and more.

Pediatric Emergencies

Examination of the assessment, pathophysiology, differential diagnosis, and management of urgent and emergent care of the pediatric patient. An emphasis is placed on the integration and education of the family as it relates to the acute needs of the patient, as well as an understanding of the importance of continuity of care with the primary care provider.

Pediatric Primary Care Nursing I: Didactic

Focus on the providing of primary care to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in order that they meet their optimal emotional, intellectual, and physical growth and development. Emphasis is placed on illness prevention, health promotion, and the treatment of episodic problems.

Consider a Subspecialty

Knowledge and skills focused on a particular area of practice can greatly enhance the value of any professional’s services, enhance your marketability, and may qualify you to obtain a corresponding professional certification.  The availability of subspecialties should be an important factor in your choice of a PNP degree program. Most schools offer several subspecialty options for NPs, but be advised not all subspecialties are available specifically to PNP students specifically. Therefore, if you plan on pursuing a particular subspecialty with your PNP degree, be certain that it is available with the degree programs you’re considering.

Below are three of the subspecialties most commonly pursued by PNP students:


Emergency Medicine: This type of training for a nurse practitioner prepares a PNP to manage injured and acutely ill pediatric patients in diverse emergency care settings. Working conditions can be particularly stressful, calling on the nurse to make immediate critical decisions and diagnoses. Emergency PNPs are also typically required to work evening and graveyard shifts as needed, and may also need to be on-call. But, working in an emergency environment can also be one of the most rewarding for the nursing professional. Potential certification: Emergency Nurse Practitioner Specialty Certification (AANPCB).


Nephrology: This area of specialty deals with issues concerning the kidneys. The majority of kidney-related health ailments are found in older adult patients often suffering from a number of complex health problems. Nevertheless, children may also suffer from kidney-related issues, including kidney or urinary tract disease, kidney stones, high blood pressure, and bladder problems. Nurses with specialized nephrology expertise assist in the care of pediatric kidney patients in need of a range of treatments, such as dialysis and even kidney transplantation. Potential certification: Certified Nephrology Nurse – Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP).


Surgery: Surgical PNPs perform a variety of tasks related to the care of pediatric surgery patients, including assessment of new patients, consultation regarding surgical options, administering medications, and performing tests both before and after surgery, as well as assisting surgeons and medical staff during the surgery itself. As with the emergency room environment, working in a surgical setting can be stressful and involve long, demanding hours in practice. Potential certification: Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN);

Admissions & Pre-Requisites

Admissions requirements for PNP degree programs vary from school to school, but a few are common to practically every program, MSN and DNP alike. Here are the main admissions pre-requisites that applicants should expect to meet:  

  • 1-3 years of relevant RN experience, preferably in pediatrics
  • Active RN license
  • GRE or MAT scores
  • Official university transcripts

Most PNP degree programs also require applicants to have previously earned a BSN degree. There are exceptions, however, with some programs accepting students with either an associate degree in nursing, a nursing diploma, or in a few cases, a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. Also, some online programs do not require GRE or MAT exam scores.

National PNP Certification

After completing their graduate or post-graduate degree, most PNPs seek a national certification, as most states require national certification as a prerequisite for state licensure. The role of such certification is to recognize and validate the knowledge and skills attained by certification holders while earning their PNP degrees and completing additional area-focused practice, as well as by passing the certification exam. Until recently, there were two associations offering national PNP certification: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board (PNCB). However, the ANCC is now in the process of phasing out its Pediatric Primary Care Nursing Certification, leaving the PNCB as the only current association offering PNP certification.

There are two types of PNP certification available from the PNCB:

Mental and Behavioral Health Certifications for PNPs

Primary care PNPs are eligible to apply for the Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) credential, also offered by the PNCB. The PMHS credential recognizes and validates the additional knowledge and skills of the certification holder in the care of children and adolescents with mental and behavioral health concerns. Receiving the credential requires taking and passing the PMHS exam. Requirements for taking the exam include a master’s or doctoral primary care PNP degree, current APRN PNP certification, 2,000 hours of clinical practice experience in pediatric developmental, behavioral and mental health, and completion of either one graduate-level DMBH course or 30 hours of DMBH continuing education within the past three years.

Funding Your Online Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Program

Earning a college degree is expensive. Fortunately, PNP degree students have a range of financial aid options to help pay for their educations, including scholarships, grants, and student loans. For more information on strategies and resources for obtaining financial aid for your PNP degree, check out EduMed’s Pay Less for Education: How to Take Charge of Your Financial Aid webpage.

Here are two organizations that sponsor scholarships specifically aimed at PNP degree students:

  • Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN): The SPN awards two $2,500 Academic Education Scholarships annually for the purpose of advancing pediatric nursing training. An applicant must be an SPN member for at least two years with RN licensure, currently employed in pediatric nursing, and have completed at least one semester of a baccalaureate or higher nursing degree program with minimum 3.0 GPA.
  • NAPNAP Grants and Scholarships: The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners offers a variety of scholarships and grants through its NAPNAP Foundation, including the $1,000 Elaine Gelman Student Scholarship and the $2,500 DNP/PhD Scholarship. Eligibility requirements vary by program.

Helpful PNP Resources

  1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) – Resources for Students: A clearinghouse of information and resources for nursing students, including its Graduate Nursing School Academy, which provides a range of programs, services, and resources for graduate students enrolled in AACN-member nursing schools.
  2. American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): The website for the 96,000-member national organization, including an excellent Student Resources page.
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) – Occupational Outlook Handbook: This is the BLS information site for nurse practitioners, which includes data on pay, job outlook, work environment, and much more.
  4. National Association of Pediatric Nurses (NAPNAP): This is a great resource for education, advocacy, and networking for PNPs.