What is a Neonatologist

Neonatologists are pediatricians who focus on providing specialized care for newborn infants. In particular, they care for infants who are prematurely born, who have very low birth weight, present with congenital malformations, or who are otherwise very ill. They also provide assistance to obstetricians during high-risk pregnancies. Neonatology is generally a hospital-based specialty, though some may work in smaller clinics.

Work Environment

The vast majority of neonatologists work in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This will be a warm and comfortable area, providing the best care possible to newborns. The position can be very demanding and stressful, with the potential for emotionally difficult circumstances, however it is also exceptionally rewarding. Many neonatologists report high job satisfaction, especially when able to follow the growth of infants they helped return to health for many years.

Work Schedule

The work schedule for neonatologists can be quite varied. While they will have typical scheduled work times, these can change quite quickly, and on call or emergency call-ins are not irregular, depending on the birth and the needs of the infant. Many neonatologists report irregular sleep patterns, due to the exceptional care needed by infants in the NICU. On average, most neonatologists work more than sixty hours per week, and some shifts may last up to thirty hours. 

Neonatologist Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for neonatologists is expected to grow by approximately 22 percent between 2012 and 2022. This is due primarily to a continued push for growth in population in the United States. As well, many couples are waiting in to their thirties to have children, and the closer to forty they wait, the more potential risks are involved in the pregnancy. There is also a general growth in the medical field overall in the United States, and as the field of neonatology is itself growing, there will be a greater-than-average number of positions.

Average Neonatologist Salary

The current average salary for a neonatologist is approximately $220,000 per year.

Neonatologist Salary: Factors and Influences

The salary of a neonatologist is affected by many factors, such as their specialization, the industry they work in, and their education. However, by far the greatest influences are geographic location and experience; position, as a factor, is dependent on experience, as well as on the doctor’s overall renown, however is worth considering as well.

Education and Specialization 

Following a bachelor’s and medical degree, neonatologists must complete a three- to four-year internship and residency in pediatrics, followed by a three-year fellowship in neonatology. Some fellowships may last longer, and can provide a greater salary on graduation. Similarly, one may wish to pursue a further focus in pediatric surgery, however there are currently fewer sub-specialties in neonatology. Those that do have highly specialized skills, however, can expect higher wages as a result of demand for their greater abilities.

Experience and Position 

Recent graduates can make around $75,000, while those who have ten or more years’ experience can earn over $250,000. There are exceptions to these averages, and some of the top paid neonatologists can make well over $300,000.

Position, dependent on the experience of the individual as well as the needs of the hospital, can also bring wage improvements. Heading a NICU is a large responsibility, and the salary for a neonatologist in this position reflects that. Similarly, one taking a teaching role and guiding residents can see improvements in their pay. 


Industry is a difficult avenue in the pursuit of salary improvements for the neonatologist; due to the highly specialized nature of the occupation, most neonatologists work in hospitals, particularly in the neonatal intensive care unit. There are differences in wages depending on the type of hospital, though; those working in a general hospital can expect averages between $150,000 and $175,000, while those working in a children’s hospital will earn somewhat more. 


The location worked has a profound impact on a neonatologist’s salary, though there is limited data available on this. Georgia has one of the highest average salaries, offering an approximately $280,000. North Carolina follows, at around $275,000, and Arizona rounds out the top three with an average of $260,000. Most of the higher wages in these states will be found in and around urban centers.