Make an informed choice with this chart

CPN and RN-BC: What's the Difference?

Most nurses choose PNCB's Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) credential because nursing care for children and adolescents is the sole focus of everything we offer and it shows in the quality of our exams.

CPNs provide leadership on our Board of Directors and committees, and we were the first nursing certification organization to offer a no-risk testing program to benefit RNs and employers: No Pass, No Pay.

We feel that nurses should select the exam that will best attest to their knowledge and skills as expert pediatric nurses, and we truly believe that our certification is overwhelmingly sought because of the value and validation it offers to pediatric nurses. Our recertification fees are among the most affordable in nursing certification.

Make an informed choice with this comparison chart. PNCB is happy to answer your questions about what sets us apart. Contact info@pncb.org so we can help.

Question Comparison

What credential is earned?

PNCB: Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)

ANCC: Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC)

What is the certifying body?

CPN: Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

RN-BC: American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

How many nurses actively hold each credential as of December 31, 2019?

CPN: 32,174

RN-BC: 2,345

How many nurses tested in 2019?

CPN: 4,442

RN-BC: 248

Is the certification endorsed by a pediatric specialty organization?

CPN: Yes, by the Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN)


Is the certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA)?

CPN: Yes

RN-BC: Yes

Is the certification accepted for Magnet® recognition status?

CPN: Yes

RN-BC: Yes

How does the organization support the pediatric profession?


  • Attends national and select local conferences, such as Society of Pediatric Nurses to answer your questions
  • Created the Institute of Pediatric Nursing to encourage students to choose pediatrics

RN-BC: Has not recently exhibited or sponsored events at the Society of Pediatric Nurses

Exam Eligibility Criteria & Testing Details 

Question Comparison

How many practice hours are needed to apply?


  • 1,800 in the past 24 months or
  • a minimum of 5 years as an RN in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing within the last 5 years with a minimum of 1000 hours within the past 24 months

RN-BC: 2,000 in the past 36 months

What clinical practice is accepted to apply?

CPN: Clinical, management, education, or consultation

RN-BC: Clinical or direct clinical supervision only

How many contact hours are required to apply?

CPN: None

RN-BC: 30 hours in the past 3 years

How many questions are on the exam?

CPN: 175

RN-BC: 175

How long is the exam testing time?

CPN: 3 hours

RN-BC: 3.5 hours

What is the 2019 pass rate?

CPN: 79.53% - first time pass rate

RN-BC: 84%

Are free sample questions offered?

CPN: Yes

RN-BC: Yes

Is a practice test available?

CPN: Yes - $35 for 50 questions, 2 modules available


What is the wait time to re-apply if unsuccessful?

CPN: 2-3 weeks

RN-BC: 60 days


Question Comparison

How much does it cost to apply?


  • $300 for initial exam
  • $255 for SPN members for initial exam not using No Pass, No Pay 
  • $245 for retest
  • Expedited 5-day application processing: Free


  • $395
  • $270 for ANA members; ANA membership ~$290/year
  • $270 for retest
  • Expedited 5-day application processing: $200

Is an employer support benefit available?



  • Yes, launched in 2013
  • Includes a shortfall penalty fee

Staying Certified

Question Comparison

How long is certification valid?

CPN: 1 year

RN-BC: 5 years

How much does it cost to recertify?

CPN: $50-65 depending on option

RN-BC: $350 ($200 for ANA Members; ANA Membership ~$290/Year)

What are my options to recertify?

CPN: 15 contact hours or accepted equivalents (e.g., academic credit, clinical practice, lecture, authorship, posters, committee leadership, record review year)

RN-BC: 150 contact hours or accepted equivalents. Options include professional development + practice, or professional development + testing

Are free contact hours offered?

CPN: Yes, for anyone

RN-BC: Yes, for ANA members

Faces of Certification

PNCB-certified nursing professionals work in a variety of roles and settings throughout the US and beyond. Share your photo today!

Tyree Smith, CPNP-AC Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Philadelphia, PA
Ruchoma Domosh, CPN Hackensack Meridian Health Jersey Shore University Medical Center Neptune City, NJ
Susan Gardella, CPNP-PC Maryland Responds Baltimore, MD
View more Faces of Certification