How to Become an Emergency Room Nurse:
The Definitive Guide

Some people are incredible in traumatic situations, Emergency Room Nurses being one of those types of people.

Are you the kind of person who helps others in scary situations, always taking the lead to make sure everyone is safe?

Do you have the knack for putting others before yourself?

If this sounds like you, then a career as an Emergency Room Nurse may be right up your alley.

What is an Emergency Room Nurse?

An Emergency Room Nurse is an important part of any hospital.

These are the people who care for patients in emergency situations such as trauma, injury, or illness.

As an Emergency Room Nurse, you can expect to meet patients who are in dire situations, and you’ll have to work quickly to treat them before anything worse happens to them.

Although it can be a stressful job, a career as an Emergency Room Nurse can be very rewarding.


There are several tasks that an Emergency Room Nurse has to do on a daily basis.

These include:

  • Maintaining care standards in the emergency room
  • Assisting with checking in patients
  • Completing triage work
  • Generating insurance papers
  • Updating patients on test results and treatment recommendations
  • Maintaining contact with ER doctors and other medical staff
  • Making arrangements for other care
  • Giving IVs and medications
  • Wound care


The average salary for an Emergency Room Nurse is around $75,000 a year in the United States.

Most nurses that are just starting out can expect a salary of around $67,000 a year to begin.

After many years of experience and special certifications, it is possible to make up to $83,000 a year as an Emergency Room Nurse.

It’s important to remember that not everyone will make this wage, and the scale can vary depending on where you work, how many years of experience you have, and the population of the city around your workplace.

Having a specialty or certification can also bring about more money.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $77,460


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$94,820
New Hampshire$73,880
New Jersey$84,280
New Mexico$73,300
New York$87,840
North Carolina$66,440
North Dakota$66,290
Rhode Island$82,310
South Carolina$64,840
South Dakota$59,540
West Virginia$63,220
Puerto Rico$35,040
Virgin Islands$68,500

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $113,240.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $113,240
Hawaii - $104,060
District of Columbia - $94,820
Massachusetts - $93,160
Oregon - $92,960
* Employment conditions in your area may vary. * Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

How to Become an Emergency Room Nurse

Step 1Earn a Degree

In order to work as a nurse in the United States, you need to either have an Associates degree in Nursing or a Bachelors degree in Nursing.

The choice is yours, but most Associates degrees take around two years to complete, while a Bachelors degree can take four.

One of the main differences between the two degrees, aside from the time it takes to graduate, is the careers that open up for you with a Bachelors degree are much greater.

With an Associates degree, you will cover the basics of nursing and general education.

A Bachelors degree, however, will give you more knowledge about the day to day working life of a nurse, and also give you hands-on experience.

Some Associates programs also give you hands-on experience through clinicals.

The courses that you can expect to take when earning a Bachelors degree in Nursing include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Psychology
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Nursing Techniques

Step 2Become Registered

After graduating from a nursing program, it’s crucial that you become registered by taking the NCLEX-RN exam.

This exam will allow you to become a registered nurse in the state in which you want to work.

You will not be able to gain employment if you do not register as a nurse in the United States.

The NCLEX-RN exam is a Computerized Adaptive Test, which means that the computer will give testers questions that complement their knowledge level.

There are many testing locations for this exam throughout the country, so finding one near you should be simple.

Primarily, you will be asked multiple-choice questions on the exam, however, there are some questions that require written answers.

There is a minimum of 75 questions on the exam, and a maximum of 265.

The more that you show you know what you are doing, the fewer questions you’ll have to answer on the exam.

With this exam, you’ll cover topics such as:

  • Safe and Effective Care Environment
  • Management of Care
  • Infection Control
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance
  • Psychosocial Integrity

The exam is pass or fail; you will not receive a numerical score.

It can take up to 4 weeks to find out if you’ve passed.

Step 3Earn Certifications

It’s possible to obtain several different types of certification as an Emergency Room Nurse.

These certifications include:

  • Certified Emergency Nurse
  • Flight Emergency Nurse
  • Pediatric Emergency Nurse
  • Critical Care Ground Transport Nurse

Before you are able to earn a certification as an Emergency Room Nurse, you have to have at least two years of experience in the field.

After becoming certified, it’s important to continue your education while you are doing this career.

Things change, technology advancements happen, and without continued education, you may be behind in terminology as well as implementation.

Those that have a Certified Emergency Nurse certification must become recertified every four years.

Step 4Find Employment

There are multiple avenues to take when pursuing a career as an Emergency Room Nurse.

If you earn specializations or certifications, the doors open even further.

It’s possible to gain employment in these settings:

  • Cruise ships
  • Correctional facilities
  • Military
  • Government
  • Poison control centers
  • Urgent care
  • Traditional emergency rooms
  • Research institutes

It’s also possible to find a career as an educator or advocate who informs the public about emergency situations.

Having experience in the emergency room will allow an Emergency Room Nurse to learn several things, like how to be calm during the chaos, how to help others, and the ability to be quick on your toes.


In order to work as a nurse in the United States, you either need to have an Associates degree or a Bachelors degree in Nursing.

An Associates degree in Nursing can take up to two years to complete and covers general education and basic nursing requirements.

It is likely that you will be able to obtain an entry-level career as a nurse with an Associates degree.

More and more employers are requiring at least a Bachelors degree in order to work as a nurse in their facility.

A Bachelors degree in Nursing can take around four years to complete and delves deeper into the role of nursing.

Some of the courses that you can expect to take for a Bachelors program are:

  • Nursing Theory
  • Nursing Research
  • Nutrition and Diet
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Pharmacology
  • Life Span
  • Community, Family, Geriatric and Psych overviews
  • Statistics

With the inclusion of clinicals and an internship, many nursing programs give you real-life experience working in a doctor’s office or hospital.

After earning a degree in nursing, it is required by law that you become registered.

This can be done by taking the NCLEX-RN exam.

This exam is computer competency-based, which means that you’ll answer questions at your knowledge level.

Some people will only have to answer 75 questions, while others may have to answer over 250.

The test can take up to three hours and is provided all across the country at different testing centers.

In order to be eligible for this exam, you must have already graduated from a nursing program.

After two to four weeks, you should receive your test results.

You’ll either pass or fail this exam, you won’t know how many questions you got wrong or right.

If you passed, you can now work as a registered nurse in an emergency room!

Video About The Career


There are several certifications that you can earn as you begin your career.

If you are interested in working as an Emergency Room Nurse, then you may want to take the certification exam to become a Certified Emergency Room Nurse.

This exam is offered through the Emergency Nurse Association.

In order to be eligible for this exam, you must be a current registered nurse and at least two years of experience as an Emergency Room Nurse.

The Certified Emergency Room Nurse exam costs around $200 to take and are given at Pearson Professional Centers around the country.

There are 175 questions on the exam, and only 150 of them are scored.

Most of the test is multiple-choice, but there are a few questions that require writing.

Some of the areas that you should study for because they may appear on the exam include:

  • Cardiovascular Emergencies
  • Respiratory Emergencies
  • Psychosocial and Medical Emergencies
  • Professional Issues
  • OBGYN, Gastro, and Genitourinary Emergencies
  • Orthopedic Wounds
  • Neurological Emergencies

Passing the exam means that you are considered a Certified Emergency Room Nurse for the next four years.

After that, you must renew the certification by taking another exam.

It’s also possible to obtain a certification in Pediatric Emergency.

In order to be eligible for this certification, you must be a registered nurse and have some experience in either nursing or as a paramedic.

You can earn this certification through an exam as well, which can also be taken through Pearson Professional Centers.

Some of the topics covered in this exam are:

  • Pediatric Assessment
  • Abuse in Children
  • Emergent Neonatal Conditions
  • Technical Skills in Pediatric Nursing
  • Pediatric Triage

A Certified Flight Registered Nurse is also an emergency nurse certification that can be earned by taking an exam.

This exam consists of 150 questions, and the topics include:

  • General Principles of Transport Nurse Practice
  • Trauma
  • Resuscitation Principles
  • Special Populations
  • Medical Emergencies

Each of these certifications must be renewed every four years, but it is also important to continue educating yourself in your field.

Certification Example:

nursing ba example

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

The average training program to become certified as an Emergency Room Nurse is really up to you.

Most certifications only require that you have experience as a registered nurse and that you take an exam to show your knowledge.

Depending on how long you want to take to study for the exam, you can begin as soon as you get the green light to apply for the exam.

This could be several weeks to years after you’ve graduated, but don’t wait too long as you might have to go back to school if you’ve been out of the loop for more than 10 years.

Popular Degree Programs

Job Outlook

There will always be a need for medical care staff, and nurses are the number one priority.

As an Emergency Room Nurse, you can expect that the job growth will rise around 12 percent in the next ten years.

The aging population and the use of surgery to cure many illnesses has increased the job outlook for this career.

Many nurses are also retiring, and the need to replace them will grow throughout the years.

Although growth in long care facilities and outpatient care centers will be higher than in hospitals and emergency rooms, the need for nurses in these areas is still high.

Job opportunities open up for nurses who have specializations and certifications.

Employers look for work experience and knowledge about the area of medical care as well.

* The numbers are based on all registered nurses and are not exclusive to emergency room nurses.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 371,500 jobs.

Should You Become an Emergency Room Nurse?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

It seems that due to the stress of the emergency room, many Emergency Room Nurses are unsatisfied with their jobs.

However, more than half of the Emergency Room Nurses surveyed said that they do enjoy their job despite the stressful situations.

Other issues that cause Emergency Room Nurses to dislike their jobs are overcrowding, drugs and other dangerous substances, and the hours that they work.

Although this is true, many Emergency Room Nurses believe that they are doing great work to help people which gives them satisfaction as well.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

It can be expected that you will make around $75,000 a year as an Emergency Room Nurse.

The typical first-year Emergency Room Nurse can expect to make closer to $67,000 a year however after several years of experience and certifications, it’s possible to make up to $83,000 a year.

Some nurses that live in smaller cities with fewer patients will likely make less money than those that work in larger cities with heavy populations.

Years of experience and any specialties can also provide a higher salary.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

Due to the aging population, the demand for healthcare services will likely increase within the next decade.

This means that there will be a high demand for Emergency Room Nurses.

The career is looking to grow around 12 percent in the next ten years, which is higher than many other careers in the same field.

Nurses who have education in a variety of patients will likely have better career prospects than those who only work with one type of patient.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 4+ Years

It can take around four years to become an Emergency Room Nurse.

This is because most employers require at least a Bachelors degree in Nursing in order to be hired.

However, it may be possible (but this is changing rapidly) that your employer will accept you with an Associates degree in nursing.

An Associates degree can take around two years to complete.

Those that earn Bachelors degrees typically have higher wages and more job opportunities.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

As an Emergency Room Nurse, you’ll be working in loud and busy settings taking care of patients.

This means you’ll need a certain set of skills to endure the long days.

These skills include:

  • Ability to think on your toes
  • Staying calm in stressful situations
  • Communication skills
  • Coping skills
  • Empathy
  • Attention to detail
  • Great writing skills
  • Time management skills
  • Ability to set personal feelings aside and assist patient
  • Ability to multitask

It may seem like a lot for one person, but you’ll need to be steady and ready to help people at the drop of a hat in this career.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary of an Emergency Room Nurse?

In the United States, the average yearly salary for an Emergency Room Nurse is around $75,000 a year.

This is higher than many other careers in the same field.

However, just starting out, most Emergency Room Nurses make around $67,000 a year.

After years of experience, certifications, and even specializations, it’s possible to make around $83,000 a year as an Emergency Room Nurse.

Q. How long does it take to become an Emergency Room Nurse?

It takes a while to become an Emergency Room Nurse, but you wouldn’t want any person off the street to help you in your time of need, would you?

First, you’ll need to earn a Bachelors degree in nursing.

This can take around 4 years to complete.

Then, you’ll need at least two years of experience in nursing in order to have enough knowledge of the Emergency department.

This means it can take around 6 years to become an Emergency Room Nurse.

Q. What does an Emergency Room Nurse do?

An Emergency Room Nurse can be seen taking care of patients in emergency situations.

This could be helping with a broken arm, trying to resuscitate a patient, or tending to a wound.

There is likely never a dull moment in the day of an Emergency Room Nurse.

In between rushing around dealing with patients, there is a lot of paperwork and other side jobs to do.

Q. What is the demand for an Emergency Room Nurse?

Emergency rooms seem to be packed nearly all day every day, this means that there is likely high demand for Emergency Room Nurses.

Keeping patients calm, helping with wound care, treating for severe illness, and all of this can happen in just a few moments.

The job of an Emergency Room Nurse is tough, but there will always be a need for compassionate people to help patients in their most serious situations.


Q. How much does it cost to become an Emergency Room Nurse?

The cost to become an Emergency Room Nurse depends on where you go to school.

Some colleges cost around $10,000 to $20,000 to attend.

While others may cost even more than $35,000.

The certification to become a Certified Emergency Room Nurse costs around $200.

This means that it will likely cost anywhere between $10,000-$35,000 to become an Emergency Room Nurse.

Similar Careers

Leave a Comment

Find a Program