Certified Emergency Nurse Education and Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a certified emergency nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Certified emergency nurses care for patients during the most critical stages of injury or illness. Unlike trauma nurses, who sometimes care for patients during the entirety of their recovery, emergency nurses specialize in the initial care and treatment of patients during a crisis. Postsecondary training, a state license and specialty certification are common requirements for this career.

Required EducationAssociate's degree; bachelor's degree may be required by some employers
Additional Requirements State nursing license and Emergency Nurses Association certification
Projected Job Growth* (2012-2022) 19% for registered nurses
Median Salary* (2013) $66,220 annually for registered nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)


Emergency nursing is normally performed by highly-trained and experienced registered nurses (RNs). Aspiring certified emergency nurses may begin their education by enrolling in a nursing degree program, such as a 2-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) program or a 4-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree program.

These programs combine classroom learning with a minimum number of practical, supervised clinical hours prior to graduation. Some schools, particularly at the university-level, may offer emergency nursing related coursework as well. Regardless of educational program, students receive instruction in areas like anatomy and physiology, nursing skills and practice, health assessments and nursing ethics.

Required Licensure

After a student graduates from a state-approved nursing school, the next step is to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX-RN tests for registered nursing skills and is required of all nurses in order to legally work in the United States. States may have additional licensing and registration requirements. After becoming a registered nurse, prospective emergency nurses generally proceed to gain experience in several areas of nursing care.


To become a certified emergency nurse, RNs undertake professional training for a wide range of trauma situations, including cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, orthopedic and obstetrical emergencies. Cardiac and surgical nurses are especially good candidates for emergency nursing, because these specialties call for quick thinking and skillful, concise medical problem-solving.


The wide range of knowledge that is necessary to assess and respond to any emergency situation calls for years of experience, which can be demonstrated through voluntary certification. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing recommends RNs have at least two years of nursing experience, prior to taking the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) exam.

The CEN exam is administered by the Emergency Nurses Association, which is a professional trade organization for emergency nurses. This certification proves to patients and employers that a nurse has achieved a universal standard of care and knowledge in emergency nursing. Once certified, CEN holders need continuing education in order to maintain their credentials. Certified emergency nurses may choose to advance their careers through a master's degree program to become emergency nurse practitioners as well.

Job Outlook and Salary Stats

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for registered nurses was $66,220 in 2013. Additionally, the BLS reported that jobs for registered nurses should increase by 19% between 2012 and 2022.

Search Degrees, Careers, or Schools