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 of job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

Emergency nursing positions require 2 years' experience as a registered nurse. Once complete, prospective applicants must take a specialized exam and complete additional training or certifications.

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. Post-secondary training, a state license and specialty certification are common requirements for this career.

Required Education Associate's degree; bachelor's degree may be required by some employers
Additional Requirements State nursing license and Emergency Nurses Association certification
Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024) 16% for registered nurses
Median Salary* (2015) $67,490 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 $67,490 per year in 2015. Additionally, the BLS reports that jobs for registered nurses should increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024.

Emergency nursing careers can be highly rewarding and suited to people who are skillful and able to solve medical problems. A licensing exam is required before the career of an emergency nurse can begin. Continuing education and furthering certifications may also be required to maintain one's credentials.

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