The requirements for becoming an emergency room (ER) nurse include either an associate's or a bachelor's degree in nursing. In addition to a degree, a nursing license is also required, as is both CPR and life support certification. The subjects a nurse is expected to study in school include anatomy, pharmacology and physiology.
Emergency room (ER) nurses are often the first to attend to patients with urgent, life-threatening conditions. These nurses must be able to quickly and accurately diagnose problems, then prescribe and execute treatments. ER nurses need an undergraduate degree in nursing and registered nurse (RN) licensure.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Licensure and Certification||Nursing license required; CPR and life support certification required|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||16% for all registered nurses|
|Median Salary (2016)**||$60,846 for ER registered nurses|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
A career as an ER nurse begins with a degree in nursing. Although aspiring nurses have the option of pursuing an associate's or a bachelor's degree, the type of degree chosen may impact their employment prospects. An Associate of Science in Nursing can be earned in either two or three years, while a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is a 4-year course of study and involves a wider array of subjects. Regardless of the degree program chosen, it should include instruction in:
- Human Growth & Development
While it isn't necessary for most job openings, a potential ER nurse can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing. At many schools, a post-graduate nursing degree offers students a variety of specialties to choose from. Among the more common options are:
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Adult/Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Clinical Nursing
- Critical Care Nursing
- Direct-Entry Midwifery - LM, CPM
- Licensed Vocational Nurse Training
- Mental Health Nursing
- Neonatal Nursing
- Nurse Anesthetist
- Nurse Assistant or Patient Care Assistant
- Nurse Midwife
- Nurse Practitioner or Family Nurse Practitioner
- Nursing Administration
- Nursing for Adults and Seniors
- Nursing Science
- Occupational Health Nursing
- Operating Room and Surgical Nursing
- Pediatric Nursing
- Public Health Nurse or Community Nurse
- Registered Nurse
Licensing and Certification Requirements
Nurse licensure is mandatory to practice and requires candidates to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) offer different voluntary nursing certifications. Most nurses should consider earning a Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification, which can be done through a class that takes around four hours. Some employers may also require Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) training.
An ER nurse is charged with determining patient care based on the patient's condition - both physical and psychological - as well as the overall flow of incoming patients to the emergency room. The nurses work with physicians to determine the best course of patient care and when patients should be discharged or transferred to other wards in the hospital, like the intensive care unit (ICU).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job opportunities for registered nurses overall will increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than many other careers in the United States (www.bls.gov). The number of job openings may vary depending on the location and organization. In some regions, older nurses are nearing retirement age with fewer younger workers to replace them meaning those areas could provide excellent opportunities for new nurses.
ER nurses must have excellent decision-making skills, as they are required to make fast and accurate diagnoses of patients' conditions and then coordinate treatments. They need an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, along with a nursing license. This is a high-growth field, with a median salary in the low $60,000s as of 2016.