Becoming an ER nurse: How long it takes, the degree you need and more

September 13, 2022 · 8 min read · By ASU Online
Wondering how to become an ER nurse? An RN to BSN program can be the first step on the path to a career in emergency room nursing. Read on to learn more about what ER nurses do, the skills needed, and the education and training you’ll need to become one.

What does an ER nurse do?

Working either in the typical emergency room setting or temporary field hospitals, emergency room nurses ensure the well being of patients, provide essential support and deliver advanced medical treatment during rapidly shifting circumstances. Emergency room nurses work on the front lines and provide critical care, acting quickly to assess and treat patients on the spot.

Emergency room nursing requires not only treating the patient, but also understanding and responding to those who accompany the patient. ER nurses must respond to urgent situations while also supporting other medical staff as well as those who arrive with the patient.

Emergency room nursing is a good fit for those who thrive in fast-paced, high-pressure environments. Successful emergency room nurses do well when handling unpredictable scenarios and are able to work under pressure and find solutions to these situations.


How long does it take to become an ER nurse?

ER nurses are already-registered nurses with specific emergency care training. To become an emergency room nurse, you’ll likely need a BSN along with Certified Emergency Nurse credential from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). You’ll need about two years of experience in an emergency room to take the exam.

According to, it takes four to six years at an accredited school of nursing plus two years experience in an emergency room to gain emergency room nursing certification.


How much does an ER nurse make?

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have data specific to emergency room nurses, they reported registered nurses as earning a median annual salary of $77,600 in 2021.


The skills every ER nurse needs to succeed 

Emergency room nursing requires several innate skills in order to deliver effective care. You’ll have to think quickly while keeping your cool under pressure. To be successful as an emergency nurse, you’ll need skills such as:

  • Fast response times. 
  • Organization.
  • Resilience.
  • Resourcefulness.
  • Time management.

Emergency room nurses must also act quickly and carefully, sorting patients based on criteria such as:

  • Demands of other patients.
  • Doctor availability.
  • Severity of the patients’ medical conditions.

While working as an emergency room nurse, you’ll need to be thorough and adapt to changing circumstances rapidly to ultimately solve problems in the interest of the patient. Emergency  room nursing also requires teamwork, making it critical to collaborate, communicate and empathize with your coworkers.

As a whole, emergency room nurses must be highly adaptable and willing to work with others in order to deliver effective care at any given moment.


What degree do you need to be an ER nurse?

To become an emergency room nurse, you’ll need to be a registered nurse who has passed the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX). Specialized ER nurses can earn their Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). The CEN or BCEN is not required to be an ER nurse, but can help when pursuing specialized careers. Specialized roles that may require you to achieve specific certifications include:

  • Certified flight registered nurse.
  • Certified pediatric emergency nurse.
  • Certified transport registered nurse.
  • Trauma certified registered nurse.

Nurses with a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) have more job opportunities and are more likely to be considered for competitive roles than nurses who don’t. Nurses with a BSN also have better patient outcomes, including lower mortality and failure to rescue rates.

Hospitals often require their emergency room nurses to have their BSN degrees. Even if it’s not required where you work, earning a BSN can still be beneficial as it demonstrates your capabilities and gives health care organizations added confidence in your skill set.


Earn your online RN to BSN with Arizona State University

Whether you’re interested in growing in your career as an emergency room nurse or going on to specialize in a different area of nursing, a BSN provides you with the educational background you need to grow your nursing career as a whole.

Get the details on ASU Online’s RN to BSN program, including admission requirements and application process, and prepare to advance your career.

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We’ve compiled what you need to know about online classes and degree programs at Arizona State University. Read on to learn all about what to expect from the ASU Online learning experience.


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