Emergency room (ER) nurses, also called emergency department (ED) nurses, remain in high demand due to ever-increasing visits to emergency departments each year. If you’re attracted to a fast-paced and rewarding work environment, becoming an ER nurse may be right for you. Learn facts about emergency room nursing, average salaries, ways to boost your earning potential, and more in this guide.
What Does an ER Nurse Do?
An emergency room nurse is a registered nurse who works in a hospital’s emergency department. They perform many tasks, from triaging patients to caring for those facing traumatic or life-threatening conditions. Because they’re usually the first healthcare workers that patients see, ER nurses must have good assessment skills and quick decision-making capabilities.
How Much Do ER Nurses Get Paid?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists $82,750 as the mean annual pay for registered nurses in the United States, or $39.78 an hour. However, it doesn’t differentiate the pay among nursing specialties.
The average pay for emergency room nurses on Vivian is $37.24 per hour or $77,459.20 annually, assuming you work 40 hours each week. Compare the annual pay for ER nurses by state to learn which states pay more than others.
|State||Average Annual Pay||Average Hourly Pay|
Where in the U.S. Do ER Nurses Get Paid the Most?
California generally has higher wages for emergency room nurses than other states. The average hourly salary for ER nurses in the Golden State is $54 per hour, but they can earn as much as $79 an hour. Emergency room nurses earned the most in these states in August 2022.
|State||Average Hourly Salary||Max Hourly Salary|
|District of Columbia||$46||$64|
What Factors Affect Your Pay as an ER Nurse?
Several factors determine the salary of an emergency room nurse. These factors include job location, work setting, years of experience, and education level.
Job Location: Working in a metropolitan area usually pays more compared to rural areas. However, urban areas also typically have higher costs of living.
Work Setting: Many emergency room nurses work in the emergency room departments of hospitals and medical clinics. They can also work in various other settings, including:
- Burn Units
- Cardiac Units
- Disaster Response Units
- Pediatric Units
- Triage Centers
- Trauma Centers
- Urgent Care Centers
However, hospitals typically pay more than other workplace settings.
Years of Experience: Like any profession, more experienced emergency room nurses earn more than those with less experience. The more years you’ve spent working in the ER, the higher your potential salary.
Education Level: Gaining advanced degrees can create opportunities for emergency room nurses to increase their earning potential and even qualify for promotions.
What States Employ the Most ER Nurses?
According to Zippia, the top states for the highest number of emergency room nurses employed include:
- New York
- North Carolina
Why Should You Choose ER Nursing as a Specialty?
Emergency Room Nursing can be a very rewarding career choice. ER nurses have the opportunity to make a difference in patients’ lives every day. Some of the best reasons why you should choose emergency room nursing as your specialty include:
- Fulfilling work: All registered nurses do fulfilling work but ER nurses really feel that fulfillment as they help patients in times of dire need. Many patients don’t anticipate a trip to the emergency room on their way to work or while playing with their children. ER nurses respond to patients’ needs on what many describe as the worst days of their lives. You can’t get any more meaningful work than that.
- Plenty of learning opportunities: Emergency room nurses encounter a wide array of patients and situations in their everyday work. There are very few nursing specialties that do that. Exposure to different situations can open up a lot of learning opportunities. Emergency room nursing is a great area to develop and hone your nursing knowledge, skills, and experience.
- Exciting environment and teamwork: If you’re the kind of person who loves doing a variety of things in your work, emergency room nursing is right for you. Not only will you get your fair share of adrenaline-rushing moments, but you also get to know what it’s like to be part of a team.
How Does ER Nurse Pay Compare to Other Travel Nurse Jobs?
On average, emergency room nurses earn less than travel nurses ($39.78/hour versus $47.67/hour).
Last year, Vivian reported that travel nurses earned a gross weekly salary of $1,716 per week, working an average of 36 hours per week. However, they were earning $2,651 weekly in early August 2022.
Of all travel nursing specialties, Risk Manager roles pay the most. Travel risk managers earned about $4,958/week, 47% higher than the average RN, in early August 2022. The highest paying travel nursing specialties during this period included:
|Specialty||Average Weekly Salary||Max Weekly Salary|
|OR Scrub RN||$3,472||$5,180|
|Pediatrics OR – Operating Room||$3,421||$5,443|
How Can You Increase Your Pay as an ER Nurse?
There are several ways emergency room nurses can increase their earning potential, including:
Getting the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential
- To qualify to sit for the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) exam offered through the Board of Certification for Emergency Room Nursing (BCEN), you must hold an unrestricted Registered Nurse license in the United States, a U.S. territory, or Canada.
- Although the BCEN recommends having at least 2 years of experience in your specialty area, it isn’t required.
Earning a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or higher
- Having an advanced degree can help you move up to higher-level positions in nursing. It can also raise your income (this could be a $20,000 increase in salary over time).
Becoming an Emergency Room travel nurse
- Generally, emergency room travel nurses earn an average salary of $2,632 per week or $136,864 per year.
Working on nights or weekends
- Many hospitals offer more money to emergency room nurses who work less popular shifts like nights and weekends.
Becoming a preceptor for new hires in the unit
- Nurse preceptors serve as teachers and coaches to newly-hired nurses in the unit. They provide feedback, set learning objectives, teach hospital protocols, and encourage critical thinking. Becoming a nurse preceptor requires both a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree, plus at least a year of experience in your unit.
How Do You Become an ER Nurse?
To become an Emergency Room Nurse, you must have:
- An associate’s degree in nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- A nursing license by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)
- Any other state-level RN licensing requirements and/or facility-level requirements, such as earning Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification
Professional certifications may or may not be required but always make you a more desirable candidate. BCEN recommends 2 years of experience in emergency room nursing before pursuing the CEN certification. Other ER nursing specialties you may want to pursue, including flight (CFRN), critical care ground transport (CTRN), and pediatric emergency (CPEN).