Emergency room nurses are licensed registered nurses that work in a hospital’s emergency department or ER. These nurses are the first line when a patient arrives at the hospital and are responsible for appropriately triaging a patient and caring for them prior to admission, surgery, or discharge.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about emergency room nurses, average salaries, salary by state, and ways to increase your earning potential.
Part One What is the Average ER Nurse Salary?
According to the BLS, registered nurses of all specialties earn a median salary of $77,600 annually or $37.31/hr. While the BLS does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, ZipRecruiter.com reports that emergency room nurses earn an average of $93,405 per year or $45 per hour.
The majority of emergency room nurses make between $77,000 and $107,000, with top earners making $124,500 annually.
Part Two ER Nurse Salary by City and State
Highest Paying Cities for Emergency Room Nurses
Emergency Room Nurse Salary By State
Part Three ER Nurse Salary Factors
ER Nurse Salary by Years of Experience
Emergency Room Nurses can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.
- Less than 1 year of experience earn an average hourly wage of $27.48
- 1-4 years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $29.60
- 5-9 years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $33.18
- 10-19 years of experience earns an average hourly wage of $36.91
- 20 years and higher years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $39.00
ER Nurse Salary by Work Setting
Generally, emergency room nurses work in hospital emergency rooms; however, they can work in a variety of other locations such as:
- Ambulance transport team
- Burn center
- Disaster Response and/or Emergency Preparedness
- Emergency response team
- Flight transport team
- Government agency
- Medical clinic
- Poison control center
- Trauma center
- Triage center
- Urgent care center
The highest paying locations for emergency room nurses are large, level one trauma centers. These hospitals require multiple ER nurses during a shift and often require the highest level of skills.
Part Four How to Increase Your Salary as an Emergency Room Nurse
You can increase your ER nurse salary a few different ways:
- 1. Earning the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) Certification: Advanced certification is optional but highly encouraged and can help increase your earning potential. The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing offers the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) to eligible nurses.
- 2. Working nights or weekends, where you are paid a higher per-hour wage
- 3. Advance your education by earning a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or higher
- 4. Work per diem or become a travel emergency room nurse
- 5. Train to be a preceptor for new hires on the unit
- 6. Become a charge nurse or manager or your unit
- 7. Climb the clinical ladder within the unit
- 8. Offer to be a part of a unit or hospital-based committee
- 9. Pick up over time on your unit or throughout the hospital, if needed
Part Five Has Covid-19 Affected the Salary of Emergency Room Nurses?
Yes, COVID-19 has affected the salary and earning potential of emergency room nurses. But it also has greatly impacted the salaries for ALL nurses.
Emergency rooms were hit especially hard during the pandemic because this was often the first stop for patients. It also became a holding area as patients waited for rooms on the units and more often than not spent days in the ER versus the typical hours.
ER nurses saw a pay bump during this time because there was consistently a shortage within this department. Nurses left their positions at an accelerated rate because of the increased exposure but also because of the toll the pandemic was taking on them mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Furthermore, ER nurses were at the highest risk for contracting COVID-19 because of the constant and prolonged exposure to the deadly virus.
Crisis contracts were extremely popular during the height of the pandemic and the highest wages were seen for ER nurses.
At the time of publication - travel nurse contracts for ER positions are some of the highest paying contracts available to nurses.
Part Six Is Becoming an ER Nurse Worth it?
The cost of becoming a nurse can be overwhelming; however, with scholarships, loans, and tuition reimbursement it is feasible for anyone that is interested in the field.
Typically, nurses in the ER are BSN educated. ER nursing requires critical thinking, strong communication, and the ability to appropriately delegate which is can be learned in BSN classes.
While not a requirement, hospitals that are Magnet status or level one trauma centers will typically only hire BSN-prepared nurses.
How Much Does it Cost to Become an ER Nurse?
There is no one set cost for nursing school, but you can expect to spend anywhere from thousands for a shorter degree program, to as high as over $80,000 and even sometimes $100,000 for private or Ivy league nursing programs.
There is a multitude of factors that affect the cost of a nursing program including, but not limited to:
- Full time or part-time status
- Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- RN to BSN bridge program
- Community college vs. state college vs. private college
- Nursing Uniforms
- Lab Fees
- Transportation to classes and clinical sites
Regardless of the cost, nursing is a rewarding career and it is worth taking the risk. While the typical college student will leave school with debt, there are ways for it to be paid back by the government, hospital, or military. It’s important to speak to a counselor or hospital HR department regarding options.
Part Seven Emergency Room Nurse Salary vs Other Specialties
Emergency room nurses earn an average of $93,405 per year or $45 per hour. Here’s how that compares to some other nursing specialties:
- Telemetry nurses: $109,061 per year, $52 per hour
- OB nurses: $91,798 per year, $44 per hour
- NICU nurses: $101,727 per year, $49 per hour
- Corporate nurses: $82,880 per year, $40 per hour
- ICU nurses: $95,000 per year, $46 per hour
Salaries via ZipRecruiter
Part Eight ER Nurse FAQs
Is ER nursing stressful?
- ER nursing is very stressful and takes a toll on the nurses. It is very fast-paced, especially in level 1 trauma centers. Nurses must be able to juggle multiple patients, delegate when appropriate, and consistently be ready for the next trauma. Furthermore, ER nurses see a wide variety of patients so they must be well versed in many medical conditions.
Is ICU worse than ER?
- ICU and ER are very different yet similar fields. One is not worse than the other. The main difference between an ICU nurse and ER nurse is the goals of care. ER nurses prioritize, stabilize, and move on to the next patient while ICU nurses plan for the long-term goals for the patients and help them move from critical illness to health. ICU nurses are also responsible for building a rapport with patients and their families including in-depth patient/family education while ER nurses rarely do significant education teaching.
Are ER nurses in demand?
- ER nurses are in VERY high demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for all RNs between 2020 and 2030 is 9%, with an additional 276,800 nurses needed to fill jobs. The BLS does not provide a percentage specifically for emergency room nurses. However, this specialty has one of the highest turnover rates for nurses because of the constant exposure to contagious diseases, the mental toll from trauma patients, and the emotional burden of the fast-paced environment.