From anticipating the needs of the medical staff when a trauma patient enters the doors to responding to the scene of an accident, emergency room nurses are as vital to hospitals as the doctors in them. The number of years it takes to become an ER nurse includes the time spent in college and the work experience required by a nurse’s state before she can join an emergency nursing certification program and take the licensing exam.

Associate Degree in Nursing

The degree needed to become a certified ER nurse varies by state and the health care organization. At minimum, an individual needs to earn an Associate of Applied Science in Nursing, which takes two to three years to complete. The degree requires general education courses, science classes and nursing courses like nutrition and patient care. Students receive hands-on training and work with patients under the supervision of a registered nurse. Upon earning an associate degree, a nursing student is eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX-RN, to earn a nursing license.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

University nursing programs vary between those designed for traditional undergraduate students and those made for individuals who already have an associate degree in nursing. It takes four years to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing or two years if you already have an associate degree. Course topics include leadership, nursing management, ethics in the health care industry, social science and physical sciences. Students may spend up to two years training in a supervised clinical setting. Upon graduation, students may take the NCLEX-RN licensing exam.

Certification in Emergency Nursing

Certification for an ER nurse is voluntary, but can increase your chances of promotions and higher salaries. After gaining the necessary work experience -- which can take up to three years, depending on the state -- a nursing graduate is eligible to earn ER nursing certification from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing through the Emergency Nurses’ Association by completing an accredited program. Alternatively, a student can earn a Master of Science in Nursing with a specialization in emergency care. Depending on the program, it can take one semester to two years to earn a nursing graduate degree.

Doctor of Nursing Practice

The Doctor of Nursing Practice is an advanced practice nursing degree that prepares a registered nurse to become a primary care provider. A registered nurse who wants to work in emergency medicine should seek a graduate school that offers an emergency nursing specialization. The classes develop an individual’s leadership skills and nursing practices, and teach about how to enhance nursing skills, patient outcomes and the delivery of healthcare. The number of years it takes to earn a DNP degree varies by school, ranging from one to three years.