Per Diem Nursing

Essential Nurse Certifications: The Best Certifications to Advance Your Nursing Career

When working in the nursing field there are many opportunities you can take to help advance your career by gaining additional certifications. By getting certified in different areas, nurses become more valuable, as there is a high demand for certain specializations. Another benefit to furthering your nursing education with certifications is that the pay is higher. Since nurses with additional certifications are in higher demand, healthcare facilities will pay higher rates for this specialized talent. This blog will cover all the certifications that every nurse should have, as well as provide interesting certifications for registered nurses (RN), including emergency room nurses, licensed practical nurses (LPN) or licensed vocational nurses (LVN), and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). 

Common certifications every nurse should have

Common certifications that every practicing nurse should have include the basic life support (BLS) certification, the advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) certification, and the pediatric advanced life support (PALS) certification.  

BLS certification

Given that the requirement for this certification is very common, every professional in the healthcare industry needs to be certified in BLS. This certification is also required by many other occupations not working in healthcare, including police officers and lifeguards. A BLS certification only takes a little under five hours to complete and will need to be renewed every two years (Leader Stat, n.a.). Some topics covered in this certification include CPR, AED, and how to respond to a person choking.  

ACLS certification

The advanced cardiovascular life support certification is another common yet essential certification that many healthcare professionals need to have. The ACLS certification teaches medical professionals how to treat patients who have undergone cardiac emergencies. In total including breaks, the ACLS ILT certification takes about 15 hours to complete (CPR & First Aid Emergency Cardiovascular Care, n.a.). This certification is valid for two years and needs to be renewed every two years after that. 

PALS certification

The pediatric advanced life support certification focuses on how to care for adolescents who have endured a life-threatening medical event. The certification takes about eight hours to complete and will need to be recertified after two years (Disque and Mackenzie, 2021). Many people similarly compare the ACLS certification to the PALS certification. The main difference between the two is that PALS focuses on childcare, whereas ACLS deals more with adults.  

The following certifications are not as common and take quite a bit longer to complete than those that were previously mentioned. However, these are great for career advancement, which leads to higher levels of practice and higher paying roles. If you’re looking to make a career advancement in about two to six years, these certifications are worth considering.  

Certifications for RNs 

Holistic nursing certification

If you’re a registered nurse who’s interested in alternative methods of healthcare such as aromatherapy and practicing mindfulness, then holistic nursing might be for you. The requirements for this certification consist of 48 hours of continuing education in holistic nursing along with research and practice. There is also a minimum requirement of 2,000 hours or one year of holistic nursing experience (NurseJournal Staff, 2023). This certification covers areas involved in less traditional components of nursing, such as emotional, environmental, and spiritual factors (NurseJournal Staff, 2023). After five years, the holistic nursing certification will need to be renewed.  

Critical care registered nurse certification

Critical care registered nurses, or CCRNs, are specialized healthcare professionals who treat critically ill and unstable patients that need intensive care. According to an article by SimpleNursing, “A minimum of 1,750 hours of direct bedside care of acutely/critically ill patients during the previous two years, with at least 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding the exam application,” (SimpleNursing Editorial Team, 2023). There is also another option, which consists of gaining five years of work experience as an RN or APRN. During the five years you must complete 2,000 hours caring for acutely or critically ill patients and 144 of those hours must be earned within the last year (Critical Care Academy, n.a.). After three years, this certification will need to be renewed if you want to continue practicing as a CCRN.  

Other Nursing Certifications for RNs or LPNs / LVNs

IV therapy certification

Another great way to advance your career is by getting certified in IV therapy. In hospitals and other healthcare settings, IVs are constantly being inserted into patients. By becoming specialized in this area, healthcare professionals can decrease the risks involved in inserting IVs. Because inserting IVs is an invasive procedure, there is a possibility for infections and other complications, which is why there is a higher demand for these healthcare professionals. Although the length of the course does vary by state, an RN, LPN, or LVN usually finishes the course in 30 to 48 hours. Additionally, many of the rules regarding LPNs/LVNs and IV placement vary by state, so it’s important to do thorough research beforehand (Hasty, n.a.). This certification is good for two years before it needs to be renewed.  

Hemodialysis nurse certification

According to an article, “A dialysis nurse, sometimes referred to as a nephrology nurse, cares for patients undergoing dialysis. Dialysis is a specific procedure that removes the toxins the kidneys normally filter from the blood,” (NurseJournal Staff, 2023). To become a certified dialysis nurse (CDN), you’ll need to pass the CDN exam. The requirements needed to take the exam consist of completeing 3,000 hours of experience caring for patients who need or have undergone dialysis. Additionally, you’ll need 20 hours of continuing education in nephrology nursing (NurseJournal Staff, 2023). If you want to stay certified, you’ll need to get your certification renewed every three years.  

Certifications for APRNs

Nurse anesthetist certification

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) assists an anesthesiologist and administers anesthesia to patients. They also monitor patients who have recently undergone anesthesia to make sure they are properly recovering (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). To become a CRNA, you’ll need at least a years’ worth of experience working in an ICU as a registered nurse. Following your ICU RN experience, you’ll need to graduate from an accredited nurse anesthesia program. Once this is complete, you’ll need to get a passing score on the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Every four years, you’ll need to renew your certificate to continue working as a CRNA.  

Family nurse practitioner

A family nurse practitioner (FNP) performs many different tasks on a daily basis. Their role in this field is to care for patients of all ages in order to promote their health and wellness by helping treat everything from chronic diseases to short-term illnesses (UCLA Nursing, n.a.). To become certified as an FNP, you first need to complete an accredited FNP program. Once this has been accomplished, the next step is to apply for the FNP certification, which is offered by both the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) (Nursing License Map, n.a.). Finally, you’ll have to become certified by your state in which you are working to become an FNP. States differ for this certification, so it’s important to look into the requirements before applying. After you’ve been certified by your state, your certification will be valid for five years (Nursing License Map, n.a.).  

Certifications for emergency room nurses

Certified emergency nurse

Recommended for many emergency room nurses, this certification enables these healthcare professionals to be well prepared for any scenario they may encounter. CEN’s are trained to become specialized in providing care to wounded and trauma patients. To become a CEN, it is recommended that you first have two years of experience working in an emergency room setting as a registered nurse. Next, you’ll have to take the CEM exam, which is administered by The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) (, n.a.). After three years of receiving your CEM certification, you’ll need to get it renewed if you want to continue practicing.  

Trauma nursing core course certification

According to an article by CareRev, “Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) Certification is a professional credential that recognizes a nurse's advanced expertise in the assessment and management of patients with traumatic injuries. These certified nurses play a pivotal role in delivering life-saving care and stabilizing critically ill patients,” (CareRev, 2023). If you already have experience working in an emergency setting, then the TNCC certification only takes about a day and a half to two days to complete. There are several different organizations that you can choose from when taking the certification exam, so it’s important to research which you think is best for you and your career. The TNCC certification is valid for four years until it needs to be renewed. 

Because of the various certification options nurses have, it’s crucial that you do as much research as possible before deciding on one. Thinking about your career path and goals will benefit you the most when deciding which certification is right for you. Just remember to not get overwhelmed because any one of these certifications is sure to advance your career professionally. Another important piece of information to keep in mind when deciding on a certification is the price of each exam. Some exams cost hundreds of dollars, so you’ll want to keep this in mind when you consider how many times you’ll want it to be renewed. We hope this blog gave you a better idea of just some of the many certifications that are available to nurses!