Critical Care Nursing Certification


In 2009, over 10,500 people took the exam to receive the CCRN and about 68 percent of them passed. Over 52,000 people have been awarded the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) since 1976. The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) is the governing body of the certification process and provides resources for CCRN applicants.

Job Description

  • Registered nurses that specialize in critical care work with patients who are having serious health problems. Some of the health issues are acute and/or sudden onset illnesses while others are extensive injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, certification in critical care is important because critical care patients need strict observation of medical equipment (cardiac monitors, mechanical ventilators) and "extensive medication protocols and therapies." Medications are sometimes given intravenously or through gastric tubes.


  • The stepping stone into any specialization in nursing, such as critical care, is the initial attainment of the registered nurse (RN) license. To become an RN, you first must graduate from a nursing program, such as a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (AND, then you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). After achieving that requirement, you must also have 1,750 hours of RN experience and you must provide a professional reference stating that you've met the experience requirement. Also, 875 hours of your experience hours should have been completed within the year of your CCRN application.


  • According to the AACN, the test for the CCRN goes beyond basic memory of concepts by including much application of principles. Some of the questions present patient data such as symptoms, lab values, and blood gases and ask you "What would you do?" to prepare for the test, the AACN provides a self assessment exam (SAE) to test your knowledge and skills. They also provide sample test questions and exam references for you to study. The fee for the test for AACN members is $220 and it is $325 for non-members.


  • After you have passed the test and been certified, you have to maintain your CCRN through continuing education requirements and fee payment. If you don't maintain eligibility requirements, pay fees or meet deadlines, the AACN Certification Corporation retains the right to revoke your certification. Other causes for revocation include the falsification of your CCRN application, the failure of an audit, the conviction of a felony, or the misrepresentation of your certification status.

Salary Potential

  • Salaries for Certified Critical Care Registered Nurses (CCRN) often vary based on their job. According to, CCRNs working as nurse anesthetists have some of the highest salaries with a median of $121,800 while those working in the emergency room have a median salary of $64,300 as of April 2010. Charge nurses have a median salary of $65,700, intensive care unit (ICU) nurses generally earn around $770,100, and a CCRNs working as the Director of Nursing have a median salary of $99,500.

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