2022 Guide: Online Trauma Nursing Degree Programs

Trauma nurses are among the medical field’s most critical professionals. Treating acute injuries from car crashes, crimes and accidents, these specialized nurses provide medical intervention when lives are on the line. Becoming a trauma nurse can be a rewarding and remunerative career choice for those with a passion for helping others. Here’s what you need to know about online trauma nursing programs and the career path of a trauma nurse.

What Is an Online Trauma Nursing Program?


Trauma nursing programs are postgraduate educational certification courses designed to help registered nurses gain the additional skills necessary to become professional trauma nurses. In order to become certified trauma nurses, students must already have completed an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing and passed the NCLEX-RN.

The primary goal of online trauma nursing programs is to allow students to gain a trauma certified registered nurse (TCRN) certification. In addition to a minimum of 20 hours of relevant coursework, students must complete at least two years and a minimum of 2,000 hours of on the job work related to trauma nursing to get this certification. Other specialized coursework, such as the Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC), may also be included in these programs. The TCRN certification is valid for four years after it is obtained.

In addition to the TCRN certification, nurses wanting to move into the trauma field can also pursue the Trauma Nursing Core Course (TCNN).The TCNN is a certificate only, rather than a certification. Like the TCRN, a TCNN certificate is good for four years. TCNN certificate classes typically last two days and include a general overview of the most up-to-date trauma nursing practices.

Career paths for trauma nurses broadly mirror those available to other registered nurses. A trauma nurse can go on to become a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse leader or certified registered nurse anesthetist, among other promising career fields, after earning a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN).

Why Choose an Online Trauma Nursing Program?

Registered nurses may choose to pursue trauma nursing certifications for a variety of different reasons. Trauma nursing is an extremely high-impact career in which a person can save lives on a daily basis. Trauma nurses also earn slightly more than standard RNs, making the move to trauma nursing a financially sensible one for many active nurses.

Those best suited to working as trauma nurses will possess the ability to remain calm in extremely stressful situations. Being able to think and act quickly is also important, as swift action can make all the difference for a trauma patient’s clinical outcome. Comfort working long hours under high-pressure conditions is also helpful for navigating what can often be extremely challenging and intense shifts.

It should be noted that it isn’t possible to become a trauma nurse purely through online coursework. Though knowledge from online nursing programs certainly carries over to the field of trauma nursing, many of the necessary skills can only be learned through hands-on experience. The work requirements for the TCRN certification also introduce a large in-person component to becoming a trauma nurse.

How Much Does a Trauma Nursing Program Cost?

Becoming a trauma nurse is relatively inexpensive for active RNs. Exam costs for the TCRN certification run $300-400 dollars, depending on whether the student is taking the exam for the first time or retaking it. Specialized courses for trauma nurses also tend to be affordable, with some costing only a few hundred dollars. Members of the Society of Trauma Nurses can also access online webinars at no cost that count toward continuing education credits.

For those who aren’t already licensed RNs, though, the cost of becoming a trauma nurse is much higher. Before becoming a trauma nurse, you’ll have to complete a 2-year or 4-year degree in nursing and obtain an unrestricted nursing license. Fortunately, affordable online nursing school options are widely available. Some of the most budget-friendly 2-year nursing programs cost as little as $2,500 to $6,000 per year. For more traditional 4-year programs on campus, tuitions of $25,000 or more are far from uncommon.

How Much Do Trauma Nurses Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide separate salary data for trauma nurses. As of May 2020, the BLS listed a median salary of about $75,300 for all registered nurses. Payscale, however, provides more complete data. According to Payscale, the median hourly wage for trauma nurses was $30.63 in July 2021, compared to $30.45 for registered nurses. Trauma nurses in the 90th percentile of earners made $43.24 per hour, while registered nurses in the same percentile made $42.61.

Trauma nurses are also very likely to receive medical benefits through their employers. According to Payscale, 76 percent of people employed in this role have medical insurance, while just 23 percent lack employer-provided medical benefits. 68 percent have dental coverage as part of their compensation, while 61 percent receive vision coverage.

Like other nursing professionals, trauma nurses can increase their pay by taking advantage of widely available overtime.Picking up undesirable shifts on evenings and weekends is a relatively common method used by nurses to pad their paychecks beyond their normal hours. About 45 percent of new registered nurses report taking on voluntary overtime. Depending on applicable state laws, mandatory overtime may also have an effect on an individual nurse’s annual salary.

What Is the Job Outlook for Trauma Nurses

The BLS projects 7 percent growth in RN jobs over the next 10 years, which is faster than average. Most trauma nurses are employed in emergency rooms, but jobs also exist in medical transport, specialty trauma centers and the armed forces. Care facilities for specific types of injuries, such as burn centers, also employ trauma nurses.

Trauma nurses have the option to remain in their roles throughout their entire careers but can also move up into higher-paying careers with additional training. Becoming a nurse practitioner, for example, is a good way for a trauma nurse to put his or her experience to use while pursuing career advancement. Likewise, working trauma nurses can take the skills and knowledge they gain on the job and apply them toward attending medical school.

Scholarships for Trauma Nursing

Because trauma nursing is a postgraduate specialization, there aren’t specific scholarship programs associated with it. There are, however, a plethora of nursing scholarships students can take advantage of to earn their nursing degrees and become RNs before specializing in trauma nursing.

It’s also worth noting that federal Pell grants and state grants can help students pay for their nursing degrees. Even though these grants aren’t specific to nursing, they’re well worth looking into for anyone pursuing nursing education. General purpose scholarships offered by colleges themselves can also be extremely helpful.

Below, you’ll find a few promising nursing scholarships to apply for while earning your associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. A variety of other scholarships are available for nursing programs in specific locations. Be sure to thoroughly research scholarship opportunities in your area to keep your college tuition costs under control.

A.T. Anderson Memorial Scholarship

$1,000 for undergraduate students enrolled in 2-year or 4-year STEM field degree programs, including nursing. 3.0 or higher GPA required.

Mildred Nutting Nursing Scholarship

$2,000 for nursing students with financial need. Requires current enrollment in an accredited nursing school. Two scholarships awarded each year.

Nurses Make a Difference Scholarship

$1,000 awarded to a student enrolled in a nursing program or a high school student who has already been accepted into an accredited nursing school.

Study.com Scholarship for Future Nurses

$500 for a student enrolled in a 4-year nursing program. High school seniors who have been accepted into a nursing program for the next academic year are eligible.

FAQs About Trauma Nursing Programs

Summary Information

  • Online programs, certifications and certificates available
  • Current RNs require 2 years of experience to obtain the TCRN
  • 4-6 year outlook for students entering nursing for the first time
  • Considerable requirements for on-the-job experience, despite online education options

  • High growth projections over the next 10 years
  • Good pay with ample overtime available
  • High-impact work that can save lives on a daily basis
  • Medical benefits through employers are common
  • Potential for advancement into nursing leadership or nurse practitioner career
  • Certification and continuing education courses for current RNs costs usually $300-400
  • Online nursing programs begin at about $2,500
  • On-campus options can cost $25,000 or more

Scroll to Top