What is an ER Doctor

An ER doctor, or emergency room doctor, is a physician who works in emergency rooms in hospitals, clinics, or emergency care facilities. They are responsible for the quick diagnosis and treatment of numerous medical conditions, including severe injuries, illnesses, and various sudden onset medical problems. Often their work will involve treating conditions such as gunshot wounds, drug and alcohol overdoses, and cardiac arrest, with many possibilities in between.

Work Environment

The work environment for ER doctors is fast-paced and, at times, hectic. They are required to work quickly and efficiently, while still putting patient care first and foremost. Depending on the area, and even the day, this can mean a busy and stressful shift, or a quiet evening at a more relaxed pace.

The physical work environment will be well-lit and clean, and will be reasonably comfortably appointed to help put patients at ease. However, because of the nature of the work, the patients can reflect the spectrum of humanity, from the rich upper classes to the deranged. ER doctors must keep a steady head in order to accurately treat patients and ensure their well-being.

Work Schedule

ER doctors will typically work long shifts of ten to twelve hours, at any time of day; some day shifts and some night shifts will be required, as well as weekends and holidays. There is also a great deal of on-call time, and they may be called in to the hospital during off hours, depending on how busy the emergency room is. 

ER Doctor Job Outlook and Prospects

The job outlook for ER doctors is very strong, with an expected 22 percent growth in the coming years. This is due in part to the growth of all medical fields in the United States, as well as to the growing population. There are also a great number of retirements expected over this period, with the baby boomers nearing their twilight. Finally, changes in Federal health insurance policies mean more people will have access to health care, which will cause a rise in the need for doctors in the short term.

Salary Analysis

The mean ER doctor salary is approximately $132,000 per year, though this varies greatly due to several factors. The geographic location is one of the foremost causes of differences in ER doctor salary, along with experience of the physician and the type of emergency room in which they work. With all of these factors, ER doctor salary can range from around $90,000 to more than $300,000 per annum.

Education and Specialization 

Following a bachelor’s degree, and ER doctor must complete a four-year medical degree before entering a residency. A residency focusing on emergency room medicine usually lasts between three and four years, and includes preparation for the many various problems one deals with in the ER, including quick stabilization of traumatic injuries, identifying and treating drug overdoses, and evaluating many different illnesses.

Some ER doctors may wish to specialize, in which case they must pursue a fellowship following their residency. These specializations include pediatric emergency medicine, toxicology, and disaster medicine. Such specializations, with their added education, will bring higher salaries.

Experience and Position 

Experience is an important factor  for salaries of ER doctors, with the average wage for new physicians ranging from $70,000 to around $100,000. Those with ten or more years’ experience, however, can see salaries between $125,000 and $250,000, depending on the location in which they practice.

Position is a moderately strong in ER doctors’ salary considerations. Those heading an emergency room department will make substantially more than those just starting, due to the increased demand on their skills and time; they must consider the right mix of doctors for each shift to handle the likely patients the ER will see, while also providing care themselves. For example, a weekend evening will require more doctors adept at toxicology and gunshot wounds than pediatric specialists, whereas a weekday may need more pediatricians.


The type of hospital worked impacts the salary of an ER doctor greatly, with general and surgical hospitals offering somewhat lower wages than emergency-specific hospitals or clinics, though this is dependent on the doctor’s specialties. Substance abuse hospitals will offer better wages to a doctor specialized in emergency toxicology, while a general or children’s hospital will provide a higher wage to a pediatric doctor. 


The geographic location has a significant impact on ER doctor salary, with those hospitals having a high need offering better wages. New York is one of the best paying states, at $229,000 per year, with California following at $212,000. This is also dependent on the area within the state; Flint, Michigan, for example, offers an average of $224,000 per year, though the average for Michigan overall is much lower.