We report the first study of impact excitation of Er ions in GaAs. The MOCVDgrown, p+-n structured EL devices were fabricated by growing, at different temperatures, GaAs:Er layers on top of the n+ GaAs substrates. P+ layers were made by Zn diffusion from the top surfaces. When we forward biased these diodes, their EL spectra were similar to their respective PL spectra for each sample but different from each other's. However, when we reverse biased these diodes, EL spectra obtained from all samples are the same, which were different from their PL spectra. These results indicate that the Er center(s) excited by direct impact is different from the Er center(s) excited through electron-hole recombination and subsequent energy transfer. By using RBS channeling, we found that most of the Er ions, in our MOCVD-grown GaAs:Er samples, occupy a displaced tetrahedral interstitial site. From these PL, EL and RBS results, we conclude that only a small amount of Er ions emit luminescence when they are indirectly excited through energy transfer.