Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Degree

Curious about becoming a Nurse Anesthetist? Explore the different types of degree programs, requirements to become a CRNA and what you need to do to take the next steps in your career.

Nurse Anesthetist Schooling

To become a nurse anesthetist, you'll need to complete a lengthy education process, beginning with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Alternatively, you can also earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to become a RN without first doing your ADN. Whichever path you choose, these programs will provide in-depth instruction into the field of nursing, nursing management, and nursing education. It isn't until a Master of Science in Nursing (with an anesthetist focus) or a post-master's certificate program in anesthesia that you will really focus on the anesthetist aspect. As a nurse anesthetist, you'll work with doctors and patients to provide pain medication and anesthesia prior to, during, and after surgery. You will work with the patient to monitor vitals during labor and surgery, and even provide pain management medication after a procedure.

How Many Years to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

To become a nurse anesthetist, or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), you'll need to complete all schooling, become certified, and spend roughly one year in an acute care setting (short-term patient care for a variety of circumstances). Because of these requirements it may take around six years to become a CRNA. Let's break that down: To start, you will spend at least two years obtaining your ADN. Afterwards, it can take anywhere from 15 months to four years to get your BSN, depending on whether you take part in an accelerated program. With another two years for your master's degree, you're nearing a minimum total of at least five years to get the necessary degrees for this field. After that, you'll need a year of acute care experience and then, finally, your post-master's anesthetist certificate (if your master's degree did not focus in anesthesia).

CRNA School Requirements

The prerequisites and requirements for graduate school with a CRNA program vary with every school. For instance, some schools may require a year of acute care nursing prior to submitting your application, or they may require a minimum GPA from your BSN program. In general, you will need at least a bachelor's degree. This could be a BSN, or a non-nursing bachelor's as long as you have an ADN. Many colleges and universities expect you to be an RN, with clinical experience of some kind. Along with your transcripts, application fee, and application, you may also need to include:

  • NCLEX-RN scores
  • GRE scores
  • Video essays showcasing your enthusiasm for the program
  • Written essays explaining personal reasons for applying or experiences
  • Letters of recommendation from hospital administration
  • Interviews with admissions

CRNA School Cost

School costs will vary greatly from school-to-school and state-to-state. In general, you will find that CRNA master's degree programs or post-master's certificate programs can be taken for anywhere between $26,000 to $106,000 for full matriculation. Remember, this is just tuition costs, as there are often lab, equipment, and book costs on top of tuition. Consider enrolling in an in-state program, since colleges and universities typically charge less for in-state residents. Public schools also typically cost much less than private schools, even at the graduate level.

There are also scholarships and grants given by both schools and national organizations that can help cover your costs. For instance, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) offers scholarships and grants. One option to reduce cost is to join the NURSE Corps. If eligible, you'll receive a scholarship or loan repayment (along with nurse's pay) for two years of service in an understaffed institute. The Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) also offers several grants, such as the Safety Scientist Career Development Award for up to $150,000 over two years.

Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Degree

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), or certified nurse anesthetist, master's degree program will put you in the classroom and in a clinical setting for hands-on experience. You will be trained to work in all types of operating and gynecological settings, including birthing, vascular transplant, ambulatory, eye, and neurological centers. Along with studying the principles and practices of nurse anesthetists, during the two years of your graduate study, you'll spend time a lot of time with application of these skills. Some other common courses include:

  • Pharmacology for anesthesia care
  • Professional roles of nurse anesthetists
  • Regional anesthesia
  • Genetics
  • Comprehensive care
  • Nurse anesthesia fundamentals
  • Intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography care
  • Pediatric anesthesiology
  • Pain management

RN-to-CRNA

Once you're a registered nurse (RN), you'll then continue your education with an RN-to-BSN degree, if you don't already have a BSN. Once your BSN is complete you'll need to get a master's degree with a nursing anesthesiology focus or alternatively, complete a master's degree in nursing and then take a post-master's certificate program in anesthesia. Many colleges and universities offer both the RN-to-BSN bridge degree, which are accelerated BSN degrees for those who do not have a nursing license yet, and CRNA master's degrees. If you continue your education at the same institution, you may find that credits are more easily transferred between programs, and that core course requirements can be met more easily.

NP vs CRNA

Nursing titles can often get confusing. What is an RN? What is a BSN? Whether or not you are familiar with nursing terms, there are two that are often confused: NP and CRNA. What they have in common is that both titles - NP (nurse practitioner) and CRNA (certified register nurse anesthetist) - require a master's degree. While you could become an NP and then a CRNA, the education and certification requirements differ, as well as the roles themselves.

Position Focus Education Requirements Testing Work Environment Duties Salary
Nurse Practitioner All areas (oncology, obstetrics, family practice, mental health, surgery, etc.) Master's of Science in Nursing with post-master's certificate in specialty NCLEX-NP Hospitals, clinics, urgent care centers Diagnose and treat patients $103,880
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Anesthesiology Master's of Science in Nursing with post-master's certificate in nurse anesthetics
OR
Master's degree in Nursing Anesthetics
NCLEX-RN and NBCRNA's National Certification Examination (NCE) Hospitals, surgical centers, and birthing centers Provide anesthesia and pain medication prior to, during, and after procedures or labor $165,120

Online CRNA Programs

At this time, there are no fully online CRNA program that can be completed. There are many hybrid programs that require time on campus or in a clinical setting. For instance, you'll study foundational courses, such as anatomy, nursing management, health promotion, and pathophysiology online. However, you'll be expected to spend time practicing nursing skills, applied pharmacology, patient safety, and physical diagnosis on campus in simulations and labs. Spending time on campus will give you the experience working with patients that a computer simulation could not provide. Should you choose to earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in anesthesiology, more classes will be available online as these are often research-based and not as application-focused.