The amount of rigorous training and time required to become a certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) may seem daunting. However, it’s highly rewarding in more ways than one. Advanced practice registered nurses include certified family nurse practitioners, nurse midwife practitioners, and other highly educated nurses.
CRNAs are valued healthcare professionals who work together with the members of a patient’s team, such as surgeons and physicians, when anesthesia is required for medical procedures.
Their responsibility, expertise, and clinical experience are rewarded with highly competitive salaries. If joining the nursing field and earning a great living piques your interest, we’ll delve into the salary you can expect and other perks of the role.
Average Salary of a Nurse Anesthetist
A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is the highest-earning of all the nursing specialties and for a valid reason. Although any registered nurse can provide compassionate patient care, being a certified nurse anesthetist and managing patients’ anesthesia needs calls for a high level of knowledge, skill, judgment, and clinical experience.
The CRNA salary varies broadly. According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics (BLS), a nurse anesthetist at the lowest 10% of the salary scale earns $127,480 per year, whereas those in the top 25% earn over $203,730 annually.
When you factor in that the current average nurse anesthetist salary per year for all US occupations is $53,490, it puts into perspective just how highly valued these professionals are. With that being said, here are a few determining factors of a CRNA salary.
Type of Employer
A nurse anesthetist can offer their services in a boatload of different work settings, such as outpatient care facilities, physicians’ offices, surgery centers, and hospitals. While the salary can broadly vary based on where a certified nurse anesthetist works, typically outpatient care centers are among the highest-paid employers. The average nurse anesthetist salary is $181,800 annually.
Years of Clinical Experience
There’s approximately a $100,000 range between the salary of a nurse anesthetist who’s been working in the position for a decade and an entry-level CRNA. According to salaryexpert.com, an entry-level nurse anesthetist job will pay an annual salary of $120,581, whereas a senior CRNA earns about $220,557 yearly.
To curb or alleviate pain, anesthesia is provided in different ways and settings. A certified registered nurse anesthetist is responsible for providing independent anesthesia services or teaming up with other healthcare professionals. The environment in which they work is a key determinant of the salary they can expect, as listed below.
1. Outpatient care centers: $224,630
A certified registered nurse anesthetist in an outpatient care facility caters to patients requiring more procedures than office-based cases but less than inpatient facilities. Their salary in the outpatient care center exceeds the average. A CRNA is usually the sole anesthesia provider in this environment and must perform a boatload of roles that ushers in an income increment.
2. Physicians’ offices: $171,220
Office-based anesthesia entails CRNAs providing services to patients undergoing minor procedures such as plastic surgery, gastroenterology, oral surgery, and podiatry. An in-office procedure is the most convenient and cost-effective for a patient. A nurse anesthetist working full-time in a physician’s office guarantees a safe environment in a non-hospital setting.
3. Professional schools, colleges, and universities: $184,090
Roles for a nurse anesthetist in the academic community include clinical nurse specialist, guest lecturer, assistant professor, and program director.
4. Surgical and general medical hospitals: $193,380
Granted, a CRNA can be found in the operating room. However, they also serve essential roles throughout the hospital, such as providing anesthesia in the emergency room (ER), radiology procedures, neonatal ICUs, obstetrical suites, and cardiac labs. Nurse anesthetists working in health practitioners’ offices, such as dentists, earn an annual salary of $169,140.
Salary Per Hour
While a nurse anesthesia job’s wages vary from one state to another, the national average salary for a CRNA is $76.86 per hour, as reported by the BLS. It translates to an annual salary of $164,030. An anesthesia nurse practitioner is also eligible for extra compensation through profit sharing, overtime, and bonuses, depending on their place of work.
As expected, an experienced nurse anesthetist usually earns more per hour than a new graduate. Overall, a certified registered nurse anesthetist may feel that the salary boost is worth the extra education costs.
Below are the hourly high-paying industries for a CRNA, according to the BLS.
- Outpatient care centers: $87.41
- Specialty hospitals (except substance abuse and psychiatric): $84.52
- Surgical and general medical: $84.12
- Physicians’ offices: $76.56
The minimum level of education for a CRNA is a master’s degree. Some nurse anesthetists choose to pursue a doctoral degree in the field. A doctoral graduate from a nurse anesthetist school may earn more than one with a master’s degree.
However, the factors discussed above come into play. The more certifications a nurse anesthetist holds, the higher their salary. The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NB-CRNA) offers certification in Nonsurgical Pain Management (NSPM) and CRNA.
Scope of Work
Granted, the cities offering the highest CRNA salaries mirror the areas in which there’s a heavy concentration of skilled professionals, acute care, and teaching facilities. However, the states offering the highest salaries are also those in which an anesthesia nurse practitioner is likely to have a vast assortment of responsibilities because of the dearth of available anesthesiologists or healthcare facilities.
A nurse anesthetist earns 35% more than similar careers in the US. On average, they make more than a nurse anesthesiologist assistant.
How to Increase Your Anesthesia Nurse Salary
A CRNA looking to boost their annual salary can consider becoming a chief nurse anesthetist. It entails taking on the extra responsibilities of training, scheduling, and managing nursing staff at an additional $10,000 to $20,000 annually.
The Difference Between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist
A career in patient care through painful medical procedures and taking on the responsibility of administering anesthesia piques your interest.
If you’ve conducted your due diligence, you’re aware that the best nursing careers boil down to two main options: a CRNA and an anesthesiologist. How do the two differ? Although their titles seem closely similar, the working environments and educational background of these positions significantly vary.
Nurse anesthesiologists are medical doctors, which means they must spend four years in undergraduate studies, four years in medical school, and an additional three years in a residency program. In some instances, a physician anesthesiologist may also choose to complete a specialty fellowship.
A nurse anesthetist is required to complete an undergraduate CRNA program, become a registered nurse, get 1-year clinical experience in critical care, and lastly, complete a two-year degree program.
A CRNA has a similar responsibility as an anesthesiologist, such as ordering diagnostic tests and prescribing medication. In some states, they must work with a supervising board-certified physician.
Aside from the potential supervision that a CRNA requires, the process of putting a patient under anesthesia care is the same for a nurse anesthesiologist and a registered nurse anesthetist. A smaller medical office is more likely to have a CRNA, whereas larger healthcare facilities usually employ both parties.
While both CRNAs and anesthesiologists work in urban areas, about two-thirds of all anesthetics in the rural areas are administered by a certified registered nurse anesthetist. If you’re considering a master’s of science in nurse anesthesia, there are numerous perks to choosing this option over becoming a nurse anesthesiologist.
Although a nurse anesthesia program or CRNA school is intense and competitive, the time and cost that goes towards your degree are significantly less compared to becoming a physician anesthesiologist. Granted, an anesthesiologist has a higher earning potential, with an average annual salary of $246,320, according to the BLS.
However, they lack a proper work-life balance and must wait for a longer duration before they can start their career as a result of the grueling educational requirements.
What a Nurse Anesthetist Does
Certified registered nurse anesthetists refer to evolved practice nurses that safely deliver more than 40 million anesthetics for trauma, surgical, and obstetrical care annually in the US. They work in all types of practice environments, deliver care for each kind of procedure or operation, from pain management programs to open-heart surgery, and administer all types of anesthetics.
Nurse anesthetists collaborate with qualified healthcare professionals such as podiatrists, surgeons, dentists, and anesthesiologists to provide anesthetics to patients. As such, they are accorded a high level of professional respect and autonomy. Nurse anesthetists cater to a patient’s anesthesia needs during, after, and before surgery or the delivery of a baby by:
- Preparation for anesthetic management
- Participation in preoperative teaching
- Monitoring the recovery from anesthesia
- Keeping a patient free of pain by administering anesthesia
- Adhering to a patient’s postoperative course from the care unit to the recovery room
- Intraoperatively maintaining anesthesia
- Performing a physical assessment
At the moment, more than 50,000 nurse anesthetics practice in the US, 40% of which are men. They are the anesthesia providers in about two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the US, allowing these healthcare facilities to provide trauma stabilization, obstetrical, and surgical services.
Nurse anesthetists have been offering anesthesia in the US for more than 150 years, starting from the care of wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
A registered nurse anesthetist works in:
- Respiratory therapy departments
- Surgical clinics
- Doctors’ offices
- Cardiac Care Units (CCUs)
- Outpatient care centers
- Hospital operating rooms (ORs)
- Intensive care units (ICUs)
- Psychiatric institutions
- The Military
- Emergency rooms
- In learning institutions as a school nurse or nurse educator
Anesthesia professionals play a significant role in these work environments because of the risk associated with anesthetic medications. A CRNA employs the knowledge and skills they acquired from their respective nurse anesthetist school to select the ideal medication and guarantee their patients’ safety while the desired effect is achieved.
The on-the-job demand and work schedule of a nurse anesthetist significantly vary based on their place of employment. Although they get downtime to rest and recharge, they typically work 24-hour weekly shifts. Some CRNAs provide their much-needed services year-round.
In some settings, a CRNA works 8-hour shifts on Monday through to Friday, whereas, in other work environments, anesthesia providers work 10 to 12-hour shifts.
How Location Affects the Salary of a Nurse Anesthetist
Where a CRNA aims to be employed plays a big role in their salary. Larger cities and areas with high demand for nurse anesthetists tend to pay higher salaries compared to less populated, smaller regions without much demand. Montana is one of the top-paying states for a certified registered nurse anesthetist with an average annual salary of $242,140.
Job Outlook for a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
A CRNA has an amazing career outlook. With the aging population currently seeking expert care in the medical world, and people focusing on preventative care, you can expect increased job opportunities in the field.
According to the BLS, employment of any advanced nursing practice such as a nurse practitioner, nurse midwife, and nurse anesthetist is expected to increase by 31% by 2024. The rate is 16% faster than a registered nurse, stemming from various factors, such as healthcare legislation, the number of people living longer today compared to previous generations, and increased emphasis on preventative care.
Top Accredited Nurse Anesthesia Programs
Numerous perks come with becoming an anesthesia clinical nurse specialist. In addition to the high registered nurse salary, you’ll also have the opportunity to work in various healthcare environments. You can apply for employment at a local hospital or push the practice barriers to become a military nurse anesthetist.
Now, to become a CRNA, selecting the best nurse anesthetist program is essential. Here are four practical tips to steer you on the right path.
1. Make Sure the Nurse Anesthetist Program Combines Practical Application and Theory
Anesthesia professionals are undoubtedly the highest-paid in the healthcare industry. However, a huge paycheck comes with the burden of responsibility because a registered nurse anesthetist is tasked with administering exact amounts of anesthesia to operative patients.
They are also in charge of monitoring the health status of a patient during, before, and after drug administration. Therefore, the quality of training you receive from your nurse anesthesia educational program can be the make-or-break of your career.
To get an idea of a nurse anesthetist program’s reliability, review the most recent research projects of the hospital or training school. Additionally, consult previous graduates on the comprehensiveness of the training program.
An ideal program to become a registered nurse anesthetist should combine practice and theory. In doing so, it’ll preserve a CRNA’s reputation and ensure the safety of the patients.
2. Confirm If the Nurse Anesthesia Program Is Accredited By the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)
Ensure the university or hospital offering the nurse anesthesia program has the go-ahead from national organizations such as the AANA. It’s responsible for issuing the accreditation to any nurse anesthesia program across the United States.
Here’s where you can check if the training program in your jurisdiction is duly accredited. It’s worth noting that the accredited programs are categorized according to the US states.
Although a nurse anesthesia educational program is marketed under a hospital name, it’s offered by a university.
3: Select a Nurse Anesthetist School with a Stellar Track Record
At this point, you should have a list of options best suited to your location and needs. To narrow down your search, conduct a background check on each university offering a nurse anesthetist program.
4. Keep in Mind the 3 Key Indicators of a Great Nurse Anesthetist Program
A nurse anesthesia program is one of the most stringent graduate programs for a registered nurse and has three main characteristics, as discussed below.
- Fewer schools are offering them compared to other nursing specialties.
- Admission to the online RN program for nurse anesthesia is increasingly competitive as a candidate must hold a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree in addition to a minimum of 1 year of clinical experience in a critical care setting.
- A nurse anesthetist program is full-time (at least two years).
Currently, there’s no nurse anesthetist program or university that offers a specialty course through distance learning. Although some subjects can be offered online, more often than not, a student requires hands-on training.
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist
Before you become a CRNA, keep in mind that an anesthesia professional must meet stipulated eligibility requirements. They include acquiring a registered nurse (RN) license, a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), gaining admission to an accredited nurse anesthesia program, earning certification, and pursuing specializations.
Step 1: Earn a BSN Degree
Before you can be licensed to work as a nurse anesthetist, you must earn a BSN and complete a Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). A student should complete their bachelor’s program at a regionally accredited college or university that will cost you anywhere between $35,000 and $95,000. A BSN under your belt paves the way for you to enroll in an advanced degree and qualify for a valid license as a registered nurse.
Step 2: Become a Licensed Registered Nurse (RN)
The acquisition of RN licensure requires each student to complete a BSN. Along with the educational requirements needed for a license, professionals must complete and pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing) examinations.
Step 3: Pursue Specializations While Working As a Registered Nurse in an Acute Care Environment
While working as a registered nurse, consider pursuing certification as a critical care registered nurse (CCRN) if you possess the required amount of clinical practice hours. A CCRN is a specialty certification for a registered nurse who provides direct care to chronically ill adult patients irrespective of their physical location.
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), at least one year of full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent as a registered nurse in a critical care environment, is required.
Step 4: Gain Admission to an Accredited CRNA Program
Before you can pursue a nurse anesthetist license, you must gain admission to an accredited graduate nurse anesthesia program. A student has free rein to explore the vast assortment of opportunities across 121 CRNA programs, in addition to about 1800 active clinical sites.
Although the program requirements differ depending on the university or college, they usually require applicants to have a BSN, valid RN licensure, and a certain minimum GPA. Additionally, most institutions require an MSN, a minimum of 1-year full-time work experience, or the part-time equivalent as an RN in a critical care setting.
The average experience of a registered nurse enrolling in a nurse anesthesia educational program is 2.9 years.
A nurse anesthesia program will take anywhere between 24 months and 51 months to complete. According to the AANA, the average cost of these programs is $35,000 to $60,000 annually.
Step 5: Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Anesthesia (DNAP)
Currently, some CRNA programs offer a master’s degree that qualifies graduates for the certification exam. Nonetheless, that is changing. From 2025, a certified registered nurse anesthetist will require a doctorate in nurse anesthesia to join the field. A handful of programs may still offer a master’s that meets the certification criteria until 2022.
Although a nurse anesthetist with a master’s degree will be grandfathered in, a boatload of degree-seekers opts to enroll in doctoral programs to be armed with the most advanced knowledge and skills in the field, ushering in increased career opportunities with higher salaries.
Course work in a DNAP program includes depth in various topics such as obstetric anesthesia, geriatric anesthesia, anesthesia pharmacology, anesthesia biology, and anesthesia pathophysiology.
Step 6: Acquire Certification from the NBCRNA
You must pass the national certification examination to receive a certificate from the NBCRNA. It’s upon completing your degree from an accredited university or college that you can satisfy the exam requirements of answering 100 to 170 questions of comprehensive topics related to nursing anesthesia.
Step 7: Get a Nurse Practitioner State License
To venture into advanced practice registered nursing (APRN) in the CRNA specialty, you must obtain a license specific to your state. Keep in mind that the licensing requirements vary from one state to another.
Step 8: Gain Employment
Once a CRNA graduates from an accredited program and passes the certification exam for their desired specialty, they qualify for entry-level employment in the field. During their job search, an anesthesia professional can hunt for opportunities in specialized areas.
Universities Offering Nurse Anesthetist Programs
You can enroll at the following top universities to become a nurse anesthetist.
University of Texas Health Science Center
It furnishes a unique learning experience for students with BSN degrees looking to advance to a DNP. Courtesy of the state-of-the-art simulation lab at the Cizik School of Nursing, learners can experience treating conditions that rarely occur in clinical settings. It helps them acquire adequate preparedness on what to do when the same situation crops up in a patient.
University of Maryland
The DNP program at this institution is a 36-month curriculum that trains learners on providing nurse anesthesia to patients. They can take some classes online. BSN and DNP classes begin in June of every year, with clinical rotations starting in the second academic year in area hospitals such as Baltimore MD, R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, and Saint Agnes Hospital.
Virginia Commonwealth University
It offers two pathways to a career as a nurse anesthetist. Firstly, the BSN to DNAP program allows a registered nurse to earn a doctorate in nurse anesthesia and become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. Secondly, the institution offers a post-master’s CRNA to DNAP program that’s best suited for a CRNA learner and is looking to earn a DNAP. At this university, nurses are trained to take on leadership roles.
University of Iowa
As a nursing college, it offers post-graduate certificate, BSN to DNP, and MSN to DNP nurse anesthesia programs. With a DNP, a nurse is ready to take on a leadership position. Upon completion, graduates can recommend interventions for improving the quality of care, critically assess situations, and analyze the outcome of the taken action.
University of Pittsburgh
It’s a reputable school of nursing that offers 2 DNP programs. For starters, a post-master’s CRNA to DNP program entails a 36-credit curriculum for certified registered nurse anesthetists looking to widen their knowledge and earn a DNP.
Secondly, the BSN to DNP program must be completed on campus and was created in response to the AANA mandate that nurses must earn a doctoral degree to practice in the field of anesthetics. It takes 36 months to complete and is an 86-credit curriculum.
The BSN to DNAP program at this nursing school is 64-credit, full-time program that takes 36 months to complete. The first 12 months is academic coursework that students complete in the classroom. The remaining 24 months is the perfect blend of clinical experience, research, and classroom training. At Georgetown University, you’ll find a simulation center where learners can practice and hone their skills in a safe environment.