Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) plan and administer anesthesia to patients who are undergoing medical procedures. CRNAs determine how much and what type of anesthesia to use on a patient. They then administer the anesthesia and remain with the patient to make sure there are no complications. Finally, they help patients as they come out of anesthesia.
Aspiring CRNAs typically work as nurses before earning a master's degree. This nursing specialization pays well but is quite demanding. CRNAs often work long hours and assist with multiple procedures during each shift.
This guide covers how to become a nurse anesthetist, including educational requirements. Aspiring CRNAs must first complete a bachelor's degree -- most also become registered nurses -- before pursuing a master's degree in nurse anesthetics. A master's is the minimum degree needed for this career, which requires hands-on training and extensive knowledge of specialized subjects. CRNAs deliver individualized care and work directly with patients. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for nurse anesthetists to increase 31% by 2026, a rate much faster than the average for all occupations. The following guide discusses how to become a CRNA.
What Does a CRNA Do?
Nurse anesthetists specialize in administering anesthesia and caring for patients who are recovering from anesthesia. CRNAs work with patients before and after procedures and must be available during medical procedures in case there are any complications related to the anesthesia. CRNAs most often work in hospitals, though some may work in private practices. They often work long shifts, depending on how well procedures go and the number of CRNAs who are scheduled to work.
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?
Anesthesia is a complicated and varied nursing specialization, which is why a master's degree is one of the main nurse anesthetist requirements. Aspiring CRNAs complete several years of education after earning a bachelor's degree and becoming a registered nurse. Most candidates complete some work experience before master's studies. Nursing experience can be crucial to meeting the demands of CRNA programs.
Benefits of Online Learning
Online CRNA programs can make earning a degree faster and easier. Many online courses are asynchronous, meaning students do not need to log in at specific times; asynchronous courses are ideal for learners with busy schedules. Online programs frequently offer accelerated or intensive courses, which students can complete more quickly than on-campus offerings while still learning the same material.
Completing a nurse anesthetist program online can also be cost effective. In addition to the fact that online students do not need to relocate, online programs are often less expensive than on-campus classes.
Students in online nurse anesthetist programs can often work full time while earning the degree. CRNA programs often require internships or other workplace experiences, which distance learners can complete at their place of employment or at another local facility. Online CRNA schools are a good option for learners who need flexible scheduling options, who want to graduate more quickly, or who do not want to relocate to attend school.
While nurse anesthetist schools have varying program requirements, they generally have similar admission requirements. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, usually in nursing, though some schools accept degrees in related fields. Applicants must typically be a licensed registered nurse, though some programs waive this requirement for BSN holders.
Most schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA, and some schools waive GRE requirements for applicants with exceptional GPAs. CRNA programs typically require applicants to submit GRE scores, though minimum score requirements vary. Some programs require professional nursing experience; even when not required, applicants with work experience are generally more competitive for admission.
By meeting these requirements, applicants demonstrate their ability to succeed in demanding CRNA programs. Dedication to nursing and to the CRNA specialization are crucial to completing master's studies.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Nursing Anesthesia?
CRNAs must have nurse anesthetist education, but graduates have career options within the specialization. With an MSN, nurse anesthetists often secure leadership positions within hospitals, such as roles coordinating other CRNAs. Graduates can also focus on certain patient populations, such as children or the elderly.
- Nurse Anesthetist: These specialists work with patients who must undergo medical procedures requiring anesthesia. CRNAs work in teams or alone to administer anesthesia, and they work with surgeons to monitor patients currently under anesthesia.
- Chief Nurse Anesthetist: These CRNAs are responsible for overseeing procedures requiring anesthesia throughout a hospital. They coordinate procedures so specialists are available to handle all procedures.
- Nursing Manager: The leaders in a hospital or other medical facility, nurse managers ensure that nurses are upholding medical and legal standards and can cover all work.
Nurse Anesthetist Salary
- Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
- Experienced (10-20 Years):
What to Expect From a Master's in Nursing Anesthesia Program
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Master's in Nursing Anesthesia Degree Online?
The amount of time required to earn a master's degree varies by program and depends on credit requirements and program format. However, most full-time students complete their master's degree in about two years. Some online CRNA programs offer accelerated classes that allow learners to graduate more quickly. Because most programs require applicants to be registered nurses, CRNAs do not typically complete post-graduate work requirements before practicing.
Courses in an Online Nursing Anesthesia Master's Program
Specific courses vary by program and semester, but all nurse anesthesia programs cover the same concepts. The courses below are common to most online nurse anesthetist programs.
Principles of Anesthesia
Students explore the foundations of anesthesia and related processes, focusing on how to customize anesthesia for individual patients. The course trains students to prepare and administer anesthesia and to care for patients after they undergo procedures.
This course examines professional issues CRNAs face and the types of specialized knowledge necessary to perform the job. Students review the history and development of anesthesia, the scope of practice and standards of care, and the legal and ethical aspects of the specialization.
Coursework in anatomy gives students foundational knowledge in the human body and diseases. This knowledge is essential for CRNAs, as each patient requires an individualized approach to prevent complications.
Students learn how to use a patient's history to determine the best type of anesthesia for a given procedure. The course covers the interpretation of data and concepts of care to prepare CRNAs to provide individualized care.
This course covers drugs used in anesthesia and methods of delivery. The course combines aspects of various fields as they apply to modern anesthesia.
Internship or clinical courses are a common requirement for students pursuing a nurse anesthetist education. These components provide practical, supervised experience that qualifies learners to become CRNAs. Most programs require three to five semesters of experiential coursework, which provide direct experience to prepare students for the workforce. During clinical courses, students work alongside CRNAs as they prepare and administer anesthesia and perform aftercare. Students typically observe before offering direct assistance.
Licensure and Certification
Becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist requires education and licensure. CRNA programs culminate in certification, but additional certification options may be available after graduation. These certifications may focus on specific patient populations or anesthesia methods.
To work as a nurse anesthetist, professionals must be a registered nurse. RN licensure is a prerequisite for many nursing master's programs, so by the time a student's nurse anesthetist education is complete, they are qualified to transition directly to the workforce. Individuals who do not earn licensure until after graduation must typically pass an exam and complete a certain number of hours of supervised work experience.
Accredited Online CRNA Programs
Accreditation demonstrates an institution meets certain standards of quality. During the accreditation process, third-party agencies evaluate a school's programs and faculty. The two main types of institutional accreditation in the U.S. are regional and national. Regional accreditation is more common and more highly regarded. Private and for-profit universities often hold national accreditation. A degree from an unaccredited institution may not qualify graduates to work as CRNAs, so students should ensure their prospective school holds accreditation before applying.
Programs may also hold field-specific accreditation from organizations such as the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. This specialized accreditation means the program meets high standards within the field and delivers a valuable nurse anesthetist education. Institutions typically provide accreditation status on their website.
Online Master's in Nursing Anesthesia Scholarships
Students who need financial assistance should apply for scholarships, which do not need to be repaid. Many schools, government agencies, and private organizations offer scholarships. The list below includes scholarship opportunities for aspiring CRNAs.
AISES A.T. Anderson Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be members of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society who are enrolled full time and have a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must either be a member or descendent of a member of a recognized American Indian Tribe or Alaskan Native Village or identify as or be a descendent of a Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, or an Indigenous Person of Canada.
Amount: $1,000 for undergraduate students, $2,000 for graduate students
Greta James Memorial Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Legal residents of the United States who reside in-country and are enrolled in a degree-seeking medical program at an American school.
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be a National Black Nurses Association member with at least one year left in their program.
Sheridan National Allied Health Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must have completed 12 months of an anesthesiology program, have a minimum 3.5 GPA, and have been nominated by a program director, academic faculty instructor, or clinical coordinator.
Maryland Graduate and Professional scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: Applicants must reside in Maryland, attend one of several Maryland institutions, and demonstrate financial need through the FAFSA.
NAANA Scholarships for Nursing Study
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be members of the National American Arab Nurses Association who are of Arab descent, are citizens or permanent residents of the United States, have at least a 3.0 GPA, demonstrate a dedication to leadership, and have contributed to healthcare in an Arab community.