What is a CRNA, and How Much Do They Make?

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Jan 21, 2023
CRNA Certified Nurse Anesthetist in medical room with PPE

Jump to Sections

  1. What is a CRNA?
  2. What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?
  3. How Much Does a CRNA Make?
  4. How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
  5. How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

One of the many career paths you can take as a nurse includes becoming a Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), also known as a nurse anesthetist.

A CRNA (or nurse anesthetist) is a licensed medical professional who specializes in administering anesthesia for surgical and other medical procedures. They go through years of schooling and require licenses to practice, resulting in a decent salary in six figures. But pay depends on which state you’re practicing in.

For Nurse Anesthetists, the projected percent change in employment (in the US) from 2021 to 2031 is growing much faster than the national average at 40%

To become a CRNA, you’ll need to: 

  • Finish nursing school with an undergraduate degree. 
  • Pass the NCLEX exam.
  • Get RN certification.
  • Gain at least one year of hands-on experience. 
  • Earn a master’s (MSN) or doctorate. 
  • Obtain an APRN license
  • Get your anesthetist certification.

Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), meaning they must have an MSN degree (until 2025) or doctorate before practicing.

You must have a registered nurse’s (RN) license, a degree from an accredited university with a CRNA program, an APRN license, and a certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

It may be a lot, but there are reasons why CRNAs need so much schooling and training.

What is a CRNA?

A certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a registered nurse with specialized training in anesthesia. They are qualified to administer anesthesia and monitor and treat complications during surgery.

CRNAs work in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals to ensure that patients have safe and effective surgeries.

The difference between a CRNA and other medical professionals is that they are not licensed to prescribe medications, but only administer them under a doctor’s orders.

What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

Nurse anesthetists are experts in pain management during surgery, and they’re specially trained to use anesthesia and monitor patients while under general or regional anesthesia.

They must also have excellent communication skills to explain procedures to patients before and after surgery when pain is still present.

A nurse anesthetist performs anesthesia during surgical procedures and provides pain management services during post-operative recovery periods. They work with doctors and other medical professionals to ensure the safety of patients. They often work in hospitals, ambulatory care centers, or surgical centers.

In some cases, nurse anesthetists may be responsible for training residents or new staff members.

How Much Does a CRNA Make?

According to Indeed’s salary database, the average salary base salary for CRNAs is $140,138/year.

These US states typically pay more than the national average:

  1. Connecticut – $259,470
  2. Maine – $228,725
  3. Massachusetts – $220,706
  4. New York State – $180,466
  5. New Jersey – $174,085
  6. Oregon – $173,984
  7. California – $164,824
  8. Washington state – $162,814

Travel CRNA Salary

Travel nursing provides a great opportunity for better pay. According to ZipRecruiter’s salary database, the average base salary for travel CRNAs is $193,117 a year.

How much do other nursing professionals make? Find out here.

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist 

These are the steps for nursing students to take to fully become a nurse anesthetist (CRNA):

  1. Finish nursing school with an undergraduate degree.

First, you must earn your associate’s (ASN) or bachelor’s degree (BSN) in nursing. These programs consist of two to four years of education, and training focused on patient care and clinical practice.

  1. Pass the NCLEX exam.

Once you earn your undergraduate degree, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN).

Learn more about passing the NCLEX on your first try.

  1. Obtain your RN license.

A registered nurse (RN) license is required to practice as a registered nurse in any state.

  1. Gain at least one year of clinical experience.

Becoming a CRNA requires you to have at least one year of experience in critical care, which includes intensive care units (ICUs), medical-surgical units, or trauma and emergency centers.

In critical care, RNs learn to deliver medical interventions to critically ill patients with injuries and life-threatening conditions or during surgical procedures.

  1. Earn an MSN or doctorate degree.

In addition to earning a nursing undergraduate degree, you will need to earn a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) or doctor of nursing anesthesia practice (DNAP).

However – according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), by 2025, all new CRNAs will need doctorate degrees.

  1. Obtain an APRN license.

With the exception of New York and Pennsylvania, CRNAs must also have APRN licenses, which are issued by state boards of nursing. Each state has different rules in regard to the scope of practice and level of supervision of CRNAs.

  1. Get your anesthetist license.

You must pass the National Certification Exam (NCE) administered through the NBCRNA.

After these steps, you can finally practice as a fully educated, certified, licensed CRNA (nurse anesthetist).

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Becoming a nurse anesthetist, starting with your first nursing school class, takes about five to ten years (give or take). This depends on the state you’re planning to practice in, which degrees you pursue, how much experience you acquire, and how long it takes to get licenses and certifications.

  • Getting an undergraduate degree (associate’s or bachelor’s) takes two to four years.
  • After passing the NCLEX exam and gaining an RN certification, Getting hands-on experience takes at least one year
  • Before getting an APRN and anesthetist license, earning an undergraduate degree (MSN or doctorate) takes about two to four years.

CRNA Education, Certification, and Licensure

As mentioned, After earning an advanced degree in nursing, a CRNA must be credentialed by the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) by passing their exam.

This certification exam is designed to ensure that you can do your job as a CRNA competently.

Requirements to take the NBCRNA exam include:

  • Holding an active, unrestricted RN license
  • Having a graduate degree from an accredited nurse anesthetist program
  • Submitting a record of academic and clinical experience

As a CRNA, you also must keep up with NBCRNA recertification with their program.

The recertification program for nurse anesthetists is different than that of other APRNs. The NBCRNA administers the Continuing Professional Certification Program (CPC) for nurse anesthetists.

Get to Your Nursing Career with Fewer Obstacles

As a CRNA, you’ll be a licensed medical professional who administers anesthesia. You’ll go through years of schooling and require licenses to practice, which results in a decent salary. But first, you’ll have to tackle loads of lectures, test-taking, and studying.

But schooling can be made easier with the right resources. With SimpleNursing, you can cut down on study time, grasp concepts more easily, and memorize everything you need to pass your exams with our personalized tools.

Begin your next step with a free trial today.

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