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Nurse Anesthetist Career Guide

How Long Does Becoming a CRNA Take

6 years

Average salary: CRNA



Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Career Guide

Certified Nurse Anesthetists are among the most well-compensated and highly regarded nurses in the industry. Anesthesia is essential for many nursing processes, and CRNAs are among the foremost experts in the field. For the RN who wants increased autonomy and dramatically higher pay, this is the perfect role for them.



CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) responsible for the administration of anesthesia and other substances before and during medical procedures. In addition, they have to care for the patients afterwards, when they are recuperating from its effects. It is a highly specialized role that requires a number of advanced qualifications. At minimum, you need a doctorate in anesthesia, pass the National Boards of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists test (NBCRNA) and you need a significant amount of clinical training. Because of how important anesthesia is, you will be working with a wide variety of demographics and operation types, including scheduled surgeries and emergency operations.


Tasks and Responsibilities

CRNAs have a host of different responsibilities, on top of administering anesthesia:

  • Observing the patient’s initial reaction to anesthesia and determining potential danger (ex. Allergies, overdose, etc.)

  • Ensuring that exact dosage is administered. 

  • Educating the patients on anesthesia and its effects, before and after operations.


When it comes to administering anesthesia, CRNAs can do so autonomously (depending on the state), or collaboratively alongside other qualified anesthesia specialists such as anesthesiologists, surgeons, other doctors, and more. Regardless, they can expect to work closely within a surgical team.  Since accidents and emergency operations can happen at any time, you can expect to work a lot outside your regular Monday-to-Friday shift. This will include evenings, weekends, and even holidays.


Salary and Outlook

CRNAs are among the highest paid healthcare professionals in the entire industry. As of May 2021, the BLS reports that nurse anesthetists earn up to $195,610 annually. For reference, the Registered Nurse only made $77,600 per year, around the same time. Do note, though, that factors such as experience and especially location play a big part in determining your final salary. Listed below are the current highest-paying states for CRNAs.

  • Alaska - Undisclosed

  • Connecticut - $276,540

  • New Jersey - $263,850

  • Illinois - $250,280

  • West Virginia - $247,650 


On top of the generous pay, the future for CRNAs is also bright. A rising number of insured patients, an aging population in need of extra care as well as a newfound emphasis on preventative care has ensured that nurse anesthetists will be in high demand, for the foreseeable future. In addition, their availability makes them the preferred choice over anesthesiologists for many healthcare facilities. Per the BLS, Nurse Anesthetists are expected to grow by 13% percent from 2020 to 2030.



You will commonly find CRNAs in the operating rooms, emergency departments, and ICUs of every hospital. Other prominent work locations include:


  • Critical access hospitals

  • US military facilities

  • Med/surg hospitals

  • Mobile surgery centers

  • Outpatient care centers

  • Nursing research facilities

  • Dentist offices

  • Offices of ophthalmologists, pain management specialists, plastic surgeons, and more. 


Alternatively, CRNAS can take on administrative roles in hospitals. Financial management, Personnel and resource management, QA, continuing education, department meetings, and staff development are just a few of the managerial roles you can take on. CRNAs can also find work in the state and federal government roles. State boards of nursing, the Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA and the American Society for Testing and Materials are always looking for highly-educated and forward-thinking APRNs.


How to Become a CRNA

  • Step 1: Finish your 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

  • Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN and become a Registered Nurse

  • Step 3: Gain 1 to 3 years of work experience in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). 

  • Step 4: Apply to an accredited CRNA program and complete the 2 to 3 year course. 

  • Step 5: Pass the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists

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