Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for certified registered nurse anesthetists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses who specialize in the administration of anesthesia during surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic and/or obstetrical procedures. They also provide pre- and post-operative care for patients. Prior to the procedure, they may discuss the patient's medical history and current medications in order to develop a safe and effective anesthesia administration strategy. During the procedure, they monitor the patient's status and adjust the drug dose as necessary. After the procedure is complete, they follow up with the patient to discuss recovery strategies, and they may also provide medication in order to ensure that the patient does not suffer additional pain after the anesthesia wears off.

The following chart gives you an overview about becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

Degree Required Master's degree or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Nurse anesthetist
Key Responsibilities Prepare anesthetic solutions and administer to patient; monitor patient status during surgery and maintain proper level to ensure unconsciousness; report patient status to surgeon; examine patient before and after surgery
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as an RN is required; board certification as a nurse anesthetist is required
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 19%
Median Salary (2015)* $157,140

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist?

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia during surgical procedures. As a CRNA, you'll need to have a graduate-level education in order to provide the anesthetics that make surgeries easier and painless for patients. You could work in any healthcare facility where anesthesia is utilized, including hospital surgery wings and private doctors' offices. Though anesthesiologists are doctors who focus on anesthesia, you would command the same responsibilities and deliver the same anesthetic procedures as them.

What Education Do I Need?

Due to the nature of the work you'd perform as a CRNA, you'll need a high level of education and training. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) notes that the requirements for becoming a CRNA start with having a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or related bachelor's degree and obtaining licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN). You'll then want to acquire a year or more of experience as an RN in an acute-care setting before enrolling in at least a master's degree program for nurse anesthetists (www.aana.com). The AANA's Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs accredits master's and doctoral degree as well as post-master's certificate programs that combine theoretical course work with clinical experience.

How Do I Become Certified and Registered?

You can take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, offered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, once you've earned your BSN. Because the laws governing RNs vary from state to state, be sure to check with your state's board for eligibility requirements (www.ncsbn.org).

After you've completed your accredited graduate degree program for nurse anesthesia, you can then take the certification exam to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. The National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists offers the CRNA credential. You must maintain your designation by becoming recertified every two years (www.nbcrna.com).

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that nurse anesthetists made a median annual wage of $157,140 (www.bls.gov). They also reported that certified registered nurse anesthetists in the 10th-75th percentile range made salaries between $105,410 and $185,620.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several alternative career tracks that advanced practice nurses can follow. For instance, those who are interested in reproductive medicine may choose to become certified nurse midwives (CNMs), who provide healthcare for women before, during and after childbirth. Another option is a job as a nurse practitioner (NP). NPs provide general primary care, but they may specialize in a working with a particular demographic, such as pediatric patients, adult patients or geriatric patients. Like CRNAs, CNMs and NPs must earn a master's degree and pass a licensure exam before they can practice.

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