How to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

To become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, it takes the average person 7-13 years from start to finish.

Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

If you want to make the application process as seamless as possible, I highly recommend that you read CRNA School Guide. It will walk you through the application process, give you tips on how to enhance your curriculum vitae, write an impressive personal statement, and show you how to spend your time and money to get the most bang for your buck.

Whether you're in the "gather information" phase, or you're currently applying to CRNA schools, you'll find plenty of ideas and suggestions that will put you ahead of the competition and help you save time, money and resources.

(If you're already a registered nurse, I recommend that you also read my comprehensive guide to CRNA School Requirements.)

If you're still on the fence about becoming a CRNA, this article will help you process the decision and determine if this is the right career path for you or not.

  1. 4-6 for the BSN.
    First, you need to become a registered nurse. If you get your ADN first (associate in nursing), you'll spend a year or more taking prerequisite classes. It's really important to ace these classes, as they could determine whether or not you get accepted into CRNA School. (If you want to breeze through anatomy and physiology, here's the master study guide). Once you're done with prereques, it's 2 full years in the ADN program. THEN, you'll spend 12-24 months completing your BSN (24 months if you do it part time). Note that most nurses work full time while completing their RN to BSN degree.

    If you go straight into a BSN, most programs are 5 years start to finish.
  2. Start applying to new graduate nursing jobs (Though there is currently a nursing shortage, many hospitals are not training new grad nurses because of the economy. Positions as a new grad nurse are harder to come by - it's currently 2010).

  1. Pass the NCLEX immediately after you graduate your nursing program. You will be eligible to take it the day after your official graduation. 80% of test-takers pass it in the first attempt.
  2. 1-5 years nursing/ ICU experience
    Many hospitals don't hire new nurses directly into the ICU. You may have to start on a medical/surgical floor for a year or so before you become an ICU nurse. Please note that during this time you are a paid nurse making a very decent income.

    If you already have your bachelor's degree, you may begin applying to CRNA programs after only 2-3 months ICU experience. Keep in mind that getting accepted with so little experience is very unlikely but not impossible, and many programs won’t let you apply until you have at least a year experience.
  3. While you’re working as a nurse, you’ll gain your PALS, ACLS and BLS (These certifications are not difficult and can be attained through a 1-2 day class). Your CCRN is usually not required, but will make you more competitive. It is a test you sit for and requires that you've spent 1,750 hours of direct bedside care of acutely or critically ill patients in the last two years prior to taking the test.
  4. If you don’t already have your bachelor’s degree, now is the time to get it. Many hospitals have a tuition reimbursement program and will pay for your bachelor’s degree. There are some great, reputable online BSN programs if you’re not near a major university.
  5. Take the GRE 6 months to a year before you begin applying. This will give you time to retake it, if necessary. GRE scores are good for 5 years. If you do poorly on this test (well below a cumulative score of 1,000), consider CRNA schools that do not require the GRE. It's recommended that you spend at least 50 hours preparing for the GRE.
  6. 2-3 years in a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist masters program (3-4 years in a DNP/DNAP)
  7. Take the CCNA certification exam upon completion of your CRNA program. Once you pass this test, you will be a CRNA. There is an 89% pass rate on this exam. Those who don't pass it the first time almost always pass it the second time.
  8. Get hired as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist! There is a huge demand for CRNAs and it's unlikely that will change in the next 20 years. It will be very easy to get a job, regardless of which school you graduate from. Average salary for a certified registered nurse anesthetist is $163,000 (2009).

How to Prepare for a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Program

A brief but complete list:

  • BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) If you don't have a BSN, you'll need an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing) + a bachelor's degree in a related science field.

  • Several science and math requirements – varies by program. Though almost every school will ask for your cumulative GPA, they are most interested in your science classes, as your ability to do well in the foundational sciences will most determine your likelihood of success in their program. Of these, the most important are chemistry and anatomy and physiology. If you've done well in these classes but fear you've forgotten much of what you learned, you may consider taking a "refresher course" before you interview with a school, as they're likely to ask clinical questions that assume an in-depth understanding of how the human body works. I don't know of a chemistry refresher course, but for A&P, I recommend this one, as it's very inexpensive and thorough.

  • A current RN (Registered Nurse) license

  • PALS, ACLS, and BLS certifications (required certifications vary by school)

  • Minimum GRE scores of 300 (new test) 1000 (old test)

  • TOEFL score of 550 or better for international students

*Requirements vary by school – while this list represents the most common standards, programs sometimes differ from this list slightly. Check each school for their specific requirements.

If you're not yet a registered nurse, you may want to read this article on How to prepare to be a CRNA while you're still in school.

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*This page was updated March 27, 2016.

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