Complete this checklist of requirements, then attend a 2-3 year Master of Science in Nursing CRNA Program, and you’re well on your way to your dream! It should take you anywhere from 7-10 years from start to finish.
Nurse Anesthetist School Requirements at a Glance…
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Registered Nursing License
- 1-2 years Critical Care / ICU experience
- Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
- Combined Minimum GRE score of 1,000 or better
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as applicable
- Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)
- Prerequisite Classes
- Other Standard Requirements
1. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
It is always most competitive to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and is required in about 50-60% of programs. Many schools, however, will accept a BS degree in something else as long as you have an Associate Degree in Nursing (AND) and your BS is in a related field.
2. Registered Nursing License
As long as you have a current RN license in at least one state, you should be eligible for programs in any state of your choice. Once accepted, you’ll need an RN license in the state or states you’ll be practicing in.
3. 1-2 years Critical Care / ICU experience
Most Nurse Anesthetist Schools require at least one year of recent RN experience in an adult critical care unit. However, most applicants you’re competing with will have 2-3 years experience in a critical care unit and 4-5 years as an RN.
What is the best type of ICU experience to prepare for CRNA School?
Experience as an R.N. in a large ICU or CCU (coronary care unit) is acceptable. Each of these practice areas brings its own advantages in terms of preparation of the nurse.
As a CRNA student, you will care for patients who are neonatal to 100 years old, and you will have to be equally comfortable with drug dosing, age-related factors, etc. for all of them. A Neonatal ICU nurse will find great comfort adapting to pediatric anesthesia, while the former Coronary Care Unit nurse will have a breeze in evaluating ECG and stress test results prior to cardiac surgery.
Having said this, the majority of your patients will be adults, so even though experience in the NICU or PICU will always help, it should be balanced by at least 1 year of adult ICU. Fortunately, nurse anesthetist schools will do their best to help you bridge the gaps between your past experience and the broader set of responsibilities you will face as a CRNA.
No one area is perfect in terms of previous experience, although a surgical ICU will give you familiarity with many aspects of anesthesia care, anesthetic medications, postoperative complications, etc.
If you are considering a job change to better prepare for nurse anesthetist school, you might consider changing areas as well, to give yourself a broader experience base. For example, if you are in a small Medical ICU and you are going to move to a larger ICU to get better experience, consider going to Surgical ICU to increase both your breadth and depth of experience.
It is always best to gain your experience in a large ICU. In fact, 1-2 years in a large ICU is probably better than 10 years experience in a in a small ICU. The reason is that large Intensive Care Units offer more experience in the following areas (and these things are critical to your success as a SRNA):
- Dynamic and independent decision making
- Continuous ECG monitoring
- Invasive lines (such as pulmonary artery, central venous, and arterial catheters)
- Vasoactive infusions
- Ventilator support
- Life threatening pathophysiology
If, by the time you apply, you will only have experience in one area, the following types of experience will give you the best starting point as an SRNA (Student Registered Nurse Anesthetist):
- MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit)
- CICU (Cardiac ICU)
- SICU (Surgical ICU)
- Cardiothoracic surgery ICU
- Neuro ICU
- CCU (Coronary Care Unit)
- TICU (Trauma ICU)
These types of experience are great as supporting experience, but may or may not work as your primary experience:
- PICU (Pediatric ICU)
- NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)
- ER (Emergency Room) experience from a Level One Trauma Center
- Burn Unit
Though all experience as an RN is helpful, experience in these units is almost never accepted as meeting the one year requirement of nurse anesthetist schools:
- OR (operating Room)
- PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit)
- Cardiac Step-down
- ER (Emergency Room)
4. Cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
A minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better is one of the standard Nurse Anesthetist School Requirements. A few schools will let you in with a 2.75, assuming you have higher marks in other areas and there’s not a lot of competition for spots in the program that year.
If you’re looking to improve your GPA to make it more competitive for CRNA school (or you simply want to do it right the first time), you may want to read How to Get the Best Grades with the Least Amount of Effort. It has a tremendous amount of time-saving and energy-saving tips.
Many programs will also require a 3.0 in the sciences and/or in your BSN program, and/or in the last 60 units of your education. If you need to take or retake anatomy and physiology, here is a master study guide that will help you ace the subject.
The average GPA of students who are accepted into CRNA schools ranges from 3.3 – 3.7.
5. Combined Minimum GRE score of 1,000 or better
Most Nurse Anesthetist Schools require the GRE and look for a minimum score of 1000. Some do not require it, others will take a MAT score instead, and some will waive the requirement if you already have a master’s degree.
The MAT (Miller Analogies Test) involves more language skills, is generally more cost effective and convenient to take, and is known for being the “easier” test.
The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) involves advanced math and is known for being much more difficult. It requires more preparation and study.
6. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as applicable
If English is not your native language, or you received most of your education in another country, most programs will require a Test of English as a Foreign Language score of 550 for the paper test or 213 for the computer-based test.
7. Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)
These certifications are almost always required by the application deadline and should be kept valid through the program.
- BLS (Basic Life Support) or CPR
- ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support)
- PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support)
CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) certification is almost never required, but will make you more competitive as an applicant.
8. Prerequisite Classes
CRNA programs vary quite a bit in class prerequisites, but there are some definite commonalities between programs. I’ll include a list of the most commonly required classes with a star by the most important (most often required).
- *Chemistry (organic or biochemistry)
- Basic Research or Nursing Research
Some programs require that the classes be no more than 5 years old at the time you enroll in the CRNA program (usually just for Stats and/ or Chemistry). Most require or prefer that you earn a “B” or better in each of these classes, or an overall science GPA of 3.0 (it makes you much more competitive even if it’s not required).
9. Other Standard Requirements
- 3 letters of recommendation
- Statement of why you want to become a CRNA
- Criminal background check
- Application fee of $20-$100
- Personal interview (on invitation)
- Shadow day with a CRNA is strongly recommended, though not often required.
*This page was updated March 27, 2016.
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