What to look for in a CRNA School
Accredited Nurse Anesthetist Programs have critical differences between them. Knowing these differences will help you make a more informed decision and will allow you to consider factors previously below your radar.
Are you looking for a specific type of CRNA Program? There are over 7,000 variables between programs. Don’t waste your time looking them all up. Use our #1 best-selling product since 2013, the School Finder, to save time in your school search. Find the programs that will give you your best chance of acceptance and your best chance of becoming a CRNA.
CRNA Degree offered
If you are applying within the next year, there are currently 9-degree choices you can make that will prepare you to sit for your NCE exam. If you’re applying in 2022 or later, all programs will have transitioned to the doctoral degree.
DNP vs. DNAP vs. MSN
- DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
- DNP-A Doctor of Nursing Practice – Anesthesia
- DNP-NA Doctor of Nursing Practice – Nurse Anesthesia
- DMPNA Doctor of Management Practice – Nurse Anesthesia
- MS Master of Science
- MSN Master of Science in Nursing
- MSNA Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia
- DMPNA Master of Science in Nursing
- MSHS Master of Health Science in Nursing
How Long is CRNA School?
Most nurse anesthetist programs (80% or more) are 36 months. The shortest is 24 months. Once all nurse anesthesia schools have transitioned to the DNP, they will all be a minimum of 36 months. The longest program is part-time during the didactic portion (so you can work while studying) and totals out at 51 months.
When Does CRNA School Start?
Nurse anesthetist programs start in January (17%), May (38%), June (11%), August (23%), and September (8%)
The deadline is usually about a year before the program start date, so start your planning early!
Most schools will begin interviews shortly after the deadline, and a few will give you a short window of time in which to apply.
Schools with an application deadline:
- January to March: 16%
- April to June: 19%
- July to September: 33%
- October to December: 28%
- Rolling deadline: 4%
Total CRNA School Tuition (Program duration + fees): $14,000 – $218,000
Tuition is surprisingly unrelated to the quality of your education. It is determined more by the school’s location and funding source.
Regardless of where schools get their funding, the trend has been a high tuition increase year after year. If your education is several years in the future, plan to pay much more than you see here now.
When we created the School Finder (Searchable Spreadsheet) in 2013, the most expensive program was $80,000. Today, it is $218,000.
The tuition increase is partly due to the upgrade from MSN to DNP, but it seems prices are climbing faster and farther than I would have expected.
To find a program in your price range, use our School Finder.
CRNA School Class Size
Class sizes range from 10-105, with 25 being the average.
Number of Applicants
Applicants can range from about 70 to 700.
CRNA School Acceptance Rate
Acceptance rates to CRNA School vary quite a bit: from 6% to 63% of applicants accepted. The average acceptance rate is 24%.
These are the acceptance rates of the 12 least competitive CRNA programs. Imagine the experience you may have applying to one of these schools vs. a school with a 6% chance of acceptance. To explore this list in detail, use our School Finder
Front-Loaded Vs. Integrated
Most CRNA students will have an opinion on which type of program they think superior to the other, but in the end, it depends more on how the program director runs the program and whether or not it’s a match with your learning style and preference. Here, we will discuss the pros and cons to help you make better decisions.
Front-Loaded Nurse Anesthesia Programs
In a front-loaded program, you spend the first year in didactics. After exams, you begin your clinical experience. Hybrid programs may overlap the two slightly.
Pros of Front-Loaded CRNA Programs:
- Focus – This structure allows you to focus exclusively on class content, studying, and testing.
- Time management – You are managing one thing at a time: either classes or clinical
- Prepared for OR – You first learn the basics, then hit the OR. You will not feel lost in the OR.
- Mastery – When you begin clinicals, you will have already passed the didactic portion. It feels incredible to finish one before starting the other.
- Transition to CRNA – Going from daily clinical experience to working as a CRNA is a smooth transition.
Cons of Front-Loaded CRNA Programs:
- Context lacking – Without the context of the OR, anesthesia material can be difficult to grasp
- Jarring transitions – Going from ICU bedside to academics to clinical and then academics again for board prep can feel jarring.
- Unprepared for Clinicals – When you finally jump into clinicals, it can feel like jumping straight into the deep end of a swimming pool. Rather than building gradually over time, you dive in headfirst.
Integrated Nurse Anesthesia Programs
Your clinical experience begins in the 3rd or 4th month with this structure. Classes and clinical time run simultaneously throughout the program. As the program progresses, clinical time increases, and classroom learning decreases.
Pros of Integrated CRNA programs
- Context – What you learn in class is often (not always) what you practice in clinical, giving context to the material you’re learning.
- Hands-on – If you are a hands-on learner, you may appreciate the opportunity to practice the concepts you learn in class immediately after learning them.
- Slower Pace – Because you’re doing two things at once (classroom and clinicals), more time passes between each new concept, giving you a chance to grasp topics better before moving on to the next one.
- Synergy – When your classroom content matches what you’re practicing in clinicals, the overlap can make it easier to lock in concepts.
Cons of Integrated CRNA programs
- Bad Habits – Spending time in the OR before you know what you’re doing means you’re not using that time to gain mastery. Instead, you may use that time to learn bad habits – formed before you know better.
- Lower quality – The time you spend in the OR while you don’t know what you’re doing will result in missed learning opportunities. You may end up more a spectator than a participant in those earlier clinical experiences.
- Juggling – Spending all day in class and all night in clinicals can get old. While most programs take steps to avoid overlap, it isn’t perfect, and you may find yourself studying for a final after completely exhausting yourself in the OR.
Finally, keep in mind that neither front-loaded nor integrated programs are cookie-cutter. There are hybrid programs, and each program director makes different decisions than the next about how a program will run. These decisions will affect how smoothly the program runs.
Find both front-loaded and integrated programs on our School Finder.
CRNA School Requirements
- BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) or another related degree
- A current RN (Registered Nurse) license
- CCRN (required or recommended by 70% of schools)
- 1-2 years Critical Care experience (2-5 years is the average of accepted applicants)
- A minimum GPA of 3.0 (3.3-3.7 is the average of accepted applicants)
- Minimum GRE scores of 300 (50th percentile or better)
- TOEFL score of 550 or better for international/ESL students
- PALS, ACLS, and BLS certifications
- Course prerequisites vary by school
Are you looking for a more detailed list of CRNA school requirements?
CRNA School Performance
COA (Council On Accreditation)
You can look at how many years of accreditation the COA awards the school you’re considering. When the COA grants a program the full ten years before the next review, you can assume it is stable. If the COA gives less than ten years, it is either because the school is new or on academic probation.
The Pass Rate for CRNA Boards (NBCRNA)
The pass rate for the NBCRNA is very straightforward and is an excellent indicator of how thorough a school’s academic instruction is. 84.8 was the national average in 2019. Any score above 80% is competitive. There are only around a dozen schools with a first-time pass rate of less than 80%. There is one program with a pass rate of 38%.
To find programs with a high pass rate, check out our School Finder.
CRNA School Attrition Rate
It’s also vital that you look at the school’s attrition rate. If it’s high, they may be failing borderline students to keep their pass rates up. Anything less than 10% is considered acceptable by most applicants. There are 20 schools with an attrition rate higher than 10%.
To find programs with a low attrition rate, check out our School Finder.
CRNA Employment Rate of program graduates
CRNA employment rate is a less accurate gauge since most schools have a 100% employment rate (though they don’t advertise it). I threw in this statistic more for encouragement than anything else. When you’re finished with this arduous journey, you’re just about guaranteed a job. Just keep in mind that jobs are easier to find in some states. You may need to be willing to relocate.
An average annual nurse anesthetist salary in the US is $181,040 (2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
Tell me about the Average SRNA
The average SRNA is about 30 years old, has around three years of experience in a critical care unit, and roughly 30% have kids.
How many hours should I expect to be engaged in the program each week?
Anywhere from 50-70 hours a week.
Can I work as an RN while I’m in the program?
99% of the time, the answer is no. A few schools will allow you to work up to 16 hours a week, but it’s rarely a good idea. The program is very intense and demands your full attention.
If you want help comparing schools, use our School Finder. It will allow you to search and compare all accredited nurse anesthesia schools by 70+ criteria, helping you find the schools that are the best match for you.
To find out specific school requirements, check out Nurse Anesthetist School Requirements.