Complete this checklist of requirements, then attend a 2-3.5 year CRNA program, (either masters or doctorate) 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 (3.4+ to be competitive)
- Combined Minimum GRE score of 300 or better
- TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) as applicable
- Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)
- Prerequisite Classes
- Shadow a CRNA for 8-40 hours and document your experience
- Get your CCRN (if you want to be most competitive)
- 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?
In order to be a competitive applicant, you’ll want more than one year experience as an R.N. in a large ICU or CCU (coronary care unit). Ideally, you’ll work in a level one or level two trauma center.
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. If your experience is in a neonatal ICU, you will find great comfort adapting to pediatric anesthesia, while a former Coronary Care Unit nurse will have a breeze 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)
Job history in the following clinical settings 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
In addition to showing you are capable in a clinical setting, you also need to convince the program you’re applying to that you’re capable academically. A minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better is one of the standard Nurse Anesthetist School Requirements. The trend is for schools to get more picky each year.
When I started the site in 2010, there were 5 schools that accepted a 2.75 GPA. Recently, there are NO schools that accept less than a 3.0, and many are requiring a 3.2 or better.
Programs want to make sure you can pass their program, and the primary evidence they look for is how well you did in your undergraduate degree.
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 3.4 – 3.7.
BEFORE you re-take any classes or attempt to improve your GPA, make sure it is POSSIBLE for you to raise your GPA enough to get accepted. Use this calculator to see how many courses you need to take in order to raise your cummulative GPA to 3.0. The more courses you’ve taken (with low scores), the more you’ll need to take to tip the scale in your favor.
5. Combined Minimum GRE score of 300 or better.
Roughly half of the nurse anesthetist schools require the GRE and look for a minimum score of 300. Some do not require it, others will waive the requirement if you have a GPA above 3.2 or 3.4, or if you have a master’s degree.
The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) involves advanced math and is known for being very difficult. It requires months of preparation and study. If you’re looking for a study course to prepare for the GRE, the course most recommended by nurses, and the least expensive program I’ve found is Magoosh’s.
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)
8. Prerequisite Classes
Because CRNA programs are so intensive, there’s a certain amount of academic preparation you’ll need to do. Schools 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. Shadow a CRNA
I highly recommend that you shadow a CRNA, whether or not the program you’re applying to requires it.
Shadowing a CRNA gives you a glimpse into the profession and will help either solidify your decision to pursue the profession, or give you the insight that maybe this path isn’t for you.
At minimum, you should shadow for 8 hours, but I highly recommend that you shadow as much as 40 hours. This sounds a little over the top, but it shows your commitment to learning and growing, and it saves you from the possibility of getting half way through a program and then deciding it’s not for you after all.
10. Get your CCRN
CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) certification is sometimes required, and will always make you a more competitive applicant. It’s a great way to improve your overall application and signifies a higher level of ICU training and competence.
11. 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 7, 2019.
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