CRNA Salary: Should You Be A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist?

CRNA Salary
CRNAs administer anesthesia to patients. Learn about CRNA salary, education, duties, and see if it's the right career for you!

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If you’re thinking about working as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, you’re probably wondering how a CRNA salary stacks up against other nursing salaries.

However, before we get into your potential CRNA salary and how you can earn it, we have good news:

Nurse anesthetist salaries tend to be higher than any other kind of nursing speciality salary!

However, becoming a CRNA is not easy. It requires a substantial investment of energy, money, and time.

So, is it all worth it?  Read on to learn all about CRNA salaries and how to become a nurse anesthetist. Then decide if it’s the right career path for you!

What Does a CRNA Do?

Before you even think about CRNA salaries, you’ll need to know what they actually do.

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist is a special type of nurse that administers anesthesia and similar medication to patients. They also carefully monitor the status of patients recovering from anesthesia and/or currently receiving it.

CRNAs provide patient care to all kinds of people. Some patients have scheduled surgeries, while others have to go under for emergency surgeries for life-threatening reasons.

Where Do CRNAs Work?

There are many facilities where CRNAs work autonomously. However, CRNAs can also work with:

  • Dentists
  • Surgeons
  • Anesthesiologists
  • Other physicians serving patients in need of anesthesia

As a result, CRNAs frequently work in:

  • Outpatient surgical clinics
  • Cardiac care units
  • Intensive care units
  • Emergency rooms
  • Hospital operating rooms

Surgical teams contain CRNAs. While plenty of surgical procedures are done according to schedule, there are plenty of unplanned cases and emergency surgeries.

This is why CRNAs frequently work holidays, weekends, nights, and evenings. Luckily, the more demanding schedule is reflected in a higher CRNA salary.

CRNA Responsibilities

Some of the specific duties of a certified registered nurse anesthetist include:

  • Evaluating how a patient is responding to administered anesthesia
  • Identifying potential risks, such as overdose or allergies
  • Administering precise anesthesia dosages
  • Informing patients about anesthesia

Today, the need for CRNAs is higher than ever. They are a crucial part of any modern medical facility.

Should You Become a CRNA?

CRNA work is great for RNs (Registered Nurses) who want more autonomy in their patient work in:

  • Surgical facilities
  • Intensive care units
  • The operating room

RNs and nursing students often set becoming a CRNA as a long-term goal, and the reasons are obvious.

CRNAs receive a huge amount of respect for their work. Also, CRNA salaries are among the biggest in the nursing profession.

Finally, nurse anesthetists are one of the crucial linchpins of the healthcare system. This creates reliable job security.

Average CRNA Salary

We’ve already mentioned that CRNAs receive some of the highest salaries among all of the different nursing specialities. There are plenty of reasons for that.

While every nurse’s duty is to provide their patients with compassionate care, nurse anesthetists must also demonstrate a higher level of:

  • Knowledge
  • Experience
  • Skill
  • Judgment

This allows them to manage patients’ anesthesia properly.

In 2020, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) released data showing that the average yearly salary for US-based CRNAs was over $182,000.

The average salary for other professions in the United States is a little over $53,000. It’s easy to see just how much value is placed on nurse anesthetists.

What Effects CRNA Salary?

Just like any other profession, CRNA’s salaries can vary based on a few different factors.

These factors include:

  • Years of experience
  • Geographic location
  • Work setting
  • Staff or travel position

CRNA Salary Depends On Experience

Experience is one of the biggest factors in determining CRNA salary.

There’s a huge gap between the salary of a veteran nurse anesthetist who’s been doing their job for eight or more years and an entry-level CRNA. Sometimes, this gap is as large as $100,000.

For instance, an entry-level CRNA may have a salary of around $120,000. Meanwhile, a senior nurse anesthetist could earn closer to $220,000.

CRNA Salary Depends On Work Setting

Anesthesia is a necessary part of many medical procedures. It’s crucial in areas where the patient needs to avoid pain.

With that in mind, certified registered nurse anesthetists often bear the responsibility of working in various different work settings.

Sometimes CRNAs collaborate with fellow healthcare professionals. Other times they provide their services independently.

Work environment is another major factor of CRNA salary:

  • Outpatient care facilities: around $225,000
  • Speciality hospitals: around $200,000
  • Surgical and general medical hospitals: around $196,000
  • Professional schools, universities, and colleges: around $197,000
  • Offices of a physician: around $180,000

CRNA Salary Depends On Location

Your geographic location is another important thing to consider when gauging what kind of CRNA salary you can expect.

For instance, some cities provide higher nurse anesthetist salaries because they house more concentrated acute care and teaching facilities. They may also have more competition for highly-skilled medical workers.

CRNA Salary By State

We’ve already talked about how your location can influence your CRNA salary. However, it’s worth exploring how it differs from state to state.

The number of available professionals and living standards in a region are important factors. Also, the scope of practice law in any given state is just as crucial.

With that in mind, here are some notable examples:

StateCRNA Salary CACRNA salary TXCRNA Salary, FLTravel CRNA salary
Annual salaryAround $226,000Around $167,000Around $160,000Around $180,000

How Can I Increase My CRNA Salary?

If you want to get the highest possible CRNA salary, start looking for a place with a favorable work setting that is situated in the right area.

You can also try to reach the status of Chief Nurse Anesthetist.

In that role, you’ll have a salary that’s higher than an ordinary CRNA by $10,000 or $20,000. Just remember that you will also have to take on more responsibilities in terms of:

  • Training
  • Scheduling
  • Managing other staff anesthetists

How Much Does CRNA Schooling Cost?

Certified registered nurse anesthetists have a high earning potential compared to the national average.

However, there’s a reason for those high CRNA salaries. You can’t just become a nurse anesthetist overnight. It requires continuing education.

CRNA Education Expenses

Your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree will set you back between $35,000 and $100,000.

A Master’s CRNA degree will cost an additional $80,000 to $120,000.

Finally, there’s a $725 fee for your certification exam.

As you can see, there’s a reason why there are only 60,000 CRNAs across the entire United States. Becoming one is a big financial commitment.

Once you complete your BSN program, you will also need an additional nurse anesthesia program. This can be either a Doctorate or a Master’s degree.

Also, all CRNAs will be asked for a Doctorate degree from 2025 onwards. If you’re just starting out, it’s best to plan for a DNP right away.

Is Becoming A CRNA Cost-Effective?

Becoming a BSN nurse will set you back around $100,000, and becoming a CRNA means an additional $100,000 on top of that. It could possibly cost even more.

Some CRNA students get tuition reimbursements from their employer. However, your specific employer may not have this benefit, so it’s an important question to ask.

Depending on where you work, you might have to pay for CRNA schooling out of your own pocket. You can do so by utilizing student loans specific to medical students.

The BLS reports that, on average, a registered nurse earns about $100,000 less each year compared to the median salary of a CRNA.

If you ask a nurse anesthetist, they’ll tell you it’s worth it.

A $200,000 loan would cost you around $1,500 per month for the next 20 years. However, compared to the $100,000+ you’d earn each year, it makes it worth it for a lot of people. 

Where Do CRNAs Find Work?

Generally, CRNAs work in healthcare settings with intensive care units, emergency rooms, and operating rooms. Some of their work environments include:

  • Surgical and medical hospitals
  • Mobile surgery facilities
  • Critical access healthcare facilities
  • Nursing research institutions
  • Outpatient care facilities
  • Offices of dentists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, etc.

While the majority of CRNAs do bedside work, it’s worth remembering that there are also plenty of administrative and non-clinical positions.

In these roles, you would complete tasks related to:

  • Staff development
  • Continual education
  • Healthcare department meetings
  • Constant risk management
  • Quality assurance
  • Resource management
  • Personnel management

There are also certified registered nurse anesthetists working in federal and state government entities or professional organizations. This includes organization like:

  • The American Society for Testing and Materials
  • The FDA
  • The local state board of nursing

How To Become a CRNA

To become a CRNA, you’ll need to follow the following 6 steps:

1. Get Your BSN

Obtaining your BSN degree is the first step. It gives you all the foundational knowledge you need to navigate professional topics like:

  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Health assessments
  • Anatomy

These programs also include clinical rotations. These provide you with valuable experience in different care departments. They also provide you with some first-hand interactions with colleagues and patients.

All in all, it’s a well-rounded education for future nurses.

Also, bear in mind that your academic achievements during your undergraduate studies will greatly affect your work and specialization opportunities in the future.

Better recommendations from undergraduate facilities and higher grades will mean better chances of getting into the nurse anesthetist program you want.

Most programs have a minimum GPA prerequisite of 3.0. Plus, as more and more people become aware of the lucrative prospects of a CRNA career, it’s becoming much more competitive to get in.

2. Become a Licensed RN

Every nurse graduate must complete the NCLEX-RN. It’s a clunky acronym for an even clunkier name: the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses.

The NCLEX test can be challenging, so don’t take it lightly.

3. Gain ICU Experience

ICU experience is really helpful in pursuing a career as a CRNA. Working in an adult ICU will put you in the best possible position for entering a CRNA graduate program.

If you want to enhance your CV and make your application for a nurse anesthesia program stand out, consider pursuing certifications that further demonstrate your experience.

For instance, the Critical Care Registered Nurse Certification will do that well.

There are also other ways of boosting your chances. For example, you’ll gain valuable experience from shadowing a nurse anesthetist.

That way, you will show how committed you are to the field. At the same time, you’ll obtain valuable insights into how your future work may look.

4. Enter a Nurse Anesthesia Program

Historically, CRNAs were able to do their work after obtaining an MSN. However, the demand for nurse anesthetists has grown.

The evolving patient needs have also resulted in more refined education requirements. As a result, CRNAs will be required to have a doctorate starting in 2025.

A CRNA program isn’t something anyone can do. Accepted applicants must show how committed they are to studying nursing. All programs also have their own individual requirements and focus.

That being said, most have common requirements like:

  • References
  • Suitable communication skills
  • Minimum GPA (typically 3.0)
  • A previous BSN degree or a degree in a similar field of study
    • Completed prerequisite courses like statistics, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, and human anatomy
  • An RN license
  • A year of experience in an acute care work setting
  • Two years of experience as a RN in general

These nurse anesthesia programs tend to value candidates that show attention to detail. This is understandable given the nature of a CRNA’s work.

With that in mind, make sure you’ve studied the application requirements of each school carefully. Also, be sure to provide all the precise information they ask for.

5. Attend The Nurse Anesthesia Program

More nurse anesthesia programs have gone past the educational standard of a master’s degree. Instead, they’ve moved closer to the instructional level of a doctoral degree.

Considering the evolving CRNA requirements in the field, this makes sense.

Depending on the exact nurse anesthesia program you land in, you will spend two or three years earning your degree. In the process, you will have both clinical practice and high-level classroom participation.

6. Pass The National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists

When you obtain your CRNA degree, you’ll have one last step before you can start working. You need to take the National Certification Examination for a CRNA.

Typically, this is a three-hour examination that tests your skills, knowledge, and abilities. This will gauge whether you’re ready for the work of a certified registered nurse anesthetist. If you pass the exam, congrats: you’re now a full-fledged CRNA!

That being said, your certification has to be maintained. This means you have to take the test again every eight years and re-certify yourself every four years.

The latter requires completing 100 units of education in various areas, such as anesthesia technologies and pathophysiology.

Advice For Future CRNAs

If you’re considering becoming a CRNA, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

This will help you determine if it’s the right career path for you.

Independent Decision-Making

If you want to become a CRNA, you should start getting used to independent decision-making and thinking.

Guidelines, order sets, and protocols are all important and useful. However, you’ll also need critical thinking skills supported by your knowledge. It’s the only way to choose the right course of action for your patients in their most vital moments.

Explaining Your Practice

You should also get used to constantly and properly explaining the nature of your practice to people who don’t know much about it. And we don’t just mean patients.

Many physicians, surgeons, and other nurses don’t properly understand the capabilities, background, and knowledge of a CRNA.

Many of them don’t realize how much you know about perioperative anesthetic management.

However, anesthesia and surgery rest on teamwork, so individual egos are not important. This is especially true when it comes to patient safety and health.

Research The Profession

Nurses with the goal of becoming CRNAs should research the profession first. Shadowing a few CRNAs in various kinds of practice is a great idea.

After all, you want to know what it’s like to work in a hectic urban trauma center. At the same time, you’ll also want the experience of providers in more rural areas with small communities.

You need to understand your new profession completely, and that requires going through different practices.

Furthermore, working in critical care is essential for developing crucial CRNA skills, like:

  • EKG interpretation
  • Ventilator settings
  • Comprehension of laboratory results

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to CRNA knowledge.

A professional CRNA knows all of these things and the related pathophysiology. Plus, working in critical care areas like the ICU is great for obtaining critical thinking skills.

It’s not something you can learn in a week or a month. It takes years to develop the correct instincts.

When Things Get Difficult

Applying for CRNA programs when you’re ready is more important than doing it after you’ve met the minimum requirements.

When it gets hard (and it will), consider how much your career will benefit when you become a CRNA. In fact, it will be catapulted onto an entirely new level.

The advancement of anesthetic drugs is making a vast number of procedures possible across the country, including:

  • Emergency procedures
  • Surgical procedures
  • Pain management procedures
  • Obstetric procedures

This large number of procedures is only growing.

There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve ensured the comfort and safety of countless patients when they’re in their most vulnerable state.

Work Hard

Getting to the point where you can perform all CRNA duties requires a lot of hard work. It’s something you should keep in mind, even while you’re working towards your Bachelor’s degree.

Make sure you’re going after the highest possible grades. Excellent academic work will give you better odds when you start applying for nurse anesthesia programs later on.

Leave Pride Behind

Finally, if you want to be a successful CRNA, you’ll have to leave your pride behind. This career includes plenty of humbling moments.

You will constantly rely on fellow nurses to do your work. If you want them to give you the respect you deserve, you’ll need to keep in mind that it’s a two-way street.

The fact that you’ve managed to become a CRNA doesn’t mean you have nothing more to prove. It means you now have the chance and duty to prove yourself every single day.

What Are The Future Job Prospects For CRNAs?

In the United States, there is:

  • A growing focus on preventative care
  • Healthcare legislation
  • Growing numbers of insured patients
  • An aging patient population

This all means there is a staggering level of demand for qualified nurses in general. This is especially true CRNA work.

By all BLS estimates, the general job growth for CRNA positions will be about 25% near the end of the decade. This is roughly 30% higher than the projected job growth for ordinary RNs.

Demand in rural areas will also continue to grow. In fact, plenty of organizations are already using them when anesthesiologists are not available or financially feasible.

Benefits of Travel CRNA Jobs

As a CRNA, you could also decide to work as a traveling nurse. This provides you with lots of choices on when and where you’ll work.

There are plenty of full-time and part-time assignments across the United States. You can get plenty of benefits that you wouldn’t have when working for a single facility full time.

There’s also plenty of demand for these positions. Traveling CRNAs step in when anesthesia practitioners are not available due to staff shortages.

Finally, a traveling CRNA salary is typically higher than a staff position salary.

CRNA Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Time Does It Take To Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

If you want to earn a CRNA salary, you’ll need to educate yourself for at least six years.

Then you’ll need to spend one year as a regular RN.

Is Becoming a CRNA Difficult?

The educational path for nurse anesthetists is demanding. The average graduate-level program for nurse anesthetists requires a minimum GPA of 3.6.

Also, once you’re enrolled, expect courses in:

  • Nursing practice
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology

The average program accepts around 20% of applicants.

How Much Is A CRNA Salary?

On average, the anesthetist nurse specialty gets paid the highest salary compared to all other APRN earnings.

The median CRNA salary is around $183,000 in the United States.

Conclusion

Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist is not easy. You’ll need to obtain advanced education and build lots of skills.

However, it is very rewarding. The role is in high demand, and the high CRNA salary reflects that.

If you think becoming a nurse anesthetist is right for you, then search for an education program today!

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