How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – All You Need to Know

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) - All You Need to Know

Are you a nursing student or a registered nurse who wants to advance your practice?

If you want to help people manage their pain and undergo crucial procedures such as surgeries, labor and delivery, and emergency care by administering anesthesia, then becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is the path for you. 

And we think that’s a wonderful choice! 

Most of the hands-on anesthesia-related care is administered by CRNAs. 

And not only can you help people in a very crucial way, but you can also become one of the highest-paid practitioners in the medical field. 

Becoming a nurse anesthetist is very rewarding. However, it is not an easy task. It will take a lot of time and dedication. 

Not to mention that the process may seem complicated and overwhelming!

But we are here to help you through the process by giving you a simple guide on how to become a nurse anesthetist (CRNA). 

We’ve compiled the most important things for you to know and arranged them into 5 simple steps. 

We will also answer some common and important questions, such as:

The first step to achieving your dreams is knowing how to get there. 

So let’s go through each step, one by one.

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): 5 Simple Steps 

Here are the 5 steps to becoming a CRNA:

  1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN) and Gain Experience
  2. Complete a Master’s or Doctoral Degree 
  3. Take the National Certification Exam (CNE) 
  4. Apply for Your CRNA License
  5. Keep Your RN and CRNA Licenses Active 

Step #1: Become a Registered Nurse (RN) and Gain Experience 

We’ve already mentioned that a nurse anesthetist is a type of advanced practice registered nurse. 

This indicates that you FIRST have to become a Registered Nurse before you can attempt to advance your practice. 

You can read about how to become an RN in this article, but we’ll highlight a few important points for your convenience. 

Choose Your RN Program 

The first thing you need to do to become a registered nurse is to enroll in an approved nursing education program. 

You can choose between an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). 

An ADN takes two years to complete, while a BSN takes four years to complete. 

The advantage of a BSN, however, is that it opens up more job opportunities for you, gives you greater chances of job promotions, and prepares you for advanced practice. 

Many post-graduate nursing schools require their enrollees to have a BSN. 

However, some schools provide ADN to MSN bridge programs for those who graduate with an ADN. 

Just make sure your nursing program is approved or accredited by your state’s Nursing Regulatory Board. 

Get Your RN License 

The next step to becoming an RN is to apply for a license from your state’s board of nursing.

Each state will have differing requirements. You can check the requirements for your specific state here

But there are some common requirements that almost every state includes, such as:

  • the Transcript of Records from your nursing school 
  • a criminal background check 
  • an application fee 

Depending on where you are in your nursing journey, there are three categories to consider – licensure by examination, licensure by endorsement, and multistate licenses. 

Licensure by Examination

If you just graduated from your ADN or BSN program, then you need to apply for a license by examination. 

You will need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. 

Licensure by Endorsement 

If you are already an RN in one state but are moving to another state, then you will need to get an RN license in the state you are moving to. 

This process is known as licensure by endorsement. 

You will not need to take the NCLEX again, but you will need to submit proof of an active RN license from your state of origin. 

Multistate Licenses

Some states are part of a Nursing Compact License. 

This compact or agreement among some states allows an RN who is licensed in one compact state to practice in all other compact states. 

They will not need to undergo the endorsement process because their multistate licenses are already accredited through the compact. 

You can check if your state is part of the nursing compact by looking at the table in this article

Gain Experience 

Another important step in the RN journey is to gain relevant experience. 

Since you are interested in pursuing nurse anesthetics, then gaining experience in critical care or the ICU will prepare you for advanced practice. 

Most CRNA programs require that you have at least 1-2 years of work experience before you can apply for the program. 

Step #2: Complete a Master’s or Doctoral Degree 

Now that you are an RN with relevant experience, you can move to the next step. 

You can enroll in a master’s or doctoral program for nurse anesthetics.

It’s worth noting that by 2025, all aspiring CRNAs will be required to have a doctorate. A master’s will no longer be accepted. 

If you haven’t enrolled in a CRNA program yet or are planning to enroll this year, then it may be best for you to choose a doctorate program already. 

It takes about 3 years to complete a CRNA program as a full-time student. This usually includes about 1 year of didactic training and 2 years of intensive clinical experience. 

However, each program is different, so make sure to check the curriculum of your specific school.

Also, make sure to check if the program is accredited by your state’s board of nursing, as well as by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

Training to become a nurse anesthetist will not be easy. You need to learn a lot and gain TONS of experience before you can safely practice as a CRNA. 

But don’t back down! 

Everything worth pursuing requires time and dedication. 

Step #3: Take the National Certification Exam (CNE) 

Remember what it was like taking the NCLEX-RN? 

Well, you will have to do something similar again… But this time, the exam is specific for CRNAs. 

All aspiring CRNAs need to take the National Certification Exam provided by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetics (NBCRNA). 

There is only one national exam for nurse anesthetists. 

This is not true for the other types of APRNs. They can choose from many national organizations that offer exams based on different subspecialties… but all CRNAs take the same exam from the same provider. 

Here is a handbook from NBCRNA that breaks down the exam type and content areas for you. 

The exam is given through a computer adaptive test (CAT) method. You need to answer a minimum of 100 questions, and a maximum of 170 questions. 

The exam covers four major content areas. These are:

  • Basic Sciences (25%)
  • Equipment, Instrumentation, and Technology (15%)
  • Basics Principles of Anesthesia (30%)
  • Advanced Principles of Anesthesia (30%)

National exams always seem overwhelming, but just do your best! This is the last major hurdle before becoming a CRNA.

Step #4: Apply for Your CRNA License

Now that you are an RN, a Master’s or Doctorate graduate, AND a passer of the national certification exam, you can FINALLY apply for your CRNA license. 

You’ve come such a long way already! 

Now, it’s important to remember that each state will have different requirements to apply for a license. 

You need to check with your state’s board of nursing to be sure.

However, here are some general requirements you may expect: 

  • Transcript of Records from your accredited MSN or DNP school
  • Proof of clinical experience from an accredited provider
  • Certification from the NBCRNA with the expiration date 

You will also be expected to pay an application fee. 

If you want to apply for prescriptive authority, you need to check what the specific requirements are in your state. 

In some states, the application for prescriptive authority is joined to your CRNA application. But some states require filing separately for it. 

You can also expect a separate application fee for prescriptive authority. 

Step #5: Keep Your RN and CRNA Licenses Active

After becoming a CRNA, you can fully enjoy the fruits of your hard work! 

You can expect a lot of job opportunities and a really good salary. 

Just remember to keep your licenses active so that you can continue your practice. Both your RN and CRNA licenses should be renewed. 

In most states, you are supposed to renew your licenses every two years, but some states have differing requirements. 

Most states also require you to complete a certain number of continuing education units for you to be able to renew. 

You can check the continuing education requirements of your state here.

You can also compare the continuing education requirements of all the states by looking at the table in this article

Since you are nationally certified as a CRNA, you also need to maintain your national certification with the NBCRNA.

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

At this point, you already know how to become a CRNA… But you may still have a few lingering questions. 

Let’s answer a few common questions. 

What are the advantages of becoming a CRNA?

Becoming a CRNA takes a lot of time, dedication, and even money. It’s no easy task. 

So, you may be wondering… Is it all worth it? What can you gain from becoming a CRNA? 

First of all, you can get a lot of fulfillment from the crucial role you play in the healthcare team and the care of patients. 

Managing pain is vital for a patient’s well-being and for enabling them to undergo surgeries and other vital medical procedures. 

Another advantage of being a CRNA is that (depending on the state you are in), you can gain a lot of independence and autonomy in your practice. You won’t always need to be under the supervision of a physician. 

Other than that, you will find a lot of job opportunities that will allow you more freedom to choose where you want to work. You can choose a job that will give you more work-life balance. 

And did you know that CRNAs are the highest-paid APRNs? You get a good and hefty salary to top everything else. 

It’s interesting to note that the U.S. News and World Report ranks nurse anesthetics as:

  • #8 in best healthcare jobs
  • #9 in best-paying jobs
  • #19 in 100 best jobs

How much are CRNAs paid?

Nurse anesthetists are generally the highest-paid APRNs with a median annual salary of $195,610, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You can compare this with the annual salaries of nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. 

  • Nurse anesthetists $195,610
  • Nurse practitioners   120,680
  • Nurse midwives   112,830

What states give the highest salaries to CRNAs? 

The top-paying states for CRNAs are Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and West Virginia. 

You can see this table on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website



Employment Per Thousand Jobs

Location Quotient

Hourly Mean Wage

Hourly Mean Wage













New Jersey












West Virginia






Which state hires the most CRNAs?

The states with the highest levels of CRNA employment are Texas, Florida, Minnesota, Ohio, and New York.



Employment Per Thousand Jobs

Location Quotient

Hourly Mean Wage

Hourly Mean Wage

























New York






Where do CRNAs usually work?

According to the U.S. BLS, CRNAs usually work in offices of physicians, offices of other medical health practitioners (like dentists), hospitals, outpatient care centers, and specialty hospitals (such as psychiatric and substance abuse). 

These are the areas with the highest concentration of employment of CRNAs. 

How long will it take to become a CRNA?

This depends on the pace you are taking to obtain your CRNA license, as well as where you are exactly in your nursing journey. 

Generally, it can take you about 8-10 years in total. 

For your reference, you can break it down to:

  • Completing your BSN: 4 years
  • Taking the NCLEX and gaining clinical experience: 1-2 years
  • Taking an MSN: 2-3 years
  • Taking a DNP: 3-4 years 


And there you have it! 

We’ve discussed 5 steps to becoming a CRNA, and we’ve answered important questions about salaries, job opportunities, and advantages of CRNAs. 

Although we know that the journey may be long and tedious, we also know that it is a worthy cause. 

We hope this article will help you on your journey to becoming a CRNA!

Best wishes! 

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