Best CRNA Programs of 2022
Nurse anesthetist programs train graduates to pursue advanced nursing careers. Our guide lists the best CRNA schools and provides information on admissions, curriculum, and work settings.
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Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other medical procedures. CRNAs, a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), often practice with a high level of autonomy.
A CRNA program qualifies graduates to take the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists examination. Most master's-level programs require 2-3 years for completion, including requisite hours of clinical experience.
We use a data-driven methodology to rank the best CRNA degree programs, making it easier to find a program that works for you. Our methodology is based on metrics that we believe matter most to students, including academic quality, affordability, reputation, and program offerings.
Keep reading to learn more about CRNA programs, or go straight to our list of the best CRNA degrees.
How Do CRNA Degree Programs Work?
Currently, CRNA programs result in either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). By 2025, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists will require all CRNAs to earn a doctoral degree.
An MSN program generally takes at least two years, while a DNP takes three years or longer. The curriculum for either program includes assessment, evidence-based practice, informatics, and public health and epidemiology. Pharmacology, advanced physiology and pathophysiology, and practices in administering anesthesia are also studied. DNP programs include a residency component in the last year.
CRNA programs all include clinical hours and practicums. Once you graduate, you must apply for certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.
You must also attest that you do not have any factors in your life that would impede your ability to act as an anesthetist, as CRNAs have access to controlled substances.
Featured Online Programs
Applying to a CRNA Degree Program
The best CRNA program for you depends on which degree you want to earn, your budget, academic background, and experience.
Current and unencumbered RN license, bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) or MSN, personal statement or essay, at least two letters of recommendation
3.0 minimum (some schools require a 3.2 or higher)
Successful criminal background check and at least one year of experience as an RN in critical care, an emergency department, or similar setting; strong preference for two or more years of experience
Why Is CRNA Degree Program Accreditation Important?
During the nursing program accreditation process, an independent body of examiners, consisting of academics and active professionals, reviews the program to ensure graduates can safely practice as CRNAs.
The review covers the curriculum, teacher and staff qualifications, and student outcomes (grades and board certification results). Teaching methods, school facilities (online or on campus), academic resources available to students, and other factors are also evaluated.
While not a guarantee, program accreditation is an endorsement of a CRNA program's teaching ability.
Because program accreditation is vital to patient safety, employers do not hire graduates of unaccredited programs. Accredited programs do not accept transfer credits from unaccredited programs.
This guide lists only accredited programs since unaccredited programs are not worth your time or money.
Learn More About the Best CRNA Degree Programs and Schools
Frequently Asked Questions About CRNA Degree Programs
What are the prerequisites for a CRNA program?
You must have a current and unencumbered RN license, a BSN with at least a 3.0 GPA, a minimum one year of experience as a nurse, and a degree in nursing for an MSN or a DNP program. Some accelerated MSN programs do accept non-nursing undergraduate degrees.
Many programs require or strongly prefer at least a 3.2 GPA and two years of nursing experience.
What is the fastest way to become a nurse anesthetist?
If you have a BSN, the fastest program is a BSN-to-MSN CRNA program. These programs can be as short as two years. However, by 2025, the MSN option will be phased out, and only DNP CRNA programs will be available.
While the MSN is fastest, the DNP is the best CRNA degree program for career advancement.
What are the top-paying industries for CRNAs?
Outpatient care centers are the highest-paying industries, with an average CRNA salary of $254,180, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Colleges, universities, and professional schools also have high salaries, at an average of $200,340. General medical and surgical centers have an average CRNA salary of $212,340.
What are the top-paying states for CRNAs?
Connecticut CRNAs earn the highest average annual salary, $276,540, according to the BLS. In New Jersey, the average is $263,850, followed by Illinois at $250,280. West Virginia is the fourth-highest paying state at $247,650.
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