How to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): A Comprehensive Guide


A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is a highly skilled nursing professional who administers anesthesia to patients undergoing surgical procedures. CRNAs work with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other medical professionals to ensure patient safety and comfort during surgeries and medical procedures. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide for those who wish to pursue a career as a CRNA.

5 Steps to Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

If you are considering a career as a CRNA, the following five steps will help guide you on your journey.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree

The first step to becoming a CRNA is to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. This degree typically takes four years to complete and includes coursework in anatomy, pharmacology, and other nursing-specific subjects. It is important to note that some CRNA programs require a Master’s degree, so it is important to research specific program requirements before applying.

Step 2: Acquire a Registered Nurse (RN) license

After earning your BSN degree, you must obtain a Registered Nurse (RN) license. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically involve passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

Step 3: Gain at least one year of critical care nursing experience

CRNA programs typically require at least one year of critical care nursing experience before admission. Critical care experience includes working in the intensive care unit (ICU), emergency department (ED), or other high-acuity settings.

Step 4: Attend a nurse anesthesia program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)

After gaining experience as an RN, you must attend a nurse anesthesia program that is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete and can lead to either a Master’s or Doctorate degree in nurse anesthesia.

Step 5: Become certified by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)

After completing a nurse anesthesia program, you must become certified by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). This involves passing a certification exam that tests your knowledge and competency in anesthesia administration.

A Comprehensive Guide to Pursuing a Career as a CRNA

There are two main educational paths to becoming a CRNA: a Master’s degree or a Doctorate degree. While both paths lead to certification as a CRNA, there are some key differences to consider when choosing which path is right for you.

Master’s vs. Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are becoming increasingly popular for those pursuing a career in nurse anesthesia. While both Master’s and Doctorate programs lead to certification as a CRNA, a Doctorate degree may provide additional advantages in the job market and additional opportunities for career advancement.

Benefits of a Doctorate Degree in Nurse Anesthesia:

  • Increased earning potential
  • Additional opportunities for career advancement
  • Opportunities for research and teaching

Drawbacks of a Doctorate Degree in Nurse Anesthesia:

  • Higher cost of tuition
  • Longer time commitment
  • May require a higher GPA or more extensive work experience

COA-Accredited Nurse Anesthesia Programs

When choosing a nurse anesthesia program, it is important to look for programs that are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). Accredited programs meet specific educational requirements and ensure that graduates are qualified to work as CRNAs.

The Roadmap: How to Achieve Your Dream of Becoming a CRNA

While the road to becoming a CRNA requires significant dedication and hard work, there are strategies you can use to overcome common obstacles and stay motivated throughout the process.

Strategies for Overcoming Common Obstacles:

  • Apply for scholarships and financial aid
  • Explore alternative pathways, such as online or part-time programs
  • Develop a strong support system

Tips for Staying Motivated:

  • Set small, achievable goals
  • Visualize your end goal
  • Stay organized and maintain a schedule

From RN to CRNA: Everything You Need to Know

While the roles of an RN and a CRNA share many similarities, there are some distinct differences that are important to understand if you are considering making a career shift.

Differences Between RNs and CRNAs:

  • CRNAs are responsible for administering anesthesia, while RNs typically do not have this responsibility.
  • CRNAs typically work in higher-acuity settings, such as the operating room, while RNs work in a range of healthcare settings.
  • CRNAs require additional education and certification beyond the RN level.

Despite these differences, many RNs successfully make the transition to becoming a CRNA. By gaining critical care experience and attending a nurse anesthesia program, RNs can acquire the skills and knowledge needed to work as a CRNA.

Top Tips for Applying to CRNA Programs

When applying to nurse anesthesia programs, there are several factors that can impact your chances of acceptance. By keeping these factors in mind and crafting a strong application, you can increase your likelihood of being accepted to your desired program.

Important Factors in the Application Process:

  • Undergraduate GPA and coursework
  • Work experience, particularly in critical care settings
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement

Advice for Crafting a Competitive Application:

  • Highlight your critical care nursing experience
  • Obtain strong letters of recommendation
  • Write a compelling personal statement that showcases your passion for nurse anesthesia
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities, such as research or volunteering, to demonstrate your dedication to the field
  • Prepare for the certification exam by studying and seeking out additional opportunities for learning and practice

The Journey to Becoming a CRNA: A Personal Account

To gain insight into the journey of becoming a CRNA, it can be helpful to hear from someone who has successfully navigated the process. Here, we share a personal story of one CRNA’s journey to becoming certified.

A Personal Story

Aspiring to be a CRNA was a long-held goal for Jessica, who had worked as an RN in a busy ICU for six years before beginning her journey to becoming certified. She enrolled in a Master’s program in nurse anesthesia and juggled her studies with a full-time work schedule, often sacrificing weekends and evening hours to complete coursework and clinical requirements.

Despite the long hours and financial challenges, Jessica remained motivated by her passion for anesthesia administration and the knowledge that her hard work would one day pay off. After completing her program and passing the certification exam, she was rewarded with a fulfilling career as a CRNA that provided opportunities for professional growth and advancement.


Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) requires significant effort and dedication, but the rewards can be life-changing. By following the five steps outlined in this article and pursuing a nurse anesthesia program accredited by COA, you can embark on a fulfilling career as a CRNA. Remember to stay motivated, overcome obstacles, and leverage your skills and experiences as an RN in your pursuit of becoming a CRNA.

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