Home / Career Guides / Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Career Guide

What is a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

A CRNA is a super skilled nurse who specializes in giving anesthesia, which is the stuff that makes you sleep through surgery without feeling pain. These nurses play a huge part in lots of medical areas, like surgeries, childbirth, and emergency care. They are especially important in places where doctors are scarce because they can be the only ones around to provide anesthesia.

Duties and responsibilities

CRNAs have a bunch of responsibilities:

  • Before an operation, they check out patients to pick the best anesthesia plan
  • They give the anesthesia to make sure you stay asleep and pain-free during surgery
  • They keep an eye on you during surgery to make sure everything is going smoothly and adjust the anesthesia if needed
  • After surgery, they help manage any pain you might feel

Work environment

CRNAs work in various places where anesthesia is needed:

  • Hospitals and surgical centers where they might work day or night and even on weekends or holidays to cover surgeries at all times
  • Doctor’s offices or clinics with more regular hours

Typical work hours

CRNAs can have different work schedules:

  • In hospitals or surgery centers, they might work shifts that cover every hour of the day and night, including weekends and holidays
  • In offices or clinics, they might work more typical business hours

Being flexible with time is key because healthcare doesn’t stick to a 9-to-5 schedule.

How to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist

If you want to become a CRNA, follow these steps:

Step 1: Get a bachelor’s degree in nursing

Start by earning a nursing degree (BSN) from a good college. You’ll learn all about nursing and some serious science stuff like anatomy and microbiology.

Step 2: Become a registered nurse (RN)

After your degree, you need to pass a big test called the NCLEX-RN to become a registered nurse. This test makes sure you know your nursing stuff well.

Step 3: Learn more with additional courses

Keep learning even after school! Online courses can help you stay sharp and understand more about health care. For example, you could medical terms on Udemy or about body signs on Coursera. 

Step 4: Gain clinical experience

Work for a couple of years in an intensive care unit or a similar place. This job is tough but teaches you a lot about handling serious health situations.

Step 5: Go to graduate school for nurse anesthesia

Next, you’ll need to go back to school for about 2-3 years to specialize in anesthesia. You can earn a master’s or doctoral degree that focuses on how to safely put patients to sleep during surgery.

Step 6: Obtain national certification

After graduation, you must pass another big test to prove you can safely manage anesthesia. When you pass, you’ll officially be a CRNA.

Step 7: Keep your licensure up to date

Like any superhero, you need to keep your powers sharp. This means taking courses throughout your career to make sure you’re still good to go.

How much do certified registered nurse anesthetists make?

Several factors can influence how much a CRNA makes, including their education, experience, industry, location, and employer’s size.

Highest paying industries

  • Outpatient Care Centers: $217,480
  • Specialty Hospitals: $213,250
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $202,290
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $197,540
  • Offices of Physicians: $194,820

Highest paying states

  • Montana: $243,550
  • California: $227,290
  • Iowa: $224,120
  • Oregon: $221,980
  • Wisconsin: $220,380

Browse CRNA salary data by market

Types of certified registered nurse anesthetists

  • Pediatric CRNA: These CRNAs specialize in working with kids—from babies to teenagers. They know exactly how to adjust anesthesia for younger patients and make them feel comfortable during medical procedures.
  • Obstetric CRNA: Focuses on helping women during childbirth. They manage pain with methods like epidurals and are there to provide anesthesia during cesarean sections if needed.
  • Cardiothoracic CRNA: Works on big surgeries like those involving the heart and lungs. These CRNAs need to be super precise because they deal with critical situations.
  • Neurosurgical CRNA: Specializes in brain and nervous system surgeries. These procedures are complex and need a CRNA who is highly skilled in managing anesthesia carefully.
  • Pain management CRNA: These CRNAs work mostly in clinics focusing on helping people manage long-term pain from chronic conditions, making sure patients are comfortable and pain-free as much as possible.
  • Rural CRNA: Works in rural areas where they might be one of the few anesthesia providers around. They handle a variety of procedures, giving them a broad range of skills.
  • Military CRNA: Provides anesthesia to military personnel and their families, possibly even in combat zones or during emergencies. This role can involve traveling and working in challenging environments.

Top skills for certified registered nurse anesthetists

  • Expert in anesthesia techniques: These nurses must be experts in all types of anesthesia—general, regional, and local. They need to know which type to use based on the surgery and the patient’s health history to keep everything safe and smooth.
  • Assessing patients: Before surgery, they check the patient’s health thoroughly to spot any risks. This careful checking helps them plan the best anesthesia method to keep the patient safe.
  • Monitoring and adjusting during surgery: During surgery, CRNAs keep a close eye on the patient’s vital signs (like heart rate and blood pressure) and adjust the anesthesia as needed. They have to be super attentive and ready to handle any changes quickly.
  • Handling stress: Surgery can be tense. They need to stay calm and think clearly, even when things get stressful. Being able to make quick, smart decisions in high-pressure situations is crucial.
  • Communication skills: They must talk clearly with doctors, nurses, and the patient’s family, explaining medical stuff in a way that everyone can understand. Good communication helps build trust and makes sure everyone knows what’s happening.
  • Ethical and legal knowledge: CRNAs follow strict medical ethics and laws to protect patients’ rights and privacy. They always need to make choices that respect the patient and stick to professional standards.

Certified registered nurse anesthetist career path

Start as a registered nurse

First, you become an RN. This means getting a nursing degree and passing a licensing exam. Then, you work in critical care settings like intensive care units where you gain valuable experience handling serious health situations.

Specialize in anesthesia

After some years as an RN, you move on to specialize in anesthesia. This involves going back to school for an advanced degree in nurse anesthesia. Here, you learn how to safely manage anesthesia during surgeries.

Work as a CRNA

As a CRNA, you’ll be involved in all stages of anesthesia care—before, during, and after surgeries. You’ll work under doctors’ supervision at first, but with experience, you might handle complex cases on your own.

Further specialization

With lots of experience, you could choose to specialize further. For example, you might focus on providing anesthesia for children, pregnant women, or heart surgery patients. Each specialization comes with its own challenges and requires deep knowledge.

Advance to leadership roles

Experienced CRNAs can move into leadership positions, like managing an anesthesia department. In these roles, you’d be in charge of a team, making sure everyone follows safety protocols and maintains high-quality care.

Enter academia or research

Some CRNAs go into teaching or research, helping to train the next generation of nurses or discovering new methods and technologies in anesthesia.

  • Growing autonomy: More and more, these nurses are getting the freedom to work without direct supervision from doctors. This change helps bring more healthcare services to places where there aren’t enough medical professionals.
  • Advanced technology: New tools and technology in anesthesia are making surgeries safer and more efficient. CRNAs use these advancements to ensure top-notch care during operations.

Employment projections

The need for CRNAs is skyrocketing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that jobs for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners will grow by 40% through 2031, which is a lot faster than most other jobs. As more people get older, they need more medical procedures, including surgeries, which means more demand for anesthesia. 

Certified registered nurse anesthetist career tips

Stick to high ethical standards

Always keep your work ethical. Respect patient privacy and always aim for the best outcomes for your patients. Your role is crucial in keeping patients safe.

Stay updated on anesthesia advances

Anesthesia is always getting better and more advanced. Keep learning through courses, workshops, and professional groups like the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).

Manage stress well

Being a CRNA can be stressful since you’re responsible for patient safety. Find ways to handle stress, like exercising, practicing mindfulness, or hanging out with supportive friends and family.

Build your professional network

Connect with other healthcare professionals through organizations, LinkedIn groups, or local associations. Networking helps with learning new things and advancing your career.

Never stop learning

Continue your education to stay sharp. Attend conferences, read professional journals, and take part in seminars. This keeps you at the top of your game.

Communicate clearly

Good communication is key. Make sure you’re clear when talking to patients, their families, and your team. Good communication builds trust and makes your job easier.

Develop leadership skills

Work on your leadership skills, like making decisions, solving problems, and working well with others. These skills are useful even if you’re not in a management position.

Keep good records

Accurate records are super important in medical care. They help maintain high care standards and are essential for legal protection and research.

Take care of yourself

Don’t forget about self-care. Being fit, eating well, and taking time to relax are all crucial for doing your best work.

Focus on the patient

Always put your patients first. Understand their needs, involve them in their care decisions, and strive to provide the best care possible.

Where the CRNA jobs are

Top companies

  • HCA Healthcare
  • Mayo Clinic
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Envision Health

Top states

  • Texas
  • California
  • Pennsylvania
  • Florida
  • New York

Top job sites

  • Zengig
  • Glassdoor
  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Monster


What educational background is typically expected for a CRNA?

They generally begin their education with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. After gaining some clinical experience as an RN, a master’s degree or doctoral degree in nurse anesthesia is typically pursued. After graduation, they must pass the National Certification Examination to become a CRNA.

What are the key responsibilities of a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

Their primary responsibility is administering anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other medical procedures. They assess patients before procedures, administer anesthesia, monitor progress, and provide post-anesthesia care. Some CRNAs also provide pain management care.

What skills are essential for a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

This role requires advanced clinical skills to assess patients, administer anesthesia, and respond to potential complications. They also need strong decision-making and problem-solving abilities to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations. Excellent communication skills are essential for coordinating with other healthcare professionals and communicating effectively with patients.

In what types of settings do certified registered nurse anesthetists typically work?

They work in various healthcare settings where anesthesia is administered, including hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, dental offices, and pain clinics. In rural and medically underserved areas, CRNAs often serve as the primary providers of anesthesia care.

What is the role of a certified registered nurse anesthetist in a surgical team?

In a surgical team, a CRNA is responsible for all aspects of anesthesia care, including preoperative assessment, administration of anesthesia, intraoperative life support, pain control, and post-anesthesia care. They work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure safe and effective anesthesia care.

Is continuing education required for a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

Yes, continuing education is required to maintain their certification. The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists requires them to recertify every four years, which includes completing a certain number of continuing education hours.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

This role can be highly stressful due to the critical nature of their work. Administering anesthesia and monitoring patients during surgery requires skill, focus, and decision-making ability. They must also keep up with the latest advances in anesthesia care and manage the physical demands of long hours and on-call schedules.

What role does a certified registered nurse anesthetist play in patient safety?

Patient safety is a top priority. They play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of patients undergoing surgery or other procedures requiring anesthesia. Their work involves carefully assessing patients before procedures, monitoring vital signs and anesthesia levels, and providing post-anesthesia care to ensure a safe recovery.

Do certified registered nurse anesthetists work independently or under the supervision of an anesthesiologist?

The work environment can depend on state laws and hospital policies. Some work independently, while others work in a team under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. Regardless of the practice model, they are highly trained professionals critical to patient care.

What is the typical day-to-day experience of a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

The day-to-day experience can vary depending on the practice setting. A typical day may involve performing preoperative assessments, administering anesthesia for surgeries or other procedures, monitoring patients, and providing post-anesthesia care. Time may also be spent collaborating with other healthcare professionals, participating in team meetings, and maintaining patient records.