Smiling member of the surgical team

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Duties, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Smiling member of the surgical team

Nursing is a noble profession and a fulfilling career choice for many people.

Since they directly impact the health and well-being of their patients, many nurses experience a great deal of emotional gratification from their jobs.

In addition, nursing offers financial stability, job security, and multiple options for career advancement through specialization.

What Is a Nursing Specialization?

Upon earning their license, Registered Nurses (RNs) can choose to focus on a specific healthcare concentration or career track. Every specialization carries its own set of unique job responsibilities, work environments, and benefits.

For many RNs, the path to specialization begins with earning their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Nursing specialization can professionally and financially enrich your career through increased knowledge, expertise, and influence. Many of the highest-paid nursing jobs require an MSN degree.

(Click here to see our list of the highest paying nursing jobs).

For this reason, we created a new series of career guides highlighting the top nursing professions requiring an MSN degree.

This career guide will focus on the role of the Nurse Anesthetist.

(Click here to see our list of the top nursing jobs you can get with an MSN degree).

Continue reading to learn how to become a Nurse Anesthetist, as well as the duties, requirements, and benefits of this esteemed profession.

Nurse Anesthetist Definition

What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?

Nurse Anesthetists are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other medical procedures. They work alongside anesthesiologists and surgeons to administer anesthesia properly.

Nurse Anesthetist: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

A Nurse Anesthetist’s primary responsibility is to ensure their patients receive the appropriate levels of anesthesia when undergoing a medical procedure. To avoid pain or discomfort, Nurse Anesthetists work with their patients before, during, and after surgery to ensure their anesthesia is administered correctly.

Going under anesthesia can be a nerve-racking experience for some people, so it’s the Nurse Anesthetist’s responsibility to reassure their patients by walking them through the entire process and answering their questions.

Nurse Anesthetist: Day-to-Day Responsibilities

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Nurse Anesthetists include:

  • Performing physical assessments before an operation
  • Administering the appropriate amount of anesthesia required for an operation
  • Monitoring vitals and dosages throughout the procedure
  • Providing care before, during, and after anesthesia
  • Educating patients regarding surgery and their recovery
  • Working with other medical staff to develop personalized pain management programs for each of their patients

Nurse Anesthetist Jobs

Where Do Nurse Anesthetists Work?

Nurse Anesthetists can work anywhere anesthesia is being administered. This enables them to work in a wide variety of healthcare settings. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical and surgical hospitals
  • Critical access hospitals
  • Pain clinics
  • Plastic surgery clinics
  • Dental clinics
  • Podiatry clinics
  • Public Health Service healthcare facilities

Smiling young woman at her laptop

Nurse Anesthetist Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Nurse Anesthetist?

Like all advanced nursing specialties, the educational requirements of a Nurse Anesthetist go beyond the RN licensing credentials.

In addition to passing the NCLEX-RN certification exam, Nurse Anesthetists must earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN) from an accredited nurse anesthesia program.

Nurse Anesthetists must also have at least one year of RN experience before applying for certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

Here are the steps required to become a Nurse Anesthetist: 

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree

Option 1: Typically, the first step to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist is earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you have no prior nursing education or experience, a BSN program can take about three to four years to complete.

Option 2: If you already have a diploma or associate degree in nursing (ADN), you can enroll in an RN-to-MSN program. Programs such as these could take an average of three years of full-time study.

Option 3: If you already have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree, you can skip past the BSN and earn an MSN degree by completing what’s known as a Masters Entry Program in Nursing (or MEPN). These programs provide an accelerated nursing curriculum to non-nursing college graduates.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Exam

Upon graduating from your BSN or MEPN program, the next step to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist is earning your nursing license. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is a nationally mandated license that all nurses must receive before becoming Registered Nurses (RNs).

3. Gain experience working as an RN in a clinical setting

It’s standard for aspiring Nurse Anesthetists to gain at least one year of experience working as an RN in a clinical environment such as an emergency room (ER), intensive care unit (ICU), or cardiac care unit (CCU). To increase their chances of getting accepted into a nurse anesthesia program, many RNs earn their Critical Care Registered Nurse Certification (CCRN). This certification requires 1,750 hours of direct critical care and passing their licensure examination.

4. Earn your Master of Science in Nursing Degree (MSN) from an accredited Nurse Anesthesia program

The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) reports that as of August 2019, there were 121 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the United States. The AANA also reported that the average experience held by RNs applying to nurse anesthesia programs is about 2.9 years.

Admission to an accredited nurse anesthesia program can be highly competitive. To be accepted into these programs, you must satisfy several requirements. Most nurse anesthesia programs take about 24 to 36 months to complete. Standard nurse anesthesia program courses include anesthesia pharmacology, anesthesia biology, pain management, and anesthesia pathophysiology. Throughout the program, you’ll learn to operate anesthesia equipment and manage surgical and emergency situations. On top of coursework, students must complete supervised clinical experiences for exposure to an array of anesthesia scenarios.

Medical professional typing on a laptop

5. Pass the National Certification Exam from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)

Once you’ve earned your master’s degree through an accredited nurse anesthesia program, you’ll be one step away from becoming a Nurse Anesthetist.

Before entering the workforce, you must pass the official national certification exam offered by the NBCRNA. The examination consists of 100 to 175 questions and takes an average of about 3 hours to complete. You’ll be given a preliminary pass or fail report upon finishing the exam. If you pass the exam, verification of your certification will be sent to your state board of nursing. From there, you can complete any state-specific requirements before employment.

The NBCRNA requires you to maintain your certification throughout your career as a Nurse Anesthetist. Certifications are evaluated over an 8-year period, broken into two 4-year periods. During each 4-year period you are required to complete the following:

  • 60 “Class A” Credits in activities related to the delivery or improvement of anesthesia care
  • 40 “Class B” Credits in anesthesia practice as well as a wide range of professional development topics
  • 4 Core Modules that address applied clinical pharmacology, human physiology and pathophysiology, airway management, and anesthesia equipment

You must take the CPC assessment exam at the end of each 8-year period. This exam has 150 questions that test how well you know the 4 Core Modules.

The path to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist can be long and arduous but worthwhile, nonetheless. Nurse Anesthetists get to nurture their passion, establish their expertise, and look forward to more significant benefits and higher wages.

Nurse Anesthetist Salary

How Much Do Nurse Anesthetists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary* for Nurse Anesthetists is $202,00.

The highest-paid Nurse Anesthetists can earn over $250,000.

Nurse Anesthetists rank 1st among the highest-paid nursing careers.

Highest Paying Industries for Nurse Anesthetists

Some of the highest paying industries for Nurse Anesthetists include:

Industry Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Outpatient Care Centers $122.20 $254,180
Specialty Hospitals $105.55 $219,540
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals $102.09 $212,340
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $96.32 $200,340
Offices of Physicians $93.39 $194,240
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $86.17 $179,220

Highest Paying States for Nurse Anesthetists

Some of the highest paying states for Nurse Anesthetists include:

State Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Connecticut $132.95 $276,540
New Jersey $126.85 $263,850
Illinois $120.33 $250,280
West Virginia $119,06 $247,650
Washington $117.65 $244,730

Highest Paying Cities for Nurse Anesthetists

Some of the highest paying cities for Nurse Anesthetists include:

City Average Hourly Wage Average Salary
Springfield, IL $143.70 $298,890
Riverside, CA $136.32 $283,550
Ann Arbor, MI $133.08 $276,810
Hartford, CT $131.28 $273,060
San Antonio, TX $126.23 $262,560
New York, NY $119.16 $247,850

What Is the Job Outlook for Nurse Anesthetists?

The BLS reports that the overall employment of Nurse Anesthetists will grow by 45% by 2030. This is significantly higher than the average growth of all occupations (8%).

The overall job growth will occur due to an increased demand for health services and the growing need to care for the aging baby-boomer population in the United States.

Young surgery team in the operating room

Nurse Anesthetist Career

Are You Ready to Start Your Career as a Nurse Anesthetist?

Nurse Anesthetists are among the highest-paid nurses in the healthcare industry, but there’s a long road to the top. You’ll need to spend a lot of time in school and working in the field before becoming a Nurse Anesthetist. However, if you have the determination and financial means to pursue this career, your efforts will pay off in dividends.

If you want to establish yourself as an expert in healthcare and nursing, then becoming a Nurse Anesthetist may be the best career choice for you.

If you’re ready to take the next step toward becoming a Nurse Anesthetist, you can start earning your MSN degree at Eagle Gate College.

Click here to learn more about our MSN program and our MEPN program.