Member of surgical team

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Member of surgical team

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

Since they can 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. Through increased knowledge, expertise, and influence, nursing specialization can enrich your career both professionally and financially. In fact, many of the highest-paid nursing jobs require an MSN degree.

For this reason, we created a new series of career guides to highlight the top nursing professions that require an MSN degree.

(Click here to see our list of the top nursing jobs for MSN graduates).

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

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 that are undergoing surgery or other medical procedures. They work alongside anesthesiologists and surgeons to properly administer anesthesia.

Nurse Anesthetist: Job Description

What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

Surgeon using monitor in operating room

A nurse anesthetists’ primary responsibility is to make certain their patients are receiving the appropriate levels 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 properly.

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 health care facilities

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 gain 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 associates 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 they can become 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 setting 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 as well as passing their licensure examination.

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

The 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. Common nurse anesthesia program courses include anesthesia pharmacology, anesthesia biology, pain management, and anesthesia pathophysiology. Throughout the program, you’ll learn to operate anesthesia equipment as well as manage surgical and emergency situations. On top of coursework, students are required to complete supervised clinical experiences for exposure to an array of anesthesia scenarios.

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. Upon finishing the exam, you’ll be given a preliminary pass or fail report. If you pass the exam, there will be a verification of your certification sent to your state board of nursing. From there, you can complete any state-specific requirements prior to employment.

The NBCRNA requires you to maintain your certification throughout your career as a nurse anesthetist. Certifications are evaluated over an 8-year period, which is 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 which address applied clinical pharmacology, human physiology and pathophysiology, airway management, and anesthesia equipment

At the end of each 8-year period, you’ll be required to take the CPC assessment exam. This exam consists of 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 have the pleasure of specializing in their chosen field. Not only do they gain the satisfaction of nurturing their passion and establishing their expertise, but they can also look forward to greater 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 $174,790.

The highest-paid 10 percent of nurse anesthetists can earn over $208,000.

In fact, 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:

IndustryAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Salary
Outpatient Care Centers$93.54$194,570
Home Health Care Services$91.84$191,030
Local Government$90.30$187,830
Medical & Surgical Hospitals$89.90$187,000
Specialty Hospitals$87.11$181,190
Physicians’ Offices$80.84$168,140

Highest Paying States for Nurse Anesthetists

Some of the highest paying states for nurse anesthetists include:

StateAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Salary
Montana$118.45$246,370
California$102.03$212,210
Iowa$100.54$209,130
Oregon$98.91$205,730
Wisconsin$98.47$204,820

Highest Paying Cities for Nurse Anesthetists

Some of the highest paying cities for nurse anesthetists include:

CityAverage Hourly WageAverage Annual Salary
Akron, OH$137.24$285,460
Columbus, GA$117.47$244,330
Tampa, FL$117.14$243,660
San Francisco, CA$116.77$242,890
Vallejo, CA$114.07$237,260
Sacramento, CA$112.47$233,940
Baltimore, MD$104.75$217,880
Green Bay, WI$103.94$216,200
Milwaukee, WI$101.49$211,100
Lansing, MI$101.01$210,100

What Is the Job Outlook for Nurse Anesthetists?

The BLS reports that overall employment of nurse anesthetists will grow 17% by 2028. This is significantly higher than the average growth of all occupations (5%).

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

Nurse Anesthetist Career

Are you ready to start your career as a Nurse Anesthetist?

Hospital critical care unit

Nurse anesthetists are amongst the highest paid nurses in the healthcare industry, but there’s a long road to the top. The amount of time you’ll spend in school and working in the field before becoming a nurse anesthetist is what turns many people away from the profession. 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 the field of 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 towards becoming a nurse anesthetist, you can start by earning your MSN degree at Eagle Gate College.

Click here to learn more about our MSN program, as well as our MEPN program.