Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) trained to administer anesthesia used for pain management, who work with a range of medical professionals, from surgeons to anesthesiologists, dentists to other registered nurses. They may also work in various medical settings such as outpatient care centers, hospitals, emergency rooms, physicians’ offices, and military bases.
A nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia or medicine that prevents pain or alleviates anxiety, in individuals before they undergo a medical procedure, operation, or childbirth. Nurse anesthetists also monitor patients' vital signs while under anesthesia and after. They may also administer anesthesia to manage and relieve chronic pain as part of a pain management plan. These advanced practice nurses also perform these tasks:
Meet with a patient before their procedure to review all medical history, complete a physical assessment, and notify the patient of all risks associated with anesthesia.
Monitor a patient’s vitals both during and after a procedure or surgery.
Stay with a patient after a procedure to assist in recovery and monitor vitals and level of comfort.
Determine the dosage, method, and type of medication needed based on individual patients and length and type of procedure.
Develop pain management strategies and plans.
Nurse anesthetists may work with various medical professionals, from surgeons to anesthesiologists, dentists to other registered nurses. They may also work in various medical settings such as outpatient care centers, hospitals, emergency rooms, physicians’ offices, and military bases.
Sometimes, the duties of a nurse anesthetist will vary slightly depending on where they work. It’s also important to note that a nurse anesthetist is not an anesthesiologist. An anesthesiologist is a physician who specializes in anesthesia without a nursing background.
A nurse anesthetist working in the US can expect to earn an average of $202,470 a year, or about $97.34 an hour . This is the median annual salary for nurse anesthetists. Nurse anesthetists are among the highest-paying roles in nursing. A nurse anesthetist's earnings vary by employer, years of experience, location, and more.
US News ranks nurse anesthetists as one of the top 10 best-paying jobs out of the top 100 jobs ranked on the 2022 Best Paying Jobs List. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 40 percent job growth for this career in the next decade, with about 30,200 job openings slotted for each year within that decade . Nurse practitioners and nurse midwives, and other advanced nursing positions are also included in these projections.
Several factors impact how much a nurse anesthetist makes. These factors include state of employment, employer, job title, and any additional training and certifications they may hold.
To qualify as a nurse anesthetist, you must meet the required educational criteria, training, licensure, and certification. Qualifications vary by state and even employer. Here are seven basic steps to becoming a nurse anesthetist.
1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).
2. Earn your Registered Nurse (RN) license by passing the National Council Licensure Examinations for RNs (NCLEX-RN) and meeting all other state requirements.
3. Work as an RN to gain professional experience. This step is a requirement for admission into a graduate program. Most programs require at least one year of clinical critical care experience for admission.
4. Enroll in a Council of Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) accredited graduate program for nurse anesthetists. A Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) has been the requirement, but as of 2020, prospective nurse anesthetists will need to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Nurse of Anesthesia Practice (DNAP).
5. Pass the National Certification Examination (NCE) offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). You’re eligible to sit for this exam once you’ve graduated from your master’s program.
6. Earn your board certification as a CRNA with a passing score on the NCE and all education requirements met. This certification is required in most states to get licensed as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).
7. Apply for state licensure as an APRN. Once you've earned your degree and satisfied educational requirements, you can apply for state licensure as an APRN. Requirements vary by state. You will be required to maintain your licensure and CRNA certification, which usually involves recertification every two years.
Yes, you need a Registered Nursing (RN) license and most likely also a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) certification to become a nurse anesthetist. You will earn your RN license after completing your undergraduate degree and your CRNA certification after completing your graduate program and passing the NCE exam. Licensing requirements will be different based on where you work.
Some common requirements for obtaining a license include an application for state licensure, CRNA certification, and proof of degrees from accredited programs. Some states place limits on CRNAs' ability to prescribe medicine. You may need to submit an application for prescriptive authority in these states.
Your location, employer, and job title are all factors that will impact your salary level as a nurse anesthetist. Other factors include years of experience and any specializations you may hold.
Where you live may likely impact your earning potential as a nurse anesthetist. Some of the highest-paying states for this profession include Alaska, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Metropolitan areas tend to have higher employment levels, but that does not always equate to higher earnings. 
Physicians’ offices, medical-surgical centers, and other health practitioner practices are among the top three employers of nurse anesthetics and have the highest concentration of nurse anesthetists. You'll find the highest-paying jobs in outpatient surgical centers, psychiatric hospitals, and medical-surgical hospitals. 
Your job title as a nurse anesthetist may vary based on certifications you hold, where you work, your years of experience, and more. Some nurse anesthetists may work in managerial roles, while some may find themselves in the field of education as professors. Others may work with a specific type of health care provider. These variations may impact your earnings.
You may see some of these common job title variations:
Cardiothoracic nurse anesthetists work with patients undergoing operations or procedures involving the heart, such as cardiothoracic operations or heart transplants. They work alongside an anesthesiologist.
Chief nurse anesthetists manage other nurse anesthetists in addition to their own clinical duties. They also work closely with patients to ensure their needs are met.
Nurse anesthesiology program director oversees the nurse anesthesiology program for a college or university. In this leadership role, you will be overseeing all faculty and staff in the program, design curriculum, and measures for assessment. An assistant nurse anesthesiology program director would assist in this role and would be another job title option for a nurse anesthetist.
Faculty Professor or Assistant Professor, CRNA is an educator at a college university, teaching courses as part of a nurse anesthetist graduate degree program. Your salary will vary in this position by degrees you hold, certifications you’ve earned, your years of professional experience, and the school at which you work.
Nurse anesthetists are highly-regarded professionals in the nursing field, with a career path that pays well and ranks higher than average in terms of job outlook. When you’re ready to plan out your next steps to becoming a nurse anesthetist, consider enrolling in a course like Introductory Human Physiology or Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body is Telling Us, both offered on Coursera.
Introductory courses like these can help supplement your learning as a nursing student and give you insight into the profession early on so you can better plan your next steps.
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US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 20201 Nurse Anesthetist https://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes291151.htm.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
US News.. “2022 Best Paying Jobs, https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/best-paying-jobs” Accessed December 6, 2022.
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwives, Nurse Practitioners, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-1.” Accessed December 6, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.