Best Online CRNA Programs

A CRNA degree can increase earning potential and lead to new career opportunities. Here, we list the best programs of 2021.

Updated August 15, 2022 • 6 Min Read

Many experienced registered nurses (RNs) choose to pursue careers as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). To become a CRNA, RNs with a bachelor's degree in nursing first gain 1-3 years of experience in an intensive care unit. These nurses then complete a CRNA program.

Most CRNA programs require a bachelor's degree in nursing, a license to practice, and a minimum GPA. Many programs also require work experience for at least a year in critical care units. CRNAs are considered advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and need state licensure to practice. They generally work with surgical teams in hospital settings and coordinate patient care. CRNAs also administer anesthesia and medications to patients.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse anesthetists earn a median annual salary of $115,800. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 45% between 2019-2029, significantly faster than all other occupations.

FAQs on CRNA Programs

Q. How long does it take to become a CRNA?

Most learners need 7-10 years to become a CRNA. This time frame includes the career's required education track and professional experience.

Q. What does CRNA stand for?

CRNA stands for certified registered nurse anesthetist. CRNAs are generally considered APRNs.

Q. What GPA do you need for CRNA school?

GPA requirements for admission to a CRNA program vary by school. Many programs require at least a 3.0 GPA while others ask for a higher GPA.

Q. Can you go from nurse practitioner (NP) to CRNA?

Yes. NPs who want to work as CRNAs can choose this path by earning a CRNA degree.

Top CRNA Programs 2021

  1. University of Iowa

    Iowa City, IA

    Students holding a bachelor’s degree in nursing can earn a DNP degree with specialization in Anesthesia Nursing through the University of Iowa College of Nursing, along with post-graduate certificates in additional DNP specializations. The Nurse Anesthesia program is a 36-month curriculum that prepares students for the national certification exam required to work as a CRNA. During the second and third year, students will gain advanced clinical experience in a variety of settings across the state, including hospitals, rural healthcare environments and outpatient surgery clinics. In addition to grants and loans, students may be eligible for federally funded nurse anesthesia traineeships and clinical stipends.

  2. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA

    The College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University offers a MSN in Nurse Anesthesia, and for those with a MSN degree, a post-master’s certificate in Nurse Anesthesia. Although the MSN anesthesia program is a full-time, 28-month program, students have the option of completing the MSN core requirements with part-time enrollment, through online courses, prior to completing the anesthesia core and science courses, which are only offered full-time and on-campus. Clinical rotations take place in various settings in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. This program prepares students to sit for the national certification exam, to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists.

  3. University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

    Minneapolis, MN

    A student planning a career as a nurse anesthetist can earn a DNP degree with specialization in nurse anesthesia through the University of Minnesota’s Nurse Anesthesia Program. This is a three-year, on-campus program, including summers, with curriculum consisting of nurse anesthesia specialty courses along with DNP coursework, and advanced clinical experience through practicum in both rural and urban settings. The program only accepts 12 students a year, with interviews granted by invite-only. Acceptance is based on criteria such as a GPA of 3.4-4.0, a current RN license, at least a year of adult surgical/critical care experience, three essays and a resume.

  4. Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York City, NY

    The Nurse Anesthesia Program (ANES) at Columbia University School of Nursing is a 27-month, full-time program in which graduates earn a MS degree in nursing and are prepared to take the national certification examination. During the first year, students will take advanced courses in science, core graduate and specialty courses, with clinical rotations beginning part way through the second year, in areas such as cardiothoracic and obstetrical anesthesia. Clinical residency is completed prior to graduation, and may take place in a variety of settings and location, including large, urban teaching facilities or community hospitals, under supervision of CRNA’s and anesthesiologists.

  5. Duke University

    Durham, NC

    Duke University has several specialty nursing programs at the graduate level, including DNP, PhD and post-doctorate fellowship options. The DNP degree with specialization in nurse anesthesia is a 36-month, on-campus, full-time program with a combination of DNP, APRN and nurse anesthesia specialty courses, along with a capstone requirement, and clinical rotations throughout the state. Duke offers state-of the-art teaching facilities, including the Center for Nursing Discovery, and provides a variety of opportunities for experienced-based learning and research, through Duke’s various centers and institutes. Students may also be able to incorporate global clinical experience into their curriculum, through independent study or research projects.

  6. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    The University of Pennsylvania (Penn), known for being a prestigious, private research university, offers several nursing degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate level, through the Penn School of Nursing. The DNP-NA (Nurse Anesthesia) program, which was the first program of its kind to be offered by an Ivy League university, is a 36-month, full-time program that prepares students to sit for the NBCRNA national certification exam. Students gain valuable hands-on experience through the high-tech Helene Fuld Pavilion for Innovative Learning and Simulation and through clinical rotations in a variety of settings, including teaching, community and children’s’ hospitals along with outpatient surgery and doctors’ clinics.

  7. Wayne State University

    Detroit, MI

    The Wayne State University nurse anesthesia program, started in 1963, partners with several nearby research and teaching hospitals, providing students ample opportunities for experience-based learning alongside well-established mentors. The university currently offers a MS degree program in nurse anesthesia and a post-master’s program in pediatric anesthesia. The program is typically completed in 24-36 months, and offered on a full-time basis only. To be granted an admittance interview, students must have a current RN license and ICU care experience along with completed prerequisite courses prior to applying to the program. Credits earned at two-year colleges may be transferred in to meet pre-requisite requirements.

  8. University of Cincinnati-Main Campus

    Cincinnati, OH

    Nursing students planning to work as nurse anesthetists can earn a DNP degree with specialization in nurse anesthesia through the BSN to DNP program at the University of Cincinnati School of Nursing. This is a 36-month, nine-semester, full-time program that prepares students for the national certification examination and for work as CRNA’s in a variety of situations, including surgery and childbirth. The curriculum consists of science, core and anesthesia specific courses along with practicum, internships, seminars and capstone. Clinical rotations begin in the third semester, and throughout the program will include the areas of trauma, obstetrics, pediatrics, outpatient surgery and community hospitals.

  9. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA

    Through the Keck School of Medicine Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Southern California, nursing students can earn a DNAP (Doctor if Nursing Anesthesia Practice) degree through the 36-month nurse anesthesia program. The curriculum combines core science and degree specific courses with hi-tech simulation and clinical residencies. Students are required to complete a doctoral capstone, with proposal during the first semester. Students gain clinical experience in several nearby prestigious medical facilities, including the USC Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, along with veterans’, children’s’ and community hospitals. Students may be eligible for financial assistance through federally subsidized grants, loans, private financing and paid traineeships.

  10. University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus

    Pittsburgh, PA

    At the University of Pittsburgh, students interested in nurse anesthesia are able to enroll in the BSN to DNP Nurse Anesthesia program offered through the School of Nursing. The nurse anesthesia programs meet all accreditation standards set forth by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, so students can know that they are receiving the latest and vital information for the profession. Courses cover the entire process of anesthesia including pre-operative assessment to patient discharge procedures.

What Are the Goals of a CRNA Degree?

Prospective CRNAs need at least a master of science in nursing. However, many aspiring CRNAs choose to pursue a doctorate. Doctoral programs for CRNAs include doctor of nursing practice (DNP) and doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP). Courses in these programs often include advanced pharmacology, fundamentals of nurse anesthesia practice, and evidence-based practice.

CRNAs work in various medical settings, including operating rooms, emergency rooms, and pain management units. They can also specialize in a particular area, such as pediatrics, obstetrics, and neurosurgical anesthesia.

Why Get a CRNA Degree?

Earning a CRNA degree offers many personal and professional benefits. See below for some of the top benefits to earning this degree.

1. Independence

CRNAs typically work with high levels of responsibility and autonomy. In rural settings, patients receive their anesthesia only from CRNAs. Patients in larger cities also receive most of their anesthesia care from CRNAs.

2. High Earning Potential

Earning a CRNA degree allows nurses to make more money. According to the BLS, CRNAs earn significantly more than RNs, who earn a median annual salary of $73,300.

3. Diverse Range of Specializations

CRNAs can work in any setting where anesthesia is administered, including hospitals, dental offices, and surgical clinics.

4. Professional Advancement

The education and experience required to become a CRNA helps RNs advance in their careers. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals look to CRNAs for information based on their expertise.

5. Ability to Help Others

CRNAs know how to administer anesthesia and help patients manage pain. They ensure patients feel as comfortable as possible before, during, and after surgery.

What Are the Requirements for a CRNA Degree?

While specific admission requirements vary by school, most CRNA programs require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree in nursing. Applicants also typically need RN work experience and a state license to practice nursing. Additionally, applicants need experience working in intensive care units.

CRNA programs usually require prospective students to submit transcripts from previous college programs. Many CRNA programs also ask applicants to submit recommendation letters.

CRNA students must often complete a project or dissertation to graduate. Enrollees also typically complete a clinical practicum, which gives them hands-on experience prior to entering the field.

Professional Organizations for CRNA Students

By joining professional organizations, CRNA students can learn more about the field and connect with others in their profession. Membership often includes access to educational resources, networking opportunities, and discounts to conferences. See below for some professional organizations available to CRNAs and CRNA students.

AANA represents thousands of CRNAs nationwide. Members receive access to educational resources, sponsored events, and opportunities to network with other professionals. This organization promotes diversity in the field by mentoring and encouraging CRNAs through professional development. Members receive access to special events, participate in mock interviews, and receive editing services on research. ABNS promotes nursing specialty certification. The organization focuses on improving patient outcomes and protection through certification. Membership allows nursing leaders to connect with each other. ABNS also invites members to biannual assemblies and educational events. ANA provides educational resources for nurses at any level. The association also promotes a high quality of standards in the field and advocates for healthcare issues. ANA helps members stay current on information in the field through access to academic journals. Members also receive access to free webinars and discounts on certification renewal.

Scholarships for CRNA Students

Scholarships help students pay for tuition, fees, and other expenses associated with their education. Many CRNA students apply for scholarships to help fund their degree. Students often apply for multiple scholarships based on their academic interests, work experience, and financial need. The following list includes scholarships available to CRNA students.

Good Samaritan Foundation Scholarships

Who Can Apply: The Good Samaritan Foundation sponsors these awards to help alleviate the nation's nursing shortage. Applicants must be currently working or planning to work in the healthcare field. The Foundation accepts applications three times each year.

Amount: Varies

Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate student members of the Society of Health and Physical Educators may apply. Candidates must major in the field of dance, recreation, physical recreation, or health, including nursing and other medical sciences. Applicants need a minimum 3.5 GPA and must provide three recommendation letters, transcripts from previous schools, and a letter from their school's dean indicating full-time status.

Amount: $1,250-$1,750

AISES A.T. Anderson Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a STEM degree, including nursing and other medical sciences, may apply. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA or higher and must submit recommendation letters and three essays. The scholarship application includes possible essay prompts.

Amount: $1,000-$2,000

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