Easiest crna programs to get into

Last Updated on May 7, 2022

Providing critical care at some of the most significant times in their patients’ lives, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is responsible for safely administering anesthesia prior to medical procedures. CRNAs are responsible for much of the comfort and safety of their patients, and the role requires extensive education and experience.

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Easiest crna programs to get into

While it takes time and dedication to become a nurse anesthetist, the work can most certainly pay off. Not only do many CRNAs work independently, but they also make the most money among advanced practice registered nurses (ARPNs). If you’re interested in joining this rewarding and high-paying field, learn about the education you’ll need, job duties, certification requirements, and advancement opportunities.

Working in settings such as hospitals, surgery centers, medical offices, and dental clinics, CRNAs administer anesthesia to patients for surgical, obstetrical, and trauma care procedures.  

Not only do many CRNAs work independently, but they also make the most money among advanced practice registered nurses (ARPNs).

CRNAs collaborate with doctors and other nurses to develop pain management plans for each patient. The methods for administering anesthesia vary and can include injections, inhalants, and oral anesthetics.

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CRNA School Requirements

Regardless of which school you decide to enroll in, there are several things that CRNA programs require from their applicants. It is important to meet the requirements or schools will reject the application. These include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Registered Nurse License (RN)
  • Critical Care/ICU Experience
    • Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Long Term Acute Care Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Post Anesthesia Care Unit do NOT count towards ICU experience
  • GPA of 3.0 or higher (Each school has a different minimum requirement but 3.0 is the lowest accepted GPA)
  • Life Support Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)
  • Resume
  • Combined minimum GRE of 300 or better
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if applicable
  • Shadow experience of a CRNA and an accompanying essay
  • Nursing Certifications (CCRN, RNC)
  • Personal Essay and Interview
  • Application Fee

Before beginning a CRNA degree program, you must be a registered nurse (RN) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. You’ll also need at least one year of experience in an acute care setting such as an intensive care unit (ICU) or emergency room (ER), though you might need more depending on the acceptance requirements of your school.

Before you can apply to a master’s program, you’ll need at least one year of experience in an acute care setting.

After meeting these requirements, you can apply to a graduate degree program for nurse anesthetists. To increase their chances of getting accepted, some nurses pursue specialty certification as a critical care registered nurse (CCRN).

Is Accreditation Important?

When applying to master’s programs, make sure the one you choose has been approved by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COACRNA). You must graduate from an accredited program to take the certification test.

What Will I Study in a CRNA Program?

All accredited nurse anesthetist programs require studies in the following areas:

  • Anesthesia pharmacology
  • Chemistry, biochemistry, and physics
  • Anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology
  • Anesthesia equipment and technology
  • Pain management
  • Statistics and research
  • Professional and legal aspects of nurse anesthesia practice

In addition, you’ll have supervised clinical practice to apply the theories and techniques you’ve learned in a hands-on way. You’ll work at a university-based or large community hospital and gain experience in a wide variety of procedures, from labor and delivery to open-heart surgery. L

Earning a Doctorate: How Long Does It Take?

The time required to earn a doctoral degree in a CRNA program will vary depending on your level of education.

Those with a BSN degree can expect to spend three to four years in a full-time doctoral degree program, while candidates who already hold a master’s degree may be able to earn a doctorate in just one to two years.

Some students choose accelerated programs to save time and money. For instance, a BSN-to-DNP program can take three to four years of full-time coursework, compared to five to six years to complete an MSN and then a doctorate.

Earning Certification

After completing a master’s program, you’ll be eligible to take the certifying exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). You’ll answer a minimum of 100 computerized questions, though you may be given up to 170 as the test determines with certainty whether you’ve passed.

If you pass, verification of your certification will be sent to your state board of nursing, at which time you can complete any additional steps required by your state to become a CRNA.

Certification Renewal and Continuing Education

To maintain your national certification, you’ll need to pursue continuing education in line with the NBCRNA’s Continued Professional Certification (CPC) Program. The NBCRNA evaluates nurse anesthetists on an eight-year cycle consisting f two four-year periods. This means that every four years, you must complete:

60 Class A credits on activities directly related to the delivery or improvement of anesthesia care

40 Class B credits on anesthesia practice or professional development topics such as:

  • Patient safety
  • Public education
  • Research

Four core modules that address:

  • Airway management
  • Applied clinical pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Anesthesia equipment and technology (doesn’t apply to those in their first four-year cycle)

In addition, every two years, you’ll complete an online check-in to confirm your state license and that you’ve been continuing to practice.

At the end of each eight-year cycle, you’ll be required to take the CPC Assessment test. This 150-question exam is used to test your knowledge of the four Core Modules of nurse anesthesia.

The test isn’t pass/fail, but if you’re deemed to not meet the performance standards, you’ll need to complete additional continuing education to maintain your certification.

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Best cRNA schools

The demand for CRNAs is only continuing to grow. Nurses who attend the best schools have access to better opportunities upon graduation. While there are numerous programs throughout the country, these schools ranked at the top based on reputation, certification pass rate, cost, accreditation, and acceptance rates.

While rankings are important to consider when applying to a program, it is also important to determine which is the best fit for you. 

Here are the 10 best CRNA programs in the United States in no particular order:

1. Rush University –  Chicago, Illinois

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $1166 per credit hour
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 100%

2. Mayo Clinic College of Health and Sciences – Rochester, Minnesota

  • Degree Earned: DNAP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 42 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $63,270 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 84%

3. Duke University – Durham, North Carolina 

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $26,535 per semester or $1,838 per credit hour
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 88%

4. Villanova University – Villanova, Pennsylvania

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $94,000 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 79%

5. Georgetown University – Washington, D.C.

  • Degree Earned: DNAP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $146,512 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 100%

6. Baylor College of Medicine – Houston, Texas

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $98,686 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 100%

7. Virginia Commonwealth University – Richmond, Virginia

  • Degree Earned: DNAP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 9 semesters full time
  • Online: Semesters 1 & 2 core classes can be completed online (on-campus session required at the start of each semester)
  • Cost: $78,408 (in-state) $131,526 (out-of-state) (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 94%

8. Columbia University – New York, New York

  • Degree Earned: MSN (Plans to convert to DNP Program)
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 27 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $69,186 per year
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 94%

9. The University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months of Full-Time 
  • Online: Yes (Select courses)
  • Cost: 
  • $7,451 per semester (in-state)
  • $13,322 per semester (out of state), 
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 74%

10. Northeastern University – Boston, Massachusetts

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $19,447 per term
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 96%
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The 5 Easiest CRNA Schools to Get Into

Getting into CRNA school is no easy task, but by working on your pre-requisites and picking a school that isn’t too competitive, you can drastically improve your chances of success.

To make this list, we considered various factors, such as acceptance rates, course prerequisites, and how many hours of work-experience are expected from candidates. There are other factors we could not take into consideration.

You have to think about your life goals, your character, and your lifestyle. While school and work are important, life is so much more than your job. Before applying for schools, consider if you’re up to the task of attending them and working hard.

What do you care outside of school? What are your hobbies? These are important questions to answer. School is hard enough as is, don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be. You must enjoy yourself while you go to school, otherwise you’ll feel miserable and you’ll find it much harder to complete your course.

Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU tops our chart of easiest CRNA schools to get into thanks to its staggering 87% acceptance rate. Despite the number being so high, the school offers an excellent program for anyone looking to become a Nurse Anesthetist. In fact, the US News and World report has placed it as the number 1 program for over 15 years.

As for the program’s requirements, here they are:

  • A baccalaureate degree in nursing or related field.
  • A GPA of at least 3.0
  • At least 1 year of full-time work experience. However, part-time work experience is also fine, as long as you’ve completed a years’ work of full-time. Roughly 2000 hours of work.
  • Completing the GRE test
  • Three references, of which one from a supervisor responsible for performance evaluations.

As you can see, the requirements aren’t that high. Earlier we mentioned that some universities are looking for candidates with over 2 years of relevant work experience, but VCU is ok with just 1. As long as you have your baccalaureate degree in nursing and have worked as a nurse for a year, you’re good to go.

University of Pittsburgh

Despite being second on this list, the difficulty of getting into this school is already so much higher compared to VCU, mostly because of the acceptance rate, which is way lower. About 57%.

But how do you get into this university? Here are the requirements, assuming you are coming from a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing):

  • Completion of the GRE exam, with outstanding score in Verbal & Quantitative section, as well as a score of above 3 in Analytical Writing
  • A personal essay in which you talk about your relationship with nursing, your expectations from the program, and future career goals
  • Three letters of recommendation, one of which from a current supervisor
  • CV or resume
  • A GPA of at least 3.0
  • At least 1 year of full-time ICU/critical care nursing experience

The requirements aren’t that different compared to VCU. Why is there such a stark difference between acceptance rates then?

The reason is actually very simple: the competition in Pittsburgh is much higher. This university receives almost double the applications compared to VCU, and has a similar number of spots. You are facing many more applicants, which raises the chances of finding people who are more qualified than you.

Wake Forest School of Medicine

While the previous two entries offered reasonable chances of getting in even without an outstanding application, we’re already starting to see a steep decline in acceptance rates with Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Wake’s CRNA program has an acceptance rate of 30%. In 2020, about 12.500 people applied and 3.700 were admitted.

It doesn’t help that consulting the average statistics of accepted candidates are crazy high. For example, the average GPA of accepted students is 3.7, and the average experience in an ICU is of 2.5 years. You are competing with other excellent candidates, but that’s life when you pick such a competitive field.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You can do it if you focus on yourself and you fulfill the requirements:

  • A GPA of at least 3.0
  • Successful completion of undergraduate courses in:
    • Biostatistics or statistics
    • Chemistry
    • Health assessment
  • Completed the GRE exam with a score of at least 300
  • At least 2.080 hours of experience in an ICU or coronary care unit. For the record, that’s 1 year of full-time employment.

The minimum requirements aren’t actually that much higher compared to those of the other two universities. It’s just that there are way less available spots compared to how many people apply each year, making the program competitive.

Schools find themselves with thousands of applications each year, and picking the right candidates is hard. As we stated earlier, the average successful applicant blows the minimum requirements out of the water. They have over double the minimum hours requirement, and a GPA close to 4.0 (the absolute maximum).

Case Western Reserve University

Case Western is a private research university located in Cleveland, Ohio.

I understand the article talks about the easiest CRNA schools, and this is one of them. But it’s still going to be quite hard to get in. Last year, the acceptance rate was only of 27%. Acceptance rates don’t tell the full story though.

It’s better to take a look at the school’s requirements. Here they are:

  • Graduation from an accredited college with a GPA of at least 3.0
  • Three references from people who can attest to your ability of conducting doctoral work
  • Resume or CV
  • Official transcripts from the schools you attended
  • Two years of recent critical care experience, or one year of critical experience with specialty certification. The website specifies what constitutes “critical experience”, so I suggest checking the “Nurse Anesthesia DNP” page to find out more about this requirement.

The requisites are in line with all other schools on this list. What changes the most is the number of students who apply compared to the number of open spots.

Washington University in St Louis

Washington University is an excellent choice for anyone looking to become a nurse anesthesiologist.

I feel like I’m grasping at straws by now. Washington University CRNA program’s acceptance rate was a mere 14% in 2019. You may be wondering why I’m bothering mentioning it at all, when it’s clear the program is extremely competitive.

The requirements aren’t even that high. It’s just that so many people apply compared to the number of available spots, that most people will be left out.

But let’s see them in detail:

  • Three letters of recommendations, at least one of them has to come from a professor of nursing
  • Your resume or CV
  • A GPA of at least 3.0
  • Demonstrable work experience. At least one year of full-time employment in ICU.

The requirements are in line with all other universities on this list. The discrepancy between acceptance rates lies mostly in the school’s limited number of spots compared to the number of people who apply each year.

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