Top Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Programs 2024

10 Min Read Published November 2, 2023
Top CRNA Programs | Nurse.org

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are one of the most in-demand Advanced Practice Nursing specialties, and they're also the highest-paid nurses, with the average CRNA salary at more than $200k per year. But in order to become a nurse anesthetist, you first need to attend a CRNA program.

As of 2022, all CRNA programs must be either DNP or DNAP programs, which are terminal degrees for RNs. To help you choose, we've rounded up the best CRNA schools for 2024.

Popular Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

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Grand Canyon University

GCU 's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Top 10 Best CRNA Programs for 2024

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. 

SCHOOL/PROGRAM 1ST TIME CERTIFICATION EXAM PASS RATE
Northeastern University

96%

Duke University 96%
University of Cincinnati 96%
Georgetown University* 95%
Baylor College of Medicine 91.6%
Columbia University 89%
Villanova University 87%
Rush University 86%
Virginia Commonwealth University 81.6%
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science 81%

 

>> Related: CRNA vs Anesthesiologist: What’s the Difference?

1. Rush University -  Chicago, Illinois

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

  • Degree Earned: DNAP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 39 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $65,000 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 81%

3. Duke University - Durham, North Carolina 

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $31,125 per semester or $2,075 per credit hour
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 96%

Popular Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU 's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

4. Villanova University - Villanova, Pennsylvania

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $1,300 per credit hour
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 87%

5. Georgetown University* - Washington, D.C.

  • Degree Earned: DNAP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $118,290 (total tuition)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 95%

6. Baylor College of Medicine - Houston, Texas

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $119,348 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 91.6%

>> Related: Top CRNA Schools in Texas

7. Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, Virginia

  • Degree Earned: DNAP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 9 semesters full-time
  • Online: Hybrid - 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): 81.6%

8. Columbia University - New York, New York

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $119,720 (total cost)
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 89%

9. The University of Cincinnati - Cincinnati, Ohio*

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • 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): 96%

10. Northeastern University - Boston, Massachusetts

  • Degree Earned: DNP
  • Accreditation: COA
  • Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus
  • Online: No
  • Cost: $4,400 per credit hour
  • Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 96%

>> Show Me CRNA Programs

What to Expect in a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Program

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. Specific requirements will vary based on the program, so it’s important to speak to an admission counselor prior to applying. 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
  • A 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
  • Recommendations (personal and professional)

>> Show Me CRNA Programs

CRNA Program Classes

CRNA programs, regardless of whether an individual will earn a DNP or DNAP, are all extremely time-consuming. Students are highly discouraged from working as they expect to spend about 60 hours a week studying and preparing for class on top of time in class. During the practicum requirement, students have call time and work full-time hours while still taking classes. Some programs will offer a stipend to students. 

Students can expect to take courses such as:

  • Applied Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice
  • The Science of Health Care Delivery
  • Introduction to Genetics and Molecular Therapeutics
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Survey of Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Pathophysiology of Abdominal Systems for Nurse Anesthesia
  • Leadership and the CRNA Role 
  • Ethics/Billing & Coding/Policy 
  • Respiratory and Cellular Pathophysiology for Nurse Anesthesia
  • Applied Theory for Nurse Anesthesia Practice
  • Applied Clinical Learning in Nurse Anesthesia
  • Clinical Integration Concepts 
  • Professional Communication and Informatics
  • Advanced Pharmacology
  • Research for Evidence-Based Practice
  • Quality, Safety, and Access in Anesthesia
  • Pediatric and Obstetrical Anesthesia
  • Anesthesia Management

Most CRNA programs offer only on-campus programs. There are a select few hybrid online CRNA programs that offer partial distance coursework. Programs such as Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Cincinnati offer a handful of classes online, but the remainder is completed in the classroom. Students should plan accordingly because despite some classes being online, they will still need to live near the campus for on-campus requirements. 

The entire CRNA program can never be completed solely online as extensive clinical practicums are required for graduation. Anesthesia students are required to complete a minimum of 2,000 hours, but most programs will have students complete roughly 2,500-3,000 hours of clinical time. This will be a combination of required clinicals and on-call time. 

>> Show Me CRNA Programs

CRNA Program Accreditation

The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education (COA) is the main accrediting body for nurse anesthesia programs in the United States. The COA runs a comprehensive database of all accredited programs. These programs often change, and some programs do lose accreditation. 

Similar to BSN programs, accreditation is essential because an individual will not be able to sit for their national CRNA examination if they have not graduated from an accredited program. While the COA is the main accrediting body, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are also often involved. 

There are two main reasons for accreditation: 

  • Ensure quality assessment 
  • Assist in quality improvement. 

The COA is an essential part of CRNA programs. They are responsible for all changes in curriculum and requirements. Understanding the purpose of the COA is essential for nurses interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist. 

>> Related: Top CRNA Schools in Every State

About the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Career

CRNA Roles & Responsibilities

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) identifies the following as responsibilities of nurse anesthetists:

  • Administering anesthesia during surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetric procedures
  • Performing epidural, spinal, or nerve blocks
  • Providing care before, during, and after anesthesia
  • Examining patients’ medical histories for allergies or illnesses to ensure safe provision of pain management
  • Managing a patient’s airway and pulmonary status
  • Implementing acute and chronic pain management modalities. 
  • Facilitating emergence and recovery from anesthesia by selecting, obtaining, ordering and administering medications, fluids, and ventilatory support. 
  • Discharging the patient from a postanesthesia care area and providing postanesthesia follow-up evaluation and care. 
  • Discussing any contraindications or side effects of anesthesia with patients
  • Monitoring vital signs during medical procedures

>>Related: What is a DNP and is it worth it?

Where Can CRNAs Work?

CRNAs typically work in healthcare settings that have operating rooms, emergency rooms, and intensive care units. These may include,

  • Medical and surgical hospitals
  • Critical access hospitals
  • Mobile surgery centers
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Offices of plastic surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, pain management specialists, and other medical professionals
  • U.S. military medical facilities

Popular Online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU 's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Liberty University
At Liberty, you’ll benefit from 30+ years of learning, growing, adapting, and innovating for the distance learner — and more than a decade of researching the needs of the online student. You can be confident that we’ve taken the time to learn what’s important to you.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

CRNA Certification

After graduating from an accredited nurse anesthetist program, individuals will be able to take their National Certification Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

The NCE is a computerized test consisting of between 100-170 test questions (includes 30 random, non-graded test questions). Preliminary exam results are delivered immediately following completion of the exam. Official results are mailed 2-4 weeks after the exam. The cost of the exam is $995.

According to the NBCRNA, from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022, 2,794 individuals took the exam with a first-time pass rate of 83.4%.

The certification exam will be changing starting on January 2nd, 2024. The new exam breakdown will be as follows, 

  • Basic Sciences (20 percent)
  • Equipment, Instrumentation, and Technology (20 percent)
  • General Principles of Anesthesia (35 percent)
  • Anesthesia for Surgical Procedures and Special Populations

After successfully passing the NCE, individuals must apply for an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license in the state they wish to practice. There is no additional examination for this, but there are fees and paperwork. CRNAs can hold multiple state licenses similar to an RN license. 

Fast Facts About CRNA Programs

  • How long are CRNA programs? 

    • Programs are typically 36 months or 9 semesters full-time. Part-time is not an option for this program.
  • What are the requirements to get into a CRNA program?

    • You need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN). A Registered Nurse License (RN) and 2-3 years of experience in Critical Care/ICU. You'll also need a GPA of 3.0 or higher, life support certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS), and a combined minimum GRE score of 300 or better.
  • WHAT IS THE AVERAGE CRNA SALARY?

    • CRNAs earn $203,090 per year or $97.64  per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Can You Become a CRNA Online? 

    • No, not entirely. Some programs offer didactic coursework in an online format but all students must attend in-person skills fairs at a minimum. Furthermore, CRNA school requires clinical practicums that must be completed in person.
  • What Classes Will I Take in CRNA School?

    • Classes are a mix of pharmacology, pathophysiology, leadership, research, and health assessment. 
  • What Degrees Will I Earn After Graduation From CRNA School?

    • Graduates can earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice.

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Kathleen Gaines
MSN, RN, BA, CBC
Kathleen Gaines
News and Education Editor

Kathleen Gaines (nee Colduvell) is a nationally published writer turned Pediatric ICU nurse from Philadelphia with over 13 years of ICU experience. She has an extensive ICU background having formerly worked in the CICU and NICU at several major hospitals in the Philadelphia region. After earning her MSN in Education from Loyola University of New Orleans, she currently also teaches for several prominent Universities making sure the next generation is ready for the bedside. As a certified breastfeeding counselor and trauma certified nurse, she is always ready for the next nursing challenge.

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