CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a nurse anesthetist.

Step 1

Is becoming a nurse anesthetist right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do nurse anesthetists do?
Career Satisfaction
Are nurse anesthetists happy with their careers?
What are nurse anesthetists like?

Still unsure if becoming a nurse anesthetist is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a nurse anesthetist or another similar career!

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Step 2

High School

While in high school, aspiring nurse anesthetists can focus on taking courses that provide a strong foundation in science, mathematics, and communication skills. These courses will help prepare students for the rigorous academic and clinical requirements of a nursing program and later, a nurse anesthesia program. Here are some recommended high school courses:

  • Biology: Understanding the fundamentals of biology is essential for a career in healthcare. Topics such as anatomy, physiology, and cell biology will be particularly relevant.
  • Chemistry: A strong background in chemistry is crucial for understanding pharmacology and the chemical processes in the human body.
  • Algebra and Geometry: These courses provide a foundation in mathematical reasoning and problem-solving, which are valuable skills in healthcare.
  • Statistics: A basic understanding of statistics is beneficial for interpreting research findings and analyzing data in healthcare settings.
  • English Composition: Developing strong writing and communication skills is important for documenting patient care and effective communication with healthcare teams.
  • Speech or Communication Arts: Courses that enhance public speaking and interpersonal communication skills are valuable in healthcare professions.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Some high schools offer advanced courses in anatomy and physiology. If available, these courses can provide a head start in understanding the human body's structure and function.
  • Health Sciences Courses: If your high school offers health sciences or introductory healthcare courses, consider enrolling in them to gain exposure to the healthcare field and understand the basics of patient care.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Joining science or health-related clubs, participating in volunteer opportunities at healthcare facilities, or shadowing professionals in the medical field can provide valuable hands-on experience and insights into the healthcare profession.
  • Foreign Language: Learning a second language, especially Spanish, can be beneficial, as it may enhance your ability to communicate with a diverse patient population.

It's essential to maintain a high GPA in these courses, as nursing and nurse anesthesia programs are competitive. Additionally, participating in extracurricular activities and demonstrating leadership qualities can strengthen your college applications. Keep in mind that the specific requirements for nurse anesthesia programs may vary, so it's advisable to research the admission criteria of the programs you are interested in and tailor your high school coursework accordingly.

Step 3

Formal Education Steps

Becoming a nurse anesthetist involves a combination of education, clinical experience, and certification. Here are the general steps to become a nurse anesthetist:

  • Educational Preparation: Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited nursing program. It typically takes about four years to complete a BSN program.
  • Gain Nursing Experience: Work as a registered nurse (RN) to gain clinical experience. Many nurse anesthesia programs require a minimum of one to two years of full-time nursing experience in areas such as critical care, emergency room, or surgical nursing.
  • Complete a Nurse Anesthesia Program: Enroll in a nurse anesthesia program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). These programs are typically at the master's or doctoral level and can take 24 to 36 months to complete. Examples of degrees include Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a focus on nurse anesthesia.
  • Obtain Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Licensure: After completing the nurse anesthesia program, you'll need to become licensed as an APRN. This involves passing the national certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
  • Gain National Certification: Take and pass the Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists (NCE) administered by the NBCRNA. Successful completion of this exam grants the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) credential.

Additional Certifications
CRNAs may pursue additional certifications or advanced training to enhance their skills and knowledge in specific areas of anesthesia or related fields. Here are some examples of certifications that nurse anesthetists can obtain:

  • Subspecialty Certification: Some nurse anesthetists may pursue subspecialty certifications to demonstrate expertise in specific areas of anesthesia. Subspecialties may include pediatric anesthesia, cardiac anesthesia, or regional anesthesia. These certifications are typically offered by the NBCRNA or other relevant organizations.
  • Certification in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS): ACLS certification is often required or recommended for healthcare professionals involved in critical care and advanced cardiac life support. It covers skills related to managing cardiac emergencies and is relevant for nurse anesthetists working in settings where advanced cardiovascular support may be needed.
  • Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Certification: PALS certification is focused on the recognition and management of pediatric emergencies. It is valuable for nurse anesthetists who work in pediatric settings or provide anesthesia for pediatric patients.
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Certifications: Nurse anesthetists may choose to pursue certifications related to their broader scope of practice. For example, certifications in acute care, family practice, or women's health can complement their anesthesia specialization.
Step 4


Licensure for nurse anesthetists is a crucial component of their professional credentials. Licensure is regulated at the state level and ensures that nurse anesthetists meet specific requirements to practice safely and effectively. Here is an overview of the licensure process for nurse anesthetists:

  • Educational Requirements: Nurse anesthetists must first complete the educational requirements to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). This typically involves obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, acquiring clinical experience as a registered nurse (RN), and then pursuing a graduate-level education in nurse anesthesia, leading to a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
  • National Certification: Upon graduation from a nurse anesthesia program, individuals are eligible to take the national certification examination offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Successful completion of this exam results in the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) credential.
  • State Licensure: While national certification is a significant milestone, nurse anesthetists must also obtain state licensure to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state, and candidates should check with the state board of nursing or the relevant regulatory agency for specific details. Common requirements include submitting proof of national certification, completing an application, providing transcripts, and meeting state-specific educational and clinical experience criteria.
  • Continuing Education and Recertification: Nurse anesthetists must engage in ongoing continuing education to maintain their national certification. The Continued Professional Certification (CPC) Program established by the NBCRNA outlines specific requirements for recertification, including the completion of continuing education activities, professional development, and successful completion of the CPC Examination.
  • State-Specific Requirements: In addition to meeting national standards, nurse anesthetists must comply with state-specific requirements for licensure. These may include background checks, fingerprinting, and documentation of additional certifications such as Basic Life Support (BLS), Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), or Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS).
  • License Renewal: Nurse anesthetists must renew their state licenses regularly, typically every two years. Renewal requirements vary by state and may involve completing a specified number of continuing education hours and paying renewal fees.
Step 5


Nurse anesthetists have the opportunity to pursue specialization within the field. While they are trained to administer anesthesia across various surgical and medical procedures, some nurse anesthetists choose to specialize in specific areas to develop expertise in particular types of anesthesia or patient populations. Here are some common areas of specialization for nurse anesthetists:

  • Pediatric Anesthesia: Nurse anesthetists specializing in pediatric anesthesia focus on providing anesthesia care to infants, children, and adolescents. This specialization requires an understanding of the unique physiological and psychological considerations of pediatric patients.
  • Obstetric Anesthesia: Those specializing in obstetric anesthesia primarily work with pregnant women during labor and delivery. They are skilled in providing pain management options, including epidurals, and ensuring the well-being of both the mother and the baby.
  • Cardiac Anesthesia: Nurse anesthetists specializing in cardiac anesthesia are involved in procedures related to the cardiovascular system, such as open-heart surgeries and other cardiac interventions. They work closely with cardiac surgical teams.
  • Neurosurgical Anesthesia: Specializing in neurosurgical anesthesia involves providing anesthesia care for patients undergoing surgeries related to the nervous system, including brain and spinal procedures.
  • Regional Anesthesia: Nurse anesthetists may specialize in regional anesthesia techniques, such as nerve blocks and epidurals. Regional anesthesia specialists are particularly skilled in providing targeted pain relief for specific regions of the body.
  • Trauma Anesthesia: Working in trauma anesthesia involves providing anesthesia care for patients who have experienced severe injuries or trauma. This specialization requires the ability to respond quickly to emergent situations.
  • Ambulatory or Outpatient Anesthesia: Some nurse anesthetists choose to specialize in providing anesthesia for outpatient or ambulatory surgical procedures. This may include procedures performed in surgical centers or clinics.
  • Critical Care Anesthesia: Nurse anesthetists specializing in critical care anesthesia may work in intensive care units (ICUs) or critical care settings, providing anesthesia care for critically ill patients.
  • Chronic Pain Management: Nurse anesthetists specializing in chronic pain management may work in pain clinics, providing anesthesia techniques to manage chronic pain conditions.
Step 6


Nurse anesthetists can benefit from being part of professional associations that provide support, resources, and opportunities for networking and professional development. Here are some prominent associations for nurse anesthetists:

  • American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA): AANA is the national professional association representing nurse anesthetists. It provides advocacy, education, and resources for CRNAs, promoting excellence in anesthesia care and supporting the profession at both the state and national levels.
  • National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA): NBCRNA is responsible for the certification and recertification of nurse anesthetists. It sets and maintains the standards for nurse anesthesia certification to ensure the competence and ongoing professional development of CRNAs.
  • American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN): While not exclusive to nurse anesthetists, ASPAN is an association focused on perianesthesia nursing, including preoperative and postoperative care. It provides education and resources for nurses working in various perioperative settings.
  • American Academy of Nursing (AAN): AAN is an organization that includes nurse leaders across various specialties, including nurse anesthetists. It aims to advance health policy and practice through leadership in nursing.
  • American Nurses Association (ANA): ANA is a comprehensive organization that represents the interests of all registered nurses, including nurse anesthetists. It provides resources, advocacy, and support for nursing professionals.
  • American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA): While ASA primarily represents physician anesthesiologists, it collaborates with nurse anesthetists and nurse anesthesiologist assistants. The organization advocates for patient safety and excellence in anesthesia care.
  • State-Level Associations: Nurse anesthetists can also benefit from joining state-level associations, which often provide more localized support, advocacy, and networking opportunities. State associations work on issues specific to the practice of nurse anesthesia within their respective states.