Career Spotlight: CRNA Job Outlook

CRNA students graduating

Registered Nurses (RNs) help make the American healthcare system run. Many RNs decide to push their career further by pursuing an advanced degree. Among the various options for nurses, becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) stands out as highly appealing. U.S. News and World Report ranks the CRNA field as the 25th overall best job, the 6th best healthcare job, and the 5th best paying job in the country. The CRNA job outlook shows rapid growth, nationwide necessity, and high salaries which make it an excellent career choice for those dedicated to patient care.

Becoming a CRNA involves a lengthy process, but the advanced training CRNAs receive positions them well to capitalize on this in-demand field. Nurse anesthetists begin their careers like all other RNs, by completing a bachelor’s degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN exam for certification. An aspiring CRNA must then gain at least one year of experience working in an intensive care or critical care unit. CRNA programs are competitive, requiring a solid mix of experience, stellar grades, and excellent recommendations.

Changes to the CRNA Field

Up until recently, CRNAs needed at least a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia from an accredited program. To secure the highest quality of patient care and ensure CRNAs receive quality advanced training, the field is transitioning to require all CRNAs to hold a doctoral degree starting from 2021. All CRNA programs must reach full doctoral level by 2025, meaning that new applicants to CRNA programs in 2024 and beyond will choose only from doctoral level courses. Most CRNAs will pursue the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. This switch from a master’s degree basis to a doctoral one will allow CRNAs to meet new complexities and challenges in the field.

Licensed CRNAs with master’s degrees will not need to obtain a doctoral degree to continue to practice. That said, for some CRNAs it is worth considering pursuing additional education in a doctoral program. CRNAs who are still in the early stages of their careers in particular would benefit from completing a DNP program. These nurse anesthetists will be competing for jobs against CRNAs with DNP degrees, as such having the same advanced training along with experience could help. Many schools are beginning to offer MSN to DNP/DNAP tracks that can be completed online just for these types of students.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 9% growth for the CRNA field between 2022 and 2032. CRNAs are a crucial component of the American healthcare system, administering over 50 million anesthetics to patients yearly. CRNAs make up over half of the anesthesia workforce in the country. The COVID-19 crisis brought about some changes to the CRNA profession that may end up being permanent. One pandemic change meant that in more than half of American states CRNAs were able to operate without physician supervision. A need to combat workflow issues related to physician shortages, the new advanced training requirements for nurse anesthetists, and improvements to the cost of healthcare delivery may make these changes permanent. Like other advanced practice nursing positions, CRNAs are well positioned to adapt and flourish in a changing healthcare system.

The pandemic also saw CRNAs operating in critical care situations outside of delivering anesthesia services. CRNAs were essential as intubation experts, airway management specialists, and patient assessments. The skill and expertise demonstrated by nurse anesthetists over the past few years is helping to expand their role in providing critical patient care services. CRNAs practice across the country and are particularly valuable care provides in rural settings.

Where do CRNAs work?

Nurse anesthetists work everywhere that anesthesia is present! You will find them in physicians’ offices, hospitals, emergency rooms, surgical clinics, respiratory therapy units, and outpatient care clinics. One area that has long been a valued location for CRNAs is the military. Nurse anesthetists have traditionally performed the majority of anesthetic work in military deployment settings. CRNAs are able to practice without physician supervision in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force and their advanced nursing training enables them to provide care beyond anesthetics.

CRNAs are a critical component of the rural healthcare system. Rural America faces major healthcare challenges including an aging population and shortage of healthcare providers. These settings also often have higher populations who are underinsured or uninsured, along with large military veteran communities. These factors mean that CRNAs are in high demand in the country’s rural communities. Nurse anesthetists are the sole anesthesia providers in almost all of the nation’s rural hospitals. CRNAs willing to work in rural settings will find a robust CRNA job outlook. They will also be a key piece of keeping operating rooms open and saving lives.

Facts and Figures

The national CRNA average salary is $214,200. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the percentile wage estimates for CRNAs are:

  • 90% of all CRNAs earn more than $139,380 annually
  • 75% of all CRNAs earn more than $180,840 annually
  • 50% of all CRNAs earn more than $212,650 annually
  • 25% of all CRNAs earn equal to or more than $239,200 annually
The five states with the highest employment levels for CRNAs are:
  • Texas with an annual CRNA average salary of $216,280
  • Florida with an annual CRNA average salary of $176,950
  • Ohio with an annual CRNA average salary of $210,760
  • Tennessee with an annual CRNA average salary of $194,790
  • Pennsylvania with an annual CRNA average salary of $209,890
The five states with the highest average CRNA annual salary are:
  • Illinois with an annual CRNA average salary of $281,240
  • Massachusetts with an annual CRNA average salary of $272,510
  • Montana with an annual CRNA average salary of $256,460
  • New York with an annual CRNA average salary of $256,160
  • Vermont with an annual CRNA average salary of $254,790
The metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels for CRNAs are:
  • Dallas / Fort Worth / Arlington (TX) with an annual average salary of $220,050
  • Houston / The Woodlands / Sugar Land (TX) with an annual average salary of $213,700
  • Tampa / St. Petersburg / Clearwater (FL) with an annual average salary of $155,100
  • Minneapolis / St. Paul / Bloomington (MN, WI) with an annual average salary of $224,000
  • New York / Newark / Jersey City (NY, NJ, PA) with an annual average salary of $262,710
  • Nashville / Davidson / Murfreesboro / Franklin (TN) with an annual average salary of $194,650
  • Philadelphia / Camden / Wilmington (PA, NJ, DE, MD) with an annual average salary of $217,520
  • Cincinnati (OH, KY, IN) with an annual average salary of $209,420
  • Chicago / Naperville / Elgin (IL, IN, WI) with an annual average salary of $271,620
  • Detroit / Warren / Dearborn (MI) with an annual average salary of $223,490
The annual mean wage for CRNAs by industry are:
  • Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $152,530
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $190,420
  • Offices of Physicians: $207,630
  • Home Health Care Services: $216,040
  • Specialty Hospitals (excluding Psychiatric and Substance Use): $229,980
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $230,150
  • Outpatient Care Centers: $263,960


The CRNA job outlook shows high demand, excellent pay, and exciting adaptability to market conditions. Nurse anesthetists are found working in healthcare settings across the country providing excellent advanced healthcare to patients. Registered nurses and aspiring healthcare providers would do well looking to the CRNA career pathway. Check out our blog for more information about healthcare jobs and tips to ace your graduate application and GRE.


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