Medically reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, BSN, RN on September 14, 2021
If you're considering becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, salary likely has something do with your choice. Nurse anesthetist salaries are higher than any other type of nursing specialty! But how much can you really expect to make as a CRNA? Is the salary worth the huge investment of time and money?
Read on to find out more about nurse anesthetist salaries including how much you can earn, what factors impact CRNA salaries, and whether or not it’s worth it for you!
Part One Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Salary
CRNAs are the highest paid of all of the nursing specialties, and for good reason. Though all nurses provide compassionate care to their patients, being a nurse anesthetist and managing patients’ anesthesia needs requires a high level of judgment, skill, experience, and knowledge.
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook reported that the mean annual average salary for nurse anesthetists in the United States was $183,580.
When you consider that the current average annual salary for all occupations in the United States is $53,490, it puts into perspective exactly how highly valued these professionals are.
Part Two Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Salary Factors
For those considering a career as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, it is important to understand what drives the difference between the low end of the salary range and the high end.
Some of the most important factors are the number of years of experience in the field, as well as their work setting and their geographic location.
CRNA Salary by Years of Experience
There is a nearly $100,000 range between an entry-level nurse anesthetist’s salary and the salary of a nurse anesthetist who has been working in the position for eight or more years.
According to the website Salaryexpert.com, an entry-level nurse anesthetist will command an annual salary of $120,581, while a senior CRNA will earn $220,557.
Nurse Anesthetist Salary by Work Setting
Anesthesia is offered in different ways and in many different settings to relieve or avoid pain. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are often responsible for providing anesthesia services independently or working collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, and the setting in which they work is a major driver of the salary they can be paid.
Top Paying Work Settings for CRNAs
- Outpatient care centers - $224,810
- Specialty hospitals - $201,220
- Colleges, universities and professional schools - $197,700
- General medical and surgical hospitals - $196,530
- Physician offices - $180,780
Source: BLS, 2020 annual mean salaries by industry
CRNA Salary by Scope of Work
While the cities offering the highest salaries for CRNAs reflect the areas where there is a heavy concentration of teaching and acute care facilities and greater competition for skilled professionals, the states that offer the highest salaries are also those in which CRNAs are likely to have extensive responsibilities due to the dearth of available healthcare facilities and/or anesthesiologists.
How to Increase Your Nurse Anesthetist Salary
Nurse Anesthetists who want to increase their salary can explore all the options we mentioned above, as well as by becoming a Chief Nurse Anesthetist.
Chief Nurse Anesthetists will take on the additional responsibilities of managing, scheduling and training staff anesthetists and can increase their salary by between $10,000 and $20,000, annually.
>> Related: Accredited CRNA Schools by State
Part Four CRNA Salary by State
Different locations throughout the country offer significantly different average salaries for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. Though you may think the difference has to do with the cost of living or the number of professionals available in a remote region, the real differential is based on the scope of practice law within a state.
|State||Avg Annual||Avg Hourly||Cost of Living|
|Alaska||no data||no data||+31.60%|
|Delaware||no data||no data||+10.80%|
|District of Columbia||no data||no data||+49.20%|
Source BLS, Date extracted: Oct 19, 2020. Cost of Living reflects percentage above or below the national average cost of living.
Part Six Is the Cost of CRNA School Worth It?
There is no question that Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists have the potential to earn a great living. However, it’s also true that pursuing the education required to become a CRNA adds up quickly, leading to a question well worth exploring: Is the high salary worth the time and cost required to earn the degree?
CRNA School Costs
- BSN: $35,000 - $95,000
- Masters of Doctorate CRNA Program: $70,000 - $120,000
- Certification Exam: $725
There are only approximately 60,000 CRNAs in the country, and a big reason for that is the cost and commitment required to becoming one.
CRNA Education Requirements and Tuition Costs
- The minimum education required to become a CRNA is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing ,which will cost between $35,000 and $95,000.
- After you receive your BSN, you will need to attend an accredited nurse anesthesia program -- either a Master’s degree or a doctorate. However, in 2025 CRNAs will be required to have a doctorate degree going forward, so it may be best to enroll directly in a doctoral program. The CRNA program will take between 24 months and 51 months to complete. According to CRNA Financial Planning, a partner of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the average cost of a CRNA program is between $35,000 and $60,000 per year.
- Lastly, you’ll also need to pass the certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification. The cost is roughly $725. You'll also need a minimum of one year of full-time clinical experience as a registered nurse in a critical care setting.
Nurse Anesthetist Salary vs Education Costs
It will typically cost you less than $100,000 to become a BSN-degree Registered Nurse, but moving on to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist could cost you another $100,000 and possibly more.
Student Loans Can Add to the Total Cost
Though some CRNA students will have the benefit of getting tuition reimbursement from their employer, others will pay for their own schooling out of pocket and may even finance it over a twenty-year period. This can add as much as another $100,000 to the total cost, bringing it to approximately $200,000 over the cost of 20 years.
RN Salary vs CRNA Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary for a registered nurse is $75,330, or more than $100,000 per year less than the median pay for a CRNA.
The ROI on Becoming a CRNA is High
If you assume that the monthly payment on a twenty-year, $200,000 loan would be approximately $1,400 per month and the monthly salary difference between $73,300 and $181,040 is nearly $9,000, it seems obvious that the difference of $7,600 additional dollars per month — plus the high degree of job satisfaction — makes the investment well worth it.
Part Seven So, Should You Become a CRNA?
Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist offers both tangible and intangible benefits. You have the potential to earn a very high salary as well as the ability to work either independently or collaboratively with physicians.
Nurse Anesthetists are responsible and highly respected in their field and enjoy some of the highest levels of job satisfaction of all healthcare positions, but only you can figure out if its the right path you for you!
Curious about what other healthcare professions pay? Check out these salary guides:
- Nurse Salaries 2021
- NP Salary
- Medical Billing and Coding Salary
- Pharmacy Technician Salary
- Medical Assistant Salary