Online CRNA Degree Programs – Nurse Anesthetist Online Schools 2021

If you’re searching for a career with compassion and independence at the core, becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) may be one path to consider. These nurses administer anesthesia to patients prior to surgery. 

As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), CRNAs need a strong educational background to provide the level of care their patients need. This page is designed to guide you through online CRNA programs—and help you decide if this is the path for you. 

Accredited Online Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Programs

Learn about available accredited online CRNA master’s programs below: 

University LocationLengthEnrollment Options
Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PA28 MonthsFull-Time
Florida State UniversityTallahassee, FL24-48 MonthsFull-Time

Drexel University

Philadelphia, PA

  • Program Name: MSN in Nurse Anesthesia 
  • Description: Drexel University’s Master of Science in Nursing program offers students the opportunity to complete much of their required coursework online. The accredited program covers the broad scope of anesthesia practice and perioperative patient management. The program averages 28 months to complete. 
  • Enrollment Options: Full-Time
  • Coursework Credits: 89
  • Clinical Practice Hours: 2,000+ Hours
  • Length of Program: 28 Months
  • Admission Requirements:
    • BSN from an accredited institution
    • GPA of 3.0
    • College-level general science coursework
    • Resume/CV
    • Two years critical care experience
    • GRE Score
    • References
    • Admissions interview

Learn more about the MSN in Nurse Anesthesia at Drexel University.

Florida State University

Tallahassee, FL

  • Program Name: Nurse Anesthesia Program
  • Description: The online MSN CRNA program at Florida State University combines online learning and on-
  • campus intensives with clinical placements. This program is open to applicants with a BSN. The
  • full-time program can be completed in 24-48 months through a broad curriculum covering nursing theories to anesthesia across the lifespan. 
  • Enrollment Options: Full-Time
  • Coursework Credits: 60 Credits
  • Clinical Practice Hours: 1,000 Hours
  • Length of Program: 24-48 Months
  • Admission Requirements:
    • BSN or MSN from an accredited institution
    • GPA of 3.0
    • College-level chemistry course
    • One year of RN experience in critical care setting
    • GRE Score
    • Reference
    • Health certifications

Learn more about the Nurse Anesthesia Program at Florida State University.

Choosing an Online School for Your CRNA Program

Making a decision on your CRNA program will come down to a few important factors: your goals, your schedule, program accreditation, length, admission requirements, and the type of clinical experience you’ll gain.

Your Goals

What are your career goals—and how quickly do you want to get there? Online CRNA programs are offered in a variety of formats, such as full-time and part-time, to help you achieve different goals. For aspiring nurse anesthetists, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is also a viable option—and it may help you qualify for a higher-ranking role and salary. A DNP is the highest clinical-level nursing degree you can receive, and if you already have a master’s, MSN-to-DNP CRNA programs can help you get there faster.
According to the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA), all accredited programs must offer a doctoral degree for entry to practice by January 1, 2022. This means that entry into the CRNA profession will require a doctoral degree by 2025.

Schedule

Whether full-time or part-time, online programs generally offer an advantage over their on-campus counterparts: saving time. Without the need to travel or commute to a physical location, you can gain greater schedule flexibility. Many online programs blend synchronous (live) and asynchronous (non-live) elements for a balanced approach—but depending on your schedule, you may wish to select a program that offers more of one element. A primarily asynchronous program may allow you to complete work on your own time, while a program with more synchronous courses allows you to interact with your peers and instructors.

Program Accreditation

We’ve touched briefly on program accreditation—but this is one of the most important elements to consider. Accreditation is a stamp of approval from a private organization confirming that a particular program meets certain education standards and career-preparatory criteria. There are a few main accrediting bodies that focus on online CRNA programs:

Accrediting bodies are especially important in the field of medicine. Patient treatments and care methods evolve rapidly, and these organizations ensure programs are offering the most current education to future CRNAs.

Admission Requirements

Online CRNA program admission typically matches the admission requirements for on-campus program admission. An MSN or DNP program will likely require, at minimum, the following materials:

  • An application fee
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited program
  • A G.P.A. of 3.0+
  • GRE testing scores
  • Official transcripts of all previous academic institutions
  • Two to three academic letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement explaining why you wish to become a CRNA
  • A professional and academic resume
  • Prior ICU/clinical experience
  • An active RN license (Note: some institutions require you to be licensed in the same state as the program). 

Ideally, an undergraduate program in nursing helps to prepare you to meet some of the criteria by the time you’re ready for continued education.

Curriculum

What can you expect from an online CRNA curriculum? In the beginning, you’ll take foundational courses that solidify your understanding of acute care, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and more. As you progress through a degree program, your courses will become more specialized to include the principles of anesthesia management and administration, the pharmacology of anesthesia drugs, crisis management, and clinical experience credits. 

CRNA programs online are designed to help you build, strengthen, and refine practice-specific skills in anesthesia, including:

  • Identifying injection sites 
  • Administering anesthesia medication
  • Monitoring patient vitals under anesthesia 
  • Caring for patients with acute or critical conditions
  • Interpreting advanced data

Clinical experience helps you apply these skills in a real-world patient setting.

Clinical Hours Experience

By now, you know there’s a clinical experience component to APRN degree programs. The CCNE accreditation standards define clinical experience as “planned learning activities in nursing practice that allow students to understand, perform, and refine professional competencies at the appropriate program level.” 

You can expect to gain 1,000-2,000+ hours of clinical experience in nurse anesthesia, based on the COA and CCNE’s accreditation standards. 

Potential Salary and Jobs

As a CRNA, the type of care setting and patient population you work with may vary. CRNAs can work just about anywhere anesthesia is administered: acute care settings and hospitals (including the ICU, emergency room, and obstetrical centers), non-acute care settings (plastic surgery, dermatology, podiatry, ophthalmology, and dental practices), and government or military hospitals. This broad range of settings where you can work gives you freedom to help a population you care about, whether young or old. Though the position can be demanding, many CRNAs are passionate about what they do and feel rewarded and justified in their decision. 

Nearly half of the U.S. states allow CRNAs to practice independently of a physician’s supervision—including Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and more. If autonomy is of importance to you, you may pursue licensure in one of the states where unsupervised practice is allowed. 

Your potential nurse salary is dependent on your experience, the job location, and the additional certifications and expertise you bring to the position. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for CRNAs across the country was $174,790 in May 2019. The BLS also notes that physicians’ offices are the top employer of CRNAs.

Certifications and Licenses

A license is required to lawfully practice as an APRN and become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Each state has its own independent license requirements. Check with the individual state’s nursing board to confirm the specific requirements (or view our guide to state nursing licensure for the fast facts). Certain states may have specific criteria for the type of degree program you complete, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the requirements early on. 

New CRNAs should seek certification with the National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). The certification awarded by this organization is designed to help safeguard the public and strengthen your education in the field of anesthesia. To obtain your nursing certification, you must sit for the National Certification Exam (NCE).

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification for those looking to hone their experience to work as an acute care nurse anesthetist.

Additional Nursing Programs

Your options for online nursing programs are far-reaching. If you’re looking to advance your knowledge in a specific area like anesthesiology, explore which additional degree or certificate program is right for you. 

  • MSN Programs: A Master of Science in Nursing degree is a standard graduate degree program that can help prepare you for your career as a CRNA. Certain schools offer on-campus and online master’s in nursing programs with a specialization for nurse anesthetists. At present, an MSN is the minimum degree needed to become an APRN in most states—although soon, a DNP may become the standard.
  • Accelerated Programs: If you’re itching to begin your career, an accelerated nursing program may be for you. Though rare, these degree programs enable students who possess a bachelor’s degree to earn their master’s degree more quickly than a standard program. An accelerated program could save you nearly a year of education.
  • Bridge Programs: As an RN, you may have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. A bridge program, such as an RN-to-MSN program or RN-to-CRNA program, can help you advance and earn your master’s degree while checking off the prerequisite requirements needed to get there. The important thing for those pursuing this type of program is prior work experience as a registered nurse.
  • Post-Master’s Certificate: As we’ve mentioned, you need a Master of Science to become an APRN. But if your degree program didn’t specialize in nurse anesthesiology, a post-master’s CRNA online certificate is one way to gain the knowledge you need to sit for the NBCRNA’s National Certification Exam. At the end of the program, you’ll earn a certificate—not a degree—but you’ll have a deep understanding of topics that can help you pass the test.
  • DNP Programs: A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is the highest practice-based degree you can pursue in the nursing field. It can also be one of the more lengthy degree programs, taking between two to five years to complete. Still, it’s an option to consider if you wish to work in advanced or supervisory roles. DNP CRNA degrees can be completed through an online DNP program or in a hybrid online and on-campus format. 

Sponsored Online Nursing Programs

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Earn a Master of Science in Nursing online from Simmons University.

  • Accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Preparation to pursue certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Part-time, full-time, and extended plans of study

Earn an MS in Nursing online from Georgetown University.

  • Earn your MS in Nursing in as few as 23 months
  • Choose from one of four APRN specialty areas: AG-ACNP, FNP, NM/WHNP, or WHNP
  • Gain hands-on clinical experience in evidence-based practice

Earn an M.S. in Nursing online at the Wegmans School of Nursing

  • The Wegmans School of Nursing is ranked among the top 100 nursing schools nationally, and is No. 6 in New York state1
  • Part-time and accelerated tracks available
  • Four program options: PCFNP, PMHNP, AGACNP, AGPCNP

Earn your MSN online from USC’s Top-Ranked School of Social Work.

  • Prepares RNs to pursue board certification as family nurse practitioners
  • Earn a CCNE-accredited MSN in as few as 21 months
  • Choose from part-time and full-time study options

1 U.S. News & World Report, 2022 Best Nursing Schools: Master’s. Ranked in 2021.

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Scholarships for CRNA and Nursing Students

As the price of education continues to climb, financing your CRNA degree may seem daunting. But it’s not an impossible task. There are various forms of financial aid available for nursing students. Aside from general nursing financial aid, there are a couple of anesthesiology-specific scholarships to explore. 

AANA Student Scholarships

The AANA offers scholarships each year to students who are active members and enrolled in accredited CRNA programs. In the past year, the organization awarded scholarships to 60 nurse anesthetist students.

Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) Grants

This organization awards grants for CRNAs interested in the clinical research side of the field. 

Another important factor to consider? Earning your CRNA online may be cheaper than on-campus, making it easier to afford your degree.

FAQs

Still wondering if CRNA is the right career for you? Here are some common questions and responses about CRNA programs and career prospects.

How do online certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) programs work?

An accredited online CRNA program will have the same curriculum as an on-campus program—it’s simply completed online. 

How is course content delivered in an online CRNA program?

An online program may feature synchronous (live), asynchronous (recorded/non-live) elements and the occasional on-campus immersion. You will still need to go to a clinical site in person to complete your field experience requirements. Be sure to check your desired program’s website for information on the delivery format.

Should I enroll in an online CRNA Program?

Only you can decide if an online CRNA program is right for you. Consider that an online program may give you greater schedule flexibility and may be cheaper than an on-campus program. If you’re passionate about helping people as a CRNA, an online program can help you achieve this long-term goal.

Will an online CRNA program help me get a job?

Employers recognize the value of a high-quality degree. Generally, accredited programs are designed to meet most employers’ standards and ensure that you are adequately prepared to work in the field. As long as your online program is accredited, it will hold the same weight as an on-campus degree.

What is the difference between CRNA with an MSN vs DNP?

An MSN can help you become an APRN. A DNP may help you advance your career even further, and potentially take on administrative or public policy roles. Once you have an MSN under your belt, you can always choose to enroll in a DNP to advance to higher-paying roles.  

Information on this page was retrieved in August 2020.