What is a Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists (also known as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or CRNA) are registered nurses who are specially trained in the use of anesthesia. They are trained in pain management, and provide help during surgery, trauma, childbirth, and illness, relieving discomfort of patients. They often work in operating rooms as well as emergency rooms, and acting as first responders. They are certified through a national association, and are often in demand alongside, or in lieu of, anesthesiologists. For more on job description, please visit our nurse anesthetist job description page.

Where do Nurse Anesthetists Work

A nurse anesthetist can be found in any health setting where anesthesia is necessary. This includes (but is not limited to) emergency rooms, operating rooms, outpatient centers, and public health facilities. The environment depends on state law; in some cases, nurse anesthetists work independently, whereas in others, they are part of a health care team.

45% of nurse anesthetists employed in the United States are men, which is a rather interesting fact when considering the rest of the nurse profession only has 8% of male population.

Work Schedule

Nurse anesthetists working in hospitals have a schedule dependent on the surgery schedule. As most surgeries are performed during the day, they will often hold regular business hours. However, they are often on call, and can be summoned on evenings and weekends during emergency situations. Some nurse anesthetists may choose to work in office of physicians and other private practices, which results in more daytime hours.

How Much Does a Nurse Anesthetist Make

The average annual nurse anesthetist salary is $157,690. The average salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. The lowest 10% of nurse anesthetist salaries are less than $106,010 annually. The top 10% of nurse anesthetist salaries reach more than $210,000 per year.

Nurse Anesthetist Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$157,690 per year
$75.81 per hour
Top 10% Salary$210,000 per year
$100.96 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$106,010 per year
$50.97 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201335,430

Nurse Anesthetist Job Outlook and Prospects

As rural areas provide more services and the aging population requires more surgeries, the demand for nurse anesthetists will continue to grow. The job outlook is quite positive; employment of registered nurses in general is expected to grow by 25% between 2012 and 2022. Furthermore, there is a current shortage of nurse anesthetists in the United States.

In about two thirds of rural hospitals in US, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia. Many rural hospitals are seeking to lower costs amid financial burdens, and nurse anesthetists provide cost-effective professional service. While experience and greater training (such as holding a doctorate) increases the prospects, the demand is currently high for nurse anesthetists, and nurse anesthetist salary is similarly inflated.

What impacts a Nurse Anesthetist’s Salary

Nurse anesthetist salary have shown an exponential growth in the last 10 years. In 2004, the average salary of a nurse anesthetist barely reached $55,000 per year. In May of 2013, there were 35,430 nurse anesthetist throughout the United States earning a mean annual salary of $157,690. That is a jump of almost 300% in salary. A growing demand for experience CRNAs in rural areas and specialty hospitals due to inability to afford anesthesiologist, has led to an increase in demand as well as salary.

Nurse Anesthetist salaries can also fluctuate for a variety of reasons. To understand salary differences, we must look closer at the following factors: specialization/education, experience/position, industry, and location.

Education and Specialization

Following high school, a person must first receive a four year bachelor’s of nursing degree, as well as obtaining a license as a registered nurse. Following this, a candidate will generally require one year of practical nursing experience in an acute care setting to meet graduate application requirements. They can then pursue a master’s in nursing degree at a graduate school, and occasionally follow that with a doctorate (though this isn’t a necessity). These programs take 2 to 3 years to complete. For specialty work (such as obstetrics), further post-graduate study is required. A doctorate will evoke a higher salary than a master’s degree. More time in the position also brings higher salaries; the position of nurse anesthetist has a history dating 150 years, so there is strong job security.

There are a large number of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) programs in the United States. As well, there are institutions that offer certification programs for students pursuing a graduate degree in non-nursing disciplines. Nurses holding a doctorate, or a specialty in a particular area, will receive a higher salary than the average nurse anesthetist.

Experience and Position

Pursuing nurse anesthetist education requires one year of experience in an acute care setting. Following graduation, Nurse anesthetists are in high demand, and will be sought after in hospitals and private practices, as well as clinics in need of pain management. Experience is one of the greatest factors in determining a nurse anesthetist’s salary. Recent graduates are at the bottom of the salary spectrum, earning just above $100,000 per year.

Being a nurse anesthetist is by no means an easy job; the ability to work independently while part of a team is a necessity for the high-pressure settings. Nurse anesthetists can also pursue advancement in their chosen setting, seeking administrative or head of care team positions. Those with doctorates can also pursue teaching at the University level. These individuals make up the top 10% of earners in this occupation. For example, chief nurse anesthetists make an annual salary of $182,540.


There is a high need and demand for nurse anesthetists. Because of the demands of market forces on health care, as well as the general dearth of available talent, nurse anesthetists are highly employable in any setting requiring pain management and associated patient care, and receive a higher wage than registered nurses.

The mean annual wage fluctuated depending on the industry. Those who worked in the federal executive branch and offices of physicians were below the mean annual wage, having made $139,280 and $149,460 respectively. This sector also had the highest level of employment. Nurse anesthetists who worked in general surgical hospitals and outpatient care centers made more than $163,000 a year whereas nurse anesthetists working in offices of dentists made a mean annual wage of $189,330 in 2012. Due to a smaller number of nurse anesthetists employed in dental offices and the specialized skills and training required, these individuals are take home the highest salary in this occupation.


The potential location of a nurse anesthetist is highly variable; they are needed in all areas requiring pain management, from a private practice to a hospital, and from rural to urban settings. As such, there are no specific considerations for location beyond the standard higher demand of higher population densities. Houston, Texas currently has the highest employment level for nurse anesthetists, with about 1,780 licensed CRNA’s averaging an annual income of $173,800. Evidently, this immense demand also translates to a higher than average salary for the employees.

Rural locations usually have a lower preponderance of surgery and other health care needs requiring an anesthetist, so one would assume that rural areas pay less in salary than larger metropolitan areas. This isn’t always the case as some rural areas often find difficulty in procuring potential candidates who is willing to move and live there. Some of the highest paying nurse anesthetists reside in the west central non-metropolitan areas of Illinois, earning an mean salary of $218,530 per year. Regions in North Carolina, Eastern Wisconsin, and West Central Pennsylvania round up as the other top paying non-metropolitan areas in the United States.