CRNA School Requirements and Tips for 2024

One of the best things about becoming a nurse is trying different specialties until you find one that suits your skills and interests. Becoming a CRNA, or certified registered nurse anesthetist, is one such nursing specialty that’s experiencing rapid growth.

CRNAs are a growing and in-demand nurse specialty. However, transitioning to this specialty requires extra education after you become a registered nurse (RN). CRNA school requirements are demanding because their programs are so competitive. 

You must meet all CRNA school requirements to get accepted at your dream school. Keep reading to learn how to get into CRNA school, including specific prerequisites, necessary credentials, exams, and GPA standards.

CRNA school requirements may differ depending on the CRNA school you wish to attend. However, entering this nursing specialty will take time and dedication. The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) estimates that becoming a CRNA takes 7-8.5 years of education and experience. 

You may already meet some of these requirements if you’re a practicing RN. But this list will help you meet the rest of the prerequisites for CRNA school.

>>Related: Top Hybrid Online CRNA Programs

1. Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Degree or Related Major

Becoming a CRNA begins with earning a BSN degree from an accredited nursing school. Earning your BSN requires attending a nursing program at a college or university. Some programs offer online classes so you can complete assignments at your own pace.

If you’re starting or currently enrolled in nursing school, you can cater your education to prepare for a CRNA program. Speak with an advisor or instructor to select classes to help you meet as many CRNA school prerequisites as possible.

2. Active and Unrestricted RN License

To become a registered nurse, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs, AKA the NCLEX. Passing the NCLEX-RN allows you to obtain an RN license to begin practicing in your state. You also need this license to earn the clinical experience most CRNA programs require.

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3. Minimum GPA

GPA requirements may differ depending on which CRNA school you want to attend. You should check with your prospective schools to verify their standards. However, in general, CRNA programs require at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

However, many experienced nurses apply to CRNA programs. If you want your application to stand out, try aiming for a more competitive GPA of 3.4 or higher. But to be competitive, we recommend aiming for 3.4 or higher.

>> Related: 7 Tips To Get Into CRNA School, Even With a Low G.P.A. 

4. Critical Care Experience

Since CRNA and critical care skills have a lot of overlap, CRNA schools may require you to have critical care experience. You can earn this experience by working in a critical care setting like the ICU or CICU.

Though one year is often the minimum, most CRNA school applicants have 2 to 5 years of critical care experience. They often also have 4 to 5 years of experience as practicing RNs. You’ll want a few more years of experience in a large critical care environment to compete here.

Remember that some CRNA schools will require specific types of critical care experience. For example, some programs may not deem neonatal ICU experience as acceptable. So, you should weigh your options if you’re already on a NICU path but have long-term goals of becoming a CRNA.

5. Obtain CCRN Certification

Your prospective CRNA school may require you to have a CCRN certification from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). This credential will prepare you to care for acute and critically ill patients. These patients require special skills because they can quickly become unstable and require emergency medical intervention.

This is another CRNA school requirement you’ll likely earn as you gain experience. As hospitals see an increase in critical cases, the demand for highly skilled nurses increases. 

If you begin working in critical care, your employer may require you to earn your CCRN certification within two years. Fortunately, most hospitals will also reimburse your CCRN certification fees after passing the examination.

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6. Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

About half of all CRNA programs require you to score 300 or more on the GRE. This computer-based standardized test measures your analytical writing, verbal and quantitative reasoning, and critical thinking skills. The exam has a significant math component, including algebra and geometry, but it also tests your vocabulary and reasoning abilities.

Some CRNA schools do not require the GRE. Others waive the exam if your undergraduate GPA was 3.2-3.4 or if you finished graduate school.

Studying for the GRE is vital because your score may impact your admission into CRNA school. You can purchase study guides and practice tests online to prepare for this exam thoroughly.

7. Life Support Certifications

As a CRNA, you may care for patients of all ages, from neonates to elderly adults. Therefore, most CRNA programs require you to have up-to-date ACLS, BLS, and PALS certifications.

CRNA school requirements include these certifications to demonstrate you can perform critical tasks under pressure. The credentials prove you can manage a patient’s airway, breathing, and circulation in urgent situations, like when a patient is unconscious and unable to control their airway.

8. Prerequisite Classes

Not surprisingly, the prerequisite classes required to complete a CRNA program vary from school to school. To know which courses you should take, request information from the CRNA schools you want to attend. 

However, there are some standard CRNA school requirements that are shared by many schools. The following list breaks down common courses required by CRNA schools and the percentage of programs that require them:

  • Statistics – 58%
  • General chemistry – 46%
  • Organic chemistry – 39%
  • Physiology – 36%
  • Anatomy – 34%
  • Biochemistry – 32%
  • Other – 30%
  • Health assessment – 14%
  • Research – 14%
  • Pharmacology – 13%
  • Physics – 12%
  • Pathophysiology – 7%

Remember that some of these programs have time limits on certain credits. Generally, you can’t use chemistry or statistics credits that are five years or older. This limit can pose a problem for some RNs with CRNA aspirations, so begin considering completing your prereqs a few years before applying to CRNA school.

9. Shadow a CRNA and Document Your Experience

Many CRNA schools require or recommend that you shadow a CRNA at work before applying to a program. Depending on the school you apply to, your required or recommended shadow hours may range between 8 and 40 hours.

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Shadowing a CRNA helps you understand whether you want to invest the time and money it takes to complete CRNA school. You can learn about CRNA daily tasks and ask questions about working in this specialty.

Be sure to check with the CRNA program you want to apply to determine if CRNA shadowing is required. Ask how many shadow hours you need and how to document and submit your shadow hours with your CRNA school application.

10. Letters of Recommendation

You’ll need two to three letters of recommendation for most CRNA programs. You can get these from any nursing faculty who can attest to your clinical skills and knowledge. They may include your nursing managers, charge nurses, or supervisors.

At least one of these letters must come from your current supervisor. It should address your nursing abilities over the last six months to one year.

Most importantly, follow the directions from the CRNA program you want to apply to. After all the time and work you will put into meeting all these CRNA school requirements, you don’t want to have your application rejected because you didn’t obtain the correct type of recommendation from the right person.

11. Other Possible Prerequisites and Requirements 

Some other more common requirements for CRNA school applications may include the following:

  • Application fees ($20 to $100)
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
  • Criminal background check
  • Personal statement/essay about why you want to become a CRNA
  • Current resumé or CV
  • A personal interview

There’s no doubt about it – the list of CRNA school requirements is lengthy. The added competition makes entering this nurse specialization seem daunting. Nevertheless, CRNA schools nationwide accept new applicants each year, and you can be among them if you meet these requirements.

So if you want to become a CRNA, go for it! You could be well on your way to becoming a CRNA sooner than you thought.


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