In this article, we are going to analyze CRNA schools. You’ll learn what makes them easy to get to, how to prepare a killer application, and which schools have the laxest requirements.
CRNA stands for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Their job is to support anesthesiologists in anesthetizing patients.
CRNAs analyze the subject’s condition, current treatment, and allergies. They then decide which is the best way to anesthetize the patient. There are different types of anesthesia, and not everyone’s body will react well to some of them.
It’s a tough job that requires a lot of study and work experience. But it’s also extremely rewarding, both personally and monetarily. To put things in perspective, a CRNA earns on average over $175.000 per year. Even a junior CRNA should be able to get 6 figures per year, though of course it depends on many factors.
With such a delicate job to do, you can imagine it’s difficult to get into CRNA schools. Even the easiest ones on this list will need you to put in hard work and dedication. Don’t expect to just coast along and earn your degree. You will still receive top-quality education.
No matter what school you pick, you will need to satisfy its prerequisites before applying. Most schools will sport similar requirements, so these apply transversally to all applications.
According to the AANA (American Association of Nurse Anesthetists), there were 124 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico as of September 2020.
Some programs are extremely competitive. Take Duke for example, they receive about 125 applications each year, and they accept between 16 and 25 every year.
There are, however, programs that are way easier to join. Let’s focus on what you need to do before applying.
Graduate from Accredited BSN and MSN Programs
This is the first thing you must do before even considering applying to CRNA programs. You must have an accredited Bachelor of Nursing Science. While an ADN is typically enough for applying to most nursing programs, a BSN is the absolute minimum you’ll need for CRNA school.
But a BSN isn’t enough, you’ll also need to complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which is an additional two-years programs.
Become a Register Nurse (RN)
Licensing requirements vary from state to state. However, most require the same exact thing. An MSN and a certain number of practice hours of combined theory and clinical practice. What varies between states is the number of hours.
You can find more information about how to register as a nurse in your state by following the link above.
Work on Your GPA
GPA requirements vary between schools, but CRNA schools are extremely competitive, so don’t even consider applying if your GPA isn’t over 3.0.
Some people might be able to get in with a lower GPA, but these are outliers. They have outstanding applications in other areas, but having an outstanding GPA is easier.
Additionally, a high GPA means you are better educated on the various topics you’ll explore more in-depth during the course. If you asked me the one thing to do to improve your chances of being accepted into CRNA schools, improving your GPA would be it.
If you’re wondering what courses to retake to improve your GPA, definitely go for the science courses. A strong foundation in science is paramount to success in this profession.
Get Relevant Real-World Experience
This is one of the things that will make you stand out compared to other students. Every single school requires you to have worked as a Registered Nurse for at least a year before applying. But you can improve your chances of being accepted into a CRNA school by adding more time to your real-world experience.
1 year of experience working in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) is the absolute minimum, but 2 years are recommended. In fact, according to the AANA, the average experience of Registered Nurses is of 2.9 years when they get accepted to CRNA school.
That’s almost 3 years of relevant work experience before getting accepted into school! It’s crazy how competitive the field is.
Since the average includes schools that we are going to ignore for the sake of the article, having 2 years of experience will suffice.
Even if you’re still young and in no position to actually get work in the field, try to shadow Nurse Anesthetists while they work. Some schools have programs specifically designed for this, but you can also try to get in by yourself. Just be clear with the hospital’s management about your goals.
Work on Your GRE Scores
Many schools will require proof of you taking the GRE exam. Few schools mention the minimum score they accept, but don’t expect anything below 300 to net you an admission.
Having a high GRE score is crucial for nurses. Learning to communicate effectively with patients is important, since you will have to get them to tell you about their medical history and allergies.
Winning your patients’ trust through strong communication makes your job much easier, so don’t skimp out on this test.
Get Relevant References
References are always a plus when it comes to getting accepted into school. It also combines nicely with the advice about getting relevant work experience. Get a reference from the nurse anesthetist you shadow; it’s going to give your application a huge boost in credibility.
Other important references you should strive for are from your professors. Particularly those who teach biology courses.
The 5 Easiest CRNA Schools to Get Into
Getting into CRNA school is no easy task, but by working on your pre-requisites and picking a school that isn’t too competitive, you can drastically improve your chances of success.
To make this list, we considered various factors, such as acceptance rates, course prerequisites, and how many hours of work-experience are expected from candidates. There are other factors we could not take into consideration.
You have to think about your life goals, your character, and your lifestyle. While school and work are important, life is so much more than your job. Before applying for schools, consider if you’re up to the task of attending them and working hard.
What do you care outside of school? What are your hobbies? These are important questions to answer. School is hard enough as is, don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be. You must enjoy yourself while you go to school, otherwise you’ll feel miserable and you’ll find it much harder to complete your course.
VCU tops our chart of easiest CRNA schools to get into thanks to its staggering 87% acceptance rate. Despite the number being so high, the school offers an excellent program for anyone looking to become a Nurse Anesthetist. In fact, the US News and World report has placed it as the number 1 program for over 15 years.
As for the program’s requirements, here they are:
- A baccalaureate degree in nursing or related field.
- A GPA of at least 3.0
- At least 1 year of full-time work experience. However, part-time work experience is also fine, as long as you’ve completed a years’ work of full-time. Roughly 2000 hours of work.
- Completing the GRE test
- Three references, of which one from a supervisor responsible for performance evaluations.
As you can see, the requirements aren’t that high. Earlier we mentioned that some universities are looking for candidates with over 2 years of relevant work experience, but VCU is ok with just 1. As long as you have your baccalaureate degree in nursing and have worked as a nurse for a year, you’re good to go.
Despite being second on this list, the difficulty of getting into this school is already so much higher compared to VCU, mostly because of the acceptance rate, which is way lower. About 57%.
But how do you get into this university? Here are the requirements, assuming you are coming from a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing):
- Completion of the GRE exam, with outstanding score in Verbal & Quantitative section, as well as a score of above 3 in Analytical Writing
- A personal essay in which you talk about your relationship with nursing, your expectations from the program, and future career goals
- Three letters of recommendation, one of which from a current supervisor
- CV or resume
- A GPA of at least 3.0
- At least 1 year of full-time ICU/critical care nursing experience
The requirements aren’t that different compared to VCU. Why is there such a stark difference between acceptance rates then?
The reason is actually very simple: the competition in Pittsburgh is much higher. This university receives almost double the applications compared to VCU, and has a similar number of spots. You are facing many more applicants, which raises the chances of finding people who are more qualified than you.
While the previous two entries offered reasonable chances of getting in even without an outstanding application, we’re already starting to see a steep decline in acceptance rates with Wake Forest School of Medicine.
Wake’s CRNA program has an acceptance rate of 30%. In 2020, about 12.500 people applied and 3.700 were admitted.
It doesn’t help that consulting the average statistics of accepted candidates are crazy high. For example, the average GPA of accepted students is 3.7, and the average experience in an ICU is of 2.5 years. You are competing with other excellent candidates, but that’s life when you pick such a competitive field.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You can do it if you focus on yourself and you fulfill the requirements:
- A GPA of at least 3.0
- Successful completion of undergraduate courses in:
- Biostatistics or statistics
- Health assessment
- Completed the GRE exam with a score of at least 300
- At least 2.080 hours of experience in an ICU or coronary care unit. For the record, that’s 1 year of full-time employment.
The minimum requirements aren’t actually that much higher compared to those of the other two universities. It’s just that there are way less available spots compared to how many people apply each year, making the program competitive.
Schools find themselves with thousands of applications each year, and picking the right candidates is hard. As we stated earlier, the average successful applicant blows the minimum requirements out of the water. They have over double the minimum hours requirement, and a GPA close to 4.0 (the absolute maximum).
Case Western is a private research university located in Cleveland, Ohio.
I understand the article talks about the easiest CRNA schools, and this is one of them. But it’s still going to be quite hard to get in. Last year, the acceptance rate was only of 27%. Acceptance rates don’t tell the full story though.
It’s better to take a look at the school’s requirements. Here they are:
- Graduation from an accredited college with a GPA of at least 3.0
- Three references from people who can attest to your ability of conducting doctoral work
- Resume or CV
- Official transcripts from the schools you attended
- Two years of recent critical care experience, or one year of critical experience with specialty certification. The website specifies what constitutes “critical experience”, so I suggest checking the “Nurse Anesthesia DNP” page to find out more about this requirement.
The requisites are in line with all other schools on this list. What changes the most is the number of students who apply compared to the number of open spots.
Washington University is an excellent choice for anyone looking to become a nurse anesthesiologist.
I feel like I’m grasping at straws by now. Washington University CRNA program’s acceptance rate was a mere 14% in 2019. You may be wondering why I’m bothering mentioning it at all, when it’s clear the program is extremely competitive.
The requirements aren’t even that high. It’s just that so many people apply compared to the number of available spots, that most people will be left out.
But let’s see them in detail:
- Three letters of recommendations, at least one of them has to come from a professor of nursing
- Your resume or CV
- A GPA of at least 3.0
- Demonstrable work experience. At least one year of full-time employment in ICU.
The requirements are in line with all other universities on this list. The discrepancy between acceptance rates lies mostly in the school’s limited number of spots compared to the number of people who apply each year.
Why We didn’t Include Any of the Schools With 100% Acceptance Rate?
The reason is very simple: these schools are very small and only accept a minuscule number of applicants each year. What’s the point of telling you about schools that have 50 open spots each year? It’s clear they get such a high acceptance rate purely because they are so selectively only certain people apply to them.
They are more exclusive than the schools on this list. That’s why I said more than once that acceptance rates only tell half the story of a program’s ease of getting in.
CRNA school prepares you for a rough, but satisfying career. If you are after big earnings, and you like the work, it’s a great investment into your future.
We understand most schools on the list have low acceptance rates, but that’s life when you work in such a competitive field. Still, you can absolutely get into any of them. Work hard on your education, and you’ll be repaid ten folds in the future.
Nurses are loved and trusted by people. A nurse anesthetist’s job is complex, but you are doing your patients a great service.
What are you waiting for? Apply for CRNA school today, and set yourself up for a long and wonderful career.