25 Best DNP-CRNA Programs (Online & Campus) For 2024

Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH

DNP-Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) provide anesthesia to patients during surgical operations. Anesthesiology is one of those medical specialties in which the practice scope of physicians and advanced practice nurses overlap to a large extent. Keep in mind, though, that nurses were actually the first healthcare professionals in the U.S. to administer anesthesia when they began using ether to quell the anguish of soldiers undergoing amputations during the American Civil War.

Seventeen states currently recognize CRNAs as autonomous, licensed independent practitioners, and that number is growing. DNP-CRNAs are nurse practitioners who have completed a Baccalaureate in Nursing Science (BSN), spent an average of three to four years caring for critically ill patients, and graduated from one of the nation’s DNP-CRNA schools, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a focus on anesthesiology. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist, the following information about best the DNP-CRNA programs for 2024 will be very useful.


What Exactly Is the Purpose Of A DNP-CRNA Program?

DNP-CRNA programs prepare advanced practice nurses to become leaders in the field of nurse anesthesiology. In contrast to a Ph.D. in nursing, which prepares AP nurses for careers in research, DNP programs groom AP nurses for the highest echelons of clinical practice. Another doctoral program that prepares nurses for careers in anesthesiology is the Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) degree. DNP-CRNA programs and DNAP programs offer identical curricula but the latter are typically associated with nurse anesthesia programs that aren’t affiliated with a nursing school. Schools that offer DNAP degrees are either medical schools or hospital-based schools.

At the best DNP-CRNA schools, students work with diverse populations of patients of all ages so that they can learn to administer anesthesia across a wide range of clinical settings. Once they have completed their DNP-CRNA program, they are eligible to sit for the national certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

Why DNP-CRNA Programs Over MSN-CRNA Programs?

Presently nurse anesthetists can qualify to sit for their certifying exam with a Master’s of Nursing Science (MSN) degree. That’s in the process of changing, however. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs has decreed that all nurse anesthesia programs must be DNP-CRNA programs by January 1, 2022, or they will lose their accreditation.

The DNP degree was first created in 2004 after members of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) decided that the nursing profession required a terminal degree that focused on clinical practice. The AACN Intended the DNP degree to become the standard level of educational achievement for all advanced practice RNs, including nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and clinical nurse specialists as well as nurse anesthetists, and pushed hard to make the DNP degree a requirement for state licensure.

In 2015, the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) stipulated that all DNP-CRNA schools begin transitioning their curricula from a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia degree to a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice degree. The NONPF would like to see this transition completed by 2025. However, nurse anesthetists with MSNs who entered the profession before 2025 will be grandfathered in and will not have to return to school to obtain a DNP degree.

How Long Are DNP-CRNA Programs?

The best DNP-CRNA programs typically take three to four years to complete, depending upon whether you’re a full-time or part-time student. MSN-DNP degree programs typically entail 30 to 40 credit hours; BSN-DNP degrees usually require 65 to 95 credit hours. Students who enter the program after they’ve completed an MSN in another clinical specialty may be able to apply some portion of their MSN credits toward their DNP-CRNA requirements.

Both the Tampa-based University of Southern Florida and Baltimore, Maryland-based Johns Hopkins’ DNP-Nurse Anesthesia programs take 36 months to complete. The University of Cincinnati in Ohio also offers a 9-semester, 36-month option, which can only be taken by full-time students. The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, which “U.S. News and World Report” recognizes as the second-best Nursing-Anesthesia program in the nation, offers a 36-month BSN-DNP track as well as a 24-month MSN-DNP track. The DNAP program at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science is a 42-month curriculum.

How Much Do DNP-CRNA Programs Cost?

Tuition for DNP-CRNA programs varies considerably from school to school, but the median cost runs a little more than $50,000. Private universities tend to charge higher tuition rates than public universities, and if you attend a public university as an out-of-state student, you can expect to pay significantly more for your nurse anesthetist education than a state resident might.

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland offers its Military Nurse Anesthesia program at no cost. In fact, the school will actually pay you a salary to attend. The kicker? You have to commit to serving in the military for at least seven years after graduation, and you have to agree to have your name place on the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) roster for 10 years.

Louisiana residents enrolling full-time in the DNP-CRNA program at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center will pay $30,908 for their 36-month course while full-time nonresidents will pay $47,262. Bayou State residents attending Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center part-time and taking fewer than nine credits will pay nearly $1,200 a semester while non-residents will pay more than $2,000 a semester.

Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, charges full-time students $27,570 per semester. Full-time students will graduate in five semesters, so they will end up paying $137,850. Tuition for part-time students in this program is $13,417 a semester.

In-state tuition for the three-year BSN-to-DNP nurse anesthesia program at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania comes to $102,392; out-of-state tuition for the same program comes to $118,984. At Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois—ranked as the fourth-best in the nation by “U.S. News & World Report”—you’ll pay $1,166 per credit, which comes to $103,774 for the 89-credit BSN-to-DNP degree and $89,782 for the 77-credit MSN-to-DNP degree.


There are two parts to the curriculum in the best DNP-CRNA programs: core DNP courses and courses that specifically focus on the administration of anesthesia. The former includes classes that focus on subjects like nursing leadership, epidemiology, methods for evaluating clinical evidence and clinical information systems while the latter includes courses that focus on clinical subjects like neuroscience, pharmacology and administration methods.

While a few DNP-CRNA programs use distance learning models, most only use online learning to supplement hands-on classroom experiences. This is a nursing specialty that requires the development of specific skills such as intubation and the insertion of arterial lines, and that requires real-time, hands-on supervision. A few DNP-CRNA schools offer their BSN-to-DNP tracks as campus education and their MSN-to-DNP tracks as distance learning because students will already have mastered the clinical anesthesia skills they need while completing their MSN degrees.

All DNP-Nurse Anesthesia programs include a capstone project in which students use the knowledge they’ve learned in their courses to solve a challenge they’ve run across during their clinical practice.

Johns Hopkins University augments its basic DNP core classes with a course in health finance. Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, offers a class that contrasts and compares the professional roles of nurse anesthetists and physician anesthesiologists. The Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science’s four-year DNAP program offers a class that explores the specific anesthesia challenges that arise with cardiac, vascular and thoracic surgery while Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington devotes an entire class to obstetric anesthesiology. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences offers three electives, Dive Medicine, Military Mountain Medicine and the Cold Weather Medicine, that focus on operational challenges nurse anesthetists may find themselves facing in the field.

Clinical Training

The AACN requires DNP degree seekers to complete a minimum of 1,000 post-baccalaureate clinical hours. Nurse practitioners who’ve already completed MSNs have typically accumulated at least 650 clinical hours, and most of the best DNP-CRNA programs with MSN-to-DNP tracks will allow those students to count their MSN hours toward their DNP degree.

Prospective nurse anesthetists at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science fulfill the majority of their clinical requirement at Mayo Clinic Health System practice sites in cities throughout Minnesota, but they’re also required to complete a 10-week rotation at a rural medical facility. DNP-Nurse anesthesia students at the University of Pittsburgh have multiple opportunities for specialized experiences in cardiothoracic, neurosurgical, dental, regional anesthesia, organ transplantation, pediatrics, obstetrics, burns and pain management at numerous medical facilities throughout the metropolitan Pittsburgh area, including the highly ranked University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

At the University of Maryland, students rotate through many of the most renowned hospitals in the metropolitan Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, including University of Maryland Medical Center and Saint Agnes Hospital. Loma Linda University relies upon its own highly regarded medical system, which includes facilities like the Loma Linda University Medical Center & Children’s Center and the LLMUC Outpatient Surgery Center. The medical facilities used by the University of Southern California reads like a roster of Los Angeles’ most prominent hospitals with names like the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the UCLA Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Admission Requirements

DNP-CRNA programs tend to be small: The average class size is 12 to 25 students. Many more people apply than are accepted, and that means the application process is highly competitive. You’ll need to work very hard to make sure your application stands out from the crowd.

You’ll need an unencumbered nursing license. If you don’t practice in the state where the school you’re applying to is located, you’ll need to arrange for licensure in that state by the time that classes begin in most cases. Johns Hopkins University, for example, requires successful applicants to obtain either Maryland licensure or licensure in a compact state while the University of Southern California requires a California license.

Most of the best DNP-CRNA programs won’t admit you unless you have some professional experience. Emory University requires a minimum of one year’s experience in a critical care setting, but you’ll have a better chance at being admitted if you can demonstrate two or three years of experience. The University of Michigan at Flint will only admit applicants who are working in a critical care unit at the time they submit their application.

Other requirements include:

• Either a BSN or an MSN
• Advanced practice registered nursing license
• A grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher
• Transcripts from all post-secondary schools you’ve attended
• At least three recommendations from professional and academic references
• A resume or a curriculum vitae
• A personal essay or goal statement

Some DNP-CRNA schools require candidates to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Other schools make certain classes a prerequisite. If you’re applying to Duke University, for example, your transcripts need to show that you’ve taken at least one graduate research methods and graduate inferential statistics course within the past five years.

Although it is seldom listed as an official requirement, most schools also want you to have experience shadowing a professional CRNA. Finally, if your application is moved forward by the admissions committee, you will be asked to participate in an interview.

7 Tips To Get Into Top DNP-CRNA Schools

DNP-CRNA programs involve a tremendous amount of hard work, so admissions committees look for applicants who can prove they’ve got what it takes to stand up to the enormous challenge. Here are seven tips that will help you make your application more competitive.

1. Identify the DNP-CRNA programs you’re interested in applying to early on in the process. Each program may have slightly different admission requirements. Make sure your experience is tailored to meet the requirements of the schools you most want to get into.

2. Get some critical care experience. The strongest candidates demonstrate professional experience in a Level 1 trauma center, but a Level 2 intensive care unit may be competitive, too, if you live outside an urban setting. Some DNP-CRNA programs will allow you to substitute experience in a neonatal intensive care unit, a pediatric intensive care unit or an emergency room for adult ICU experience. The ideal amount of ICU experience is two to five years. Interestingly, having more than five years of experience may actually hurt your chances of being admitted because the admissions committee will wonder whether you’re capable of becoming a novice again.

3. Make sure your GPA is high. The minimum GPA you’ll need to be admitted into a DNP-CRNA program is 3.0, but the higher your GPA is, the better your chances will be. This may mean retaking classes, particularly if you underperformed in core science or statistics classes.

4. Get your Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification. A CCRN certification attests to your expertise and level of commitment.

5. Shadow a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). A medical center where you’re currently working or have recently worked is the most likely to accommodate this request. If no CRNA is available, shadowing a physician anesthesiologist will suffice as well as most schools are looking for shadowing experience with an anesthesia provider generally rather than a shadowing experience with a CRNA specifically.

6. Choose your references carefully. Letters of recommendation can make or break an application. Make absolutely sure that your references only have positive things to say about your past experiences and your commitment.

7. Practice your interview techniques. If a school contacts you to set up an interview, you’ll know you’re on the shortlist for acceptance into its DNP-CRNA program. Be prepared to articulate your reasons for wanting to become a nurse anesthetist. Make sure you understand the CRNA scope of practice thoroughly before you sit down with a member of the admissions committee.


1. Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD (Hybrid)

2. Duke University - Durham, NC (Hybrid)

3. Rush University Medical Center - Chicago, IL (Campus)

Programs Offered:

BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP



4. Emory University - Atlanta, GA (Hybrid)

5. Baylor College of Medicine - Houston, TX

Programs Offered:

BSN-DNP (Hybrid) and MS-DNP (Online)



6. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

Programs Offered:

BSN to DNP (Campus) and MSN to DNP (Online)



7. University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, MN (Campus)

8. University of Maryland - Baltimore, MD (Hybrid)

9. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey - Newark, NJ (Hybrid)

10. Georgetown University - Washington, DC (Campus)

11. Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science - Rochester, MN

Programs Offered:

DNAP (Campus) and (Hybrid)


DNAP (Postgraduate):

12. University of Southern California - Los Angeles, CA (Hybrid)

13. Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences - Bethesda, MD (Campus)

14. University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston - Houston, TX (Campus)

15. Gonzaga University - Spokane, WA (Campus)

16. Texas Christian University - Fort Worth, TX

Programs Offered:

BSN to DNP-A (Campus) and AA-C to DNP-A (Hybrid)


AA-C to DNP-A:

17. University of Cincinnati - Cincinnati, OH (Hybrid)

18. University of South Florida - Tampa, FL (Hybrid)

Programs Offered:

BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP



19. Oakland University - Rochester, MI (Online)

20. Thomas Jefferson University - Philadelphia, PA (Campus)

21. Loma Linda University - Loma Linda, CA (Hybrid)

22. University of Michigan-Flint - Flint, MI (Campus)

23. University of Kansas - Kansas City, KS (Campus)

24. University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, PA (Campus)

25. Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - New Orleans, LA (Campus)


What Kind Of Career Opportunities Exist For Graduates Of This Program?

CRNAs work in every setting where anesthesia is administered, including hospital operating rooms; labor and delivery units; ambulatory surgery centers; intensive care units; emergency rooms; the offices of dentists, podiatrists and cosmetic surgeons; and U.S. military and public health healthcare facilities. Seventeen states allow CRNAs to practice without direct physician oversight. In many rural medical facilities, CRNAs may be the only anesthesia providers for miles around.

CRNAs provide the same level of care as physician anesthesiologists do under most circumstances, and as they are less expensive to employ, in many instances, medical facilities prefer hiring them. Medical facilities are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so it’s not uncommon for CRNAs to work evenings, weekends and holidays.

Some nurse anesthetists choose to take administrative positions in quality assurance, risk management and staff development. Nurse anesthetists also find employment in federal, state and local government healthcare agencies.

Average Earnings

CRNAs are among the highest-paid advanced practice registered nurses. Their median salary is $181,040 a year, which works out to $15,090 a month or $87.04 an hour. This is well over twice the median salary for the average RN in the U.S.

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Market

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for CRNAs will grow by 45 percent between 2019 and 2029. As mentioned above, CRNAs make excellent substitutes for physician anesthesiologists, so hiring them is an effective cost-saving strategy for many medical facilities. Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence that indicates CRNAs perform just as well physician anesthesiologists during complex procedures like open-heart surgeries and organ transplants.

Professional Associations & Organizations

The following organizations may be useful affiliations for an aspiring certified registered nurse anesthetist:

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists:

The AANA is nurse anesthetists’ premier professional organization, representing more than 57,000 CRNAs and student registered nurse anesthetists throughout the U.S. The AANA provides members with continuing education and advocacy as well as up-to-date information about research in the field and professional standards.

American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN):

ASPAN represents the more than 60,000 nurses who specialize in pre- and post-anesthesia care.

Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs:

COA has been charged by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) with the oversight of nurse anesthesia education at the post-baccalaureate level.

The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA):

NBCRNA develops and implements credentialing processes for the nurse anesthetist profession.

The International Federation of Nurse Anesthetists (IFNA):

IFNA is an international organization representing nurse anesthetists in 43 nations worldwide.


Nurse anesthetists are an integral part of the medical team, responsible not only for providing anesthesia but also for pre- and post-anesthetic evaluations, anesthesia preparation and other critical support functions such as pain and airway support management. The training it takes to perform to function effectively in the CRNA role is rigorous and demanding. Enrolling in one of the best DNP-CRNA programs for 2024 is the surest avenue to professional success as a nurse anesthetist.


Can I work while I’m in a DNP-nurse anesthetist program?

Probably not. Between class time, clinical hours and studying, the typical CRNA student spends 60 to 70 hours a week on educational activities. Your school may not explicitly forbid you to work, but you’ll find juggling school commitments with work responsibilities incredibly difficult. If you do work, your education must be given top priority. Your employment must never be allowed to conflict with your academic and clinical assignments.

Should DNP-nurse anesthesia students carry liability insurance?

It’s a good idea to carry your own liability insurance even if the school you’re attending doesn’t require it. In the eyes of the law, you’re a registered nurse first and a student second. The principles that cover your legal liability in a mishap are likely to be the same principles that establish legal liability for professional CRNAs. In either case, the same standard of care is likely to apply. Of course, the best DNP-CRNA programs assess student capabilities very carefully and go to great lengths never to put students in positions where their inexperience might endanger patient safety. Nevertheless, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Do DNP-CRNAs need to be periodically recertified?

Yes. Recertification is a four-year cycle overseen by the NBCRNA. Every four years, DNP-CRNAs must show proof they have taken a minimum of 100 hours of approved continuing education credits and certify that they haven’t developed any adverse conditions that could hamper their ability to provide safe anesthesia. Every eight years, they must retake the certification exam.

Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.