Which type of nurse makes the most money?

Updated July 19, 2017

Nurse practitioners (NPs), clinical nurse specialists (CNS) and certified registered nurse anaesthetists (CRNAs) are all advanced practice nurses. CRNAs, in particular, are among the highest paid nurses, making higher salaries than some physicians, with their high salaries reflecting their level of responsibility. In addition to administering and maintaining anaesthesia during surgical procedures, CRNAs perform physical assessments, oversee recovery and follow patients postoperatively. CRNAs are usually in high demand. There are five basic steps to become a CRNA and be one of the highest paid nurses.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Earn a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN), which usually requires coursework in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, pathology, health assessment and nurse competency skills. While a BSN is the usual prerequisite for nurse anaesthesia school, some nurse anaesthesia programs will also accept other degrees which they deem to be appropriate training, such as a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, respiratory care or pharmacology. Candidates without a BSN are usually evaluated on a case-by-case basis.


Obtain a license to practice as a registered nurse (RN) from the state medical board in the state you wish to practice nursing. Nurse anaesthesia programs require RN licensure, which requires that you demonstrate good moral character, pass a criminal background check and pass a national licensing examination administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The licensing examination is computer-based and multiple choice, with a maximum allowed time of five hours. The licensure application and licensing examination both usually require a fee.

Work Experience

Work for at least one year in an acute care setting, such as in a clinic, physician office, critical care unit, operating room or emergency room. Acceptance into a nurse anaesthesia program and eligibility to sit for the national certifying examination usually require work experience in nursing.

Nurse Anesthesia Program

Complete a program in nurse anaesthesia accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). These programs are generally 24 to 36 months. Training includes clinical duties in all types of surgery as well as didactic coursework, such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics and pharmacology. Completion of a nurse anaesthetist program typically confers a master of science degree in nursing.

National Certifying Examination

Pass a national certifying examination for nurse anaesthesia. The examination is administered by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists (CCNA) and covers basic science; equipment, instrumentation and technology; and advanced principles of anaesthesia. The test is computer-based, the maximum allowed testing time is three hours, and the format is multiple-choice. Once the minimum 100 questions are answered, the test may continue up to a maximum of 170 questions until performance is estimated at being above or below the passing standard. With a passing score, an RN can practice as a CRNA.

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About the Author

Maryam Lebeau has a particular interest in medical ethics, law and health policy. Lebeau has written professionally since 2002, focusing on health, medicine, science, family and crafts. She holds a B.S. in nature science and mathematics from Washington and Lee University.