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Anesthesiologist Or CRNA Career – Which Is Better?

If you are considering a career in medicine, and more specifically, a career in anesthesia, there are choices available.

You can choose between becoming an Anesthesiologist or a CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.)

Both careers are very rewarding, the differences will depend on what suits you and your lifestyle best.

This article looks at the differences for each position.


Anesthesiologist: Education


The biggest difference between CRNAs and anesthesiologists is that anesthesiologists are medical doctors.

That means they have to go to college for four years in an undergraduate program, another four years in medical school, and then an additional three to four years in a residency program.

Some anesthesiologists may also choose to go on to complete speciality fellowships.

There are speciality areas like pain management, critical care medicine, cardiac anesthesiology, obstetric anesthesiology, pediatric anesthesiology or neuro-anesthesiology.


Medical School

Both paths require extensive medical schooling.



CRNA: Education


CRNAs actually start their careers as registered nurses.

They become nurses by earning an associate’s degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. After that, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination to get their RN license.

On average, a registered nurse will need to spend at least one year working full-time in the field before they can consider an advanced nursing education program.

While currently a maters is required, it will no longer be an option for students who enter programs in 2022 and beyond.

Anyone wishing to enter these programs will need to graduate with doctoral degrees.

The tuition and fees to become an anesthesiologist will be far more expensive than that of the CRNA.

In fact, a CRNA may well have paid off their nursing school before embarking on the next steps.


The Position


Anesthesiologists work administering anesthetic.

While where they work may vary depending on their speciality or other factors, that’s all they do.

Whether they work in emergency rooms, operating rooms, private clinics or other areas, their job is patient care before, during and after anesthesia.

CRNAs do the same thing, however, they also do their other jobs as a nurse and all that entails.

This, again, will depend on where they work and how often they are needed.

Being a CRNA also gives them an edge over regular registered nurses, as they may be in more demand.




The wages can vary widely here, as this will depend on where they work, how much of a demand there is for their services and the location of their employment.

The anesthesiologist’s wage is much higher than that of the CRNA. However, the anesthesiologist may not work as many hours and therefore, the CRNA wages can be significantly increased due to more hours and how often they are called in to administer the anesthetic.

Anesthesiologists can often pick their own hours. If they work in a small community or a private clinic, they may not work as many hours as there will be no need for them.

CRNAs can work in clinics, hospitals, through agencies and doctor’s offices.

There is a demand for people who have more skills than specialists, so therefore they make up for the lower wages by clocking in more hours.


Pros and Cons


Just like any other career, there are ups and downs of each position.

Wages are an obvious place to start. As mentioned, it can vary widely depending on where you are working in the country, the area you work, like the hospital or private sector and how many other people there are with your same skill set.

Becoming an anesthesiologist takes much longer, with more intense training and is far more expensive.

CRNA has a lot of options ahead of them and when they are not needed to administer anesthetics, they are still employed in the nursing field.

An anesthesiologist may not work as much or may find the job somewhat stagnant, as they are required to remain throughout the surgery. This can mean a lot of waiting around with next to nothing to do. It won’t suit everyone.

CRNAs may not always get the hours they want and could end up working a lot of extra hours if they are needed in an emergency.

There is a great deal of competition here, as well.

Some CRNAs may have to look at smaller communities to find work, in particular, fresh out of school.

This might not be ideal for those with families, young kids or other responsibilities where they currently live.

Impressing your potential employer can be difficult, as well, as a CRNA.

There can be a lot of people up for the same position. You may need to work with an agency when you first graduate, just to gain some experience and field knowledge.

Of course, working with an agency can also be a plus as they find the work for you and you have the option of saying no.

It can offer a lot of freedom for those who can or need that free time for other matters.

There is a lot of pressure and stress involved in both roles. Things can go wrong, lawsuits can happen and people going into either of these roles needs to be calm, clever and diligent.


Individual Preferences


It will come down to what the individual wants from their career and what they want to put into it. While some may find the CRNA more suitable, others may want to be a fully trained anesthesiologist and enjoy the benefits that come with that role.

Both roles require a desire to help people and provide excellent service. Working in the medical field can and should be very rewarding. If you are considering going into either of these areas, there will be a lot to consider.

While money is always a factor, it shouldn’t be the driving one. Care, compassion and the desire to make a difference should be at the top of your list. Helping people is its own reward.

Author avatar
Callum Liddell

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