Cool Careers: Nurse Anesthesiology

Reader Dominic writes in to share his thoughts on nurse anesthesiology. Six figures to work six months out of the year? Not bad.

Great job on the blog!  Since it sounds like you've transitioned from advising mainly law and business school applicants to the broader role of career counselor, I thought I'd share with you some career information that might be of interest to your clients and blog readers.

I was wondering if you've looked at or advised clients to consider nursing, particularly nurse anesthesiology.  Several family members of mine are in the healthcare field, and they're always nagging me, my siblings, and cousins to pursue nursing so I thought I'd pass along the information. I know I don't want (and can't handle) a job in the healthcare field, but for someone looking for a combination of job security, ease of entry, flexible work hours, the opportunity to help others, and money (although the base salary is modest, if willing, a nurse can more than make up for it in overtime hours) I can't think of a job out there that can match nursing.

With regards to nurse anesthesiology, it's the highest paid nursing specialty.  According to a 2005 study by the American Medical Group Association, the average mid-level salary for a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is $140,396.

I know it's only anecdotal evidence, but for what's it worth I have an uncle who's a nurse anesthetist in McAllen, TX and his base salary is $200,000 a year.  The payscale can get this high if you're willing to relocate to more remote areas or to non-major cities.

The best part about it in my opinion is that he only works the equivalent of 6 months out of the year.  He has a lot of flexibility over his schedule.  For instance, he might work 7 days straight for 12 hours a day and then take the entire next week off, or he'll work 3 days a week for 12 hours and schedule some on-call duties during another day.

With all the time my uncle has, he spends it running a CRNA staffing agency, traveling, and dabbling in other businesses like real estate and retail.  For him though, the best part about nursing is that the demand is so great he knows he can get a job pretty much anywhere there are hospitals.

Of course, like any job there are some drawbacks:  1) it lacks prestige (there's still some stigma against male nurses) and 2) you need to have thick skin when doctors are yellling at you.

Overall, I think it's a great career for the right person though.

Thanks Dominic!

It takes about seven years to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). The certification requires (among other things) a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) as well as a masters in nurse anesthesia. Here is a list of schools that offer Nurse Anesthetist programs. For more information, see the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.