best/most affordable CRNA path for a career change

  1. Hi,
    My background is in IT. I don't have any extra money in the bank now, am currently unemployed, and just found a new job for $40k/year in a helpdesk job. I am in my early 30s, female. I have been exploring careers and considering CRNA. I have a computer science related bachelors. I don't have a lot of money and want to know what is the most affordable path to becoming a CRNA while getting a decent education? Math/science were my strong points in school. There are a few issues I am concerned about.
    In short, I'm thinking the path will be something like this:
    -Online Pre-requisites while working, then a 16 month BSN program. Or give up my full-time job to take the pre-requisite courses full-time and go into a lot of student debt for 2 years
    -ICU for a year
    -Master's program for 28 months
    So it will take me about 6 years total.

    I have a few concerns:
    I don't have any pre-requisites now and limited money. Would it make more sense to take them online while working, or quit my job to take them full-time? I'm concerned about how courses transfer from school to school and that taking an online course at one place would not count when applying to another school. I like the programs that pretty much ensure a spot in the nursing program if you take the pre-requisites, but the ones I've come across are too expensive.
    E.g., Utica College in Liverpool - the pre-reqs can be taken online. I'm not how much the pre-requisites will cost but if it's $800 per credit, for 34 credits of pre-requisites that's $27k? The tuition is over $50k.

    There are some nursing programs where the tuition is $10k, and since I'll be out of state, maybe it will be another $15k for rent, food, expenses, etc. So it will cost me about $25k/year to do a nursing program if I'm not working. Since I need to take the pre-requisites still which could take 2 semesters, that might be 2.5 years of nursing school (not working), at least, so it will put me at over $60k in debt.

    I don't want to go into a huge amount of debt. I could work while taking the online pre-requisites but I'm not sure how realistic that is, will I have time to do all the pre-reqs to enter by July 2018?

    I am single now but I want to date, get married and have kids maybe in the next 5 years. I thought maybe I could meet someone through the school, and try to socialize on weekends. But by the time I have kids that will be when I graduate so I didn't want to get the degree and not be able to work and be stuck with a ton of debt. Does being a CRNA fit into this?

    Thanks!
    Nicole
    Last edit by niiicole on Aug 19
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  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   carocam
    Wow - there is a ton of information in your post and I will try to contribute since I am 30-something year old woman applying to CRNA school. First off - make sure without a doubt that you want to be a CRNA before you pursue the pathway. You may have already done this, but since you said you make $40K a year now I am assuming part of the draw is the high salary of CRNAs. I get it - it's appealing to me too - but I also really want to be a CRNA. Some nurses I know working in the ICU would never want to pursue CRNA. And some think they do until they shadow and then decide it's not for them. If after all of that you still want to do it you should check out some of the least expensive programs and time commitments, etc. and go for whichever is the best bang for your buck. It sounds like you already have looked into this and have it somewhat figured out. Once you get to the point of CRNA applications you will probably have no option other than taking out loans, but there are some less expensive school options for CRNA. Also - one year of ICU before school is doable, but remember it is the minimum amount!

    Make sure you don't overload your schedule. I made that mistake during part of my undergrad of ended up with one TERRIBLE grade. If CRNA school is your goal you still have to get As and Bs, not Bs and Cs.

    Finally, as a woman in your 30s I recognize that you only have so much time to have children. That one is a tough call. I have some perspective on that one, because I felt like I had to choose between babies or school. In some ways you do. I was going to apply to CRNA school a few years ago but I met the guy I thought was "Mr. Right" and a surprise pregnancy left me with no choice but to delay school. Long story short I am now single with no support from this man and a small little one. If I could go back I would tell myself to put school first and forget the relationship. CRNA school with small kids is possible, but you lose out on seeing so much of their precious first years. However, if you are set on having a family no-one will really want to tell you to put it off until the moment, lest you miss your chance.

    Anyway...I could go on and on on this subject, but I hope that you get some answers and find what you are looking for in all areas of your life.
  4. by   niiicole
    Thanks for replying

    Yes I was drawn to the salary but I am interested in science as well. For me my strength was in math/science in high school and I feel in a way like I'm "wasting" my abilities if I just stay at a 40k/year job. But I made a spreadsheet to compare the costs. I am able to get a $60k/year job eventually and save $30k/year from that. If I do a CRNA, it's about 5 years of not being able to work. And maybe $25k/year for two years for nursing school and pre-requisites, and maybe another $70k for the master's. And maybe another $10k from the student loan interest. So it's at least $130k invested.

    If I'm making $150k, the taxes will be higher, so maybe that is $100k after taxes. There is liability insurance costs for a CRNA (maybe $300/month?). Also if I'm making more I'll probably spend a bit more than if I were making less. I calculated the amount of savings I would have after 20 years and it would be about the same.

    Also there is an opportunity costs of going to school. If I study 2 hours a day and 4 hours a week, that's 18 hours a week from studying. Instead of studying, I could use this time to take a part time job of $15/hour. Over 5 years, this would be about $50k after taxes in an opportunity cost from the time spent on studying.

    Going the CRNA route, it would take about 9 years until I break even to get out of the debt and start making money. (The first two years I assumed I would make $120k instead of $150k).


    After 20 years, I would "only" have maybe $40k more in savings as a CRNA, which amounts to less than $200/month.

    Also there are a lot of issues/risks that I see from the CRNA path:
    -There is a risk that if it takes longer than expected in this path and I may need to get a doctorate. It's already 2017 and I have 8 years until it becomes 2025 when a doctorate is needed but it will take me at least 6 years to do the path of a CRNA. If it takes 7 or 8 years I'm cutting it close to the limit. I'm not against doing a doctorate but it would add to the cost.
    -I have a more laid back personality and I'm not "aggressive." I'm not sure if this would matter since I've read that a lot of CRNAs are type A personality?
    -Liability issues. I am afraid to take on a lot of responsibilities and losing my career over an accident.
    -Another issue for me is dating. I think that it would intimidate a lot of guys if they found out how much I was making. Has this been an issue for any other female CRNAs?
    -And one of my goals in life is to have kids. I'm afraid if I have kids in the next 6 years that I won't have time to practice before having kids. Then my skills would not be up to speed. Maybe I could return to the work force in the future to work. I would rather have kids than go to CRNA school.
    -I find an IT office to be comfortable than a hospital environment. The downsides of being in a hospital environment: wearing scrubs, exposed to diseases, dead bodies, gross images, etc. these are things I don't have to deal with in an IT office. Even if we have to wear professional or business casual clothes in an IT office environment, it doesn't seem as restrictive as scrubs. I like fashion and I like being able to express myself through clothes, and it's hard to do that with scrubs. I am prepared to deal with those things, but there is a comfort for me in being in an IT office where I don't have to encounter those things. But they are also things I am willing to give up to be a CRNA, but it's just something that I am considering.
    -It's very competitive
    -If after 6 years of schooling I don't like it then I am out of luck and stuck
    -I will have limited time for hobbies

    If I stay in IT, if I can get a $60k year job and save $30k, and invest it at 5%, I would be at about the same place financially as if I became a CRNA. I am still researching things and undecided.


    How long did you give up school for to be with your kids before you thought about going back?
    Last edit by niiicole on Aug 19
  5. by   ICUman
    Quote from niiicole
    It's already 2017 and I have 8 years until it becomes 2025 when a doctorate is needed but it will take me at least 6 years to do the path of a CRNA.
    Actually, anesthesia schools will all be changed to a doctorate degree by the year 2022. By 2025 all new CRNA's must be prepared to practice at the doctorate level. That means, anyone graduating after December 2024...must have a doctorate.
    So really that's just over 4 years from now.

    Consider software engineering. They make as much money as CRNA's and it only requires a bachelors degree. Just saying.
  6. by   niiicole
    OK, thanks for that info. So I don't really have much time left, to enter school within 4 years. It'll be really tight.

    I have considered it but it's not my strength. I am not good at developing software or programming, and I don't enjoy it. I took a helpdesk job because I like interacting with the customers. You have to know how to actually develop to be good at software engineering, I don't think it's something that anyone can excel at to be making $150k. Even to get an entry level job that pays $60k-70k year you have to be pretty good at it and have a certain level of proficiency.

    There isn't any other field where I can realistically make $150k.


    Financially, I'd be pretty happy if I could find a $60k/year job that I enjoy, without going into more debt (although I'm willing to do a year or two of school if it would help me to secure a job that pays about this much that I really like).
    I don't need to make $150k.

    A regular nursing job as a RN doesn't appeal to me, so I'd only be going through that with the goal of CRNA in mind. Some of the courses seem pretty interesting and I believe I can handle the curriculum. But I want to have kids too, and I'd have to wait until my late 30's if I do that.
    Last edit by niiicole on Aug 20
  7. by   m1lkofamnesia
    You will likely need more than 1 year of ICU experience, for most programs. Most are looking for at least 2 years.
  8. by   JWOkStRN
    The commitment required for CRNA school needs to be more than financially driven. Does the earning potential help? Absolutely, however, you have got to want to be a CRNA for more than the money. It is a huge time commitment for school. Most if not all programs do not allow outside employment during their programs because the academic environment is rigorous and the clinical requirement do not allow for it.

    As for not liking scrubs or the "icky" hospital environment, sorry boutcha. That's unavoidable. Scrubs are actually pretty comfy, it's like wearing pjs if you ask me. The gross stuff you see, you get use to it. You have to look past all the gross and realize that there is a human life in the balance.

    I'm starting CRNA school as a 36yo female. Fortunately for me I have no desire for children and have been married to Mr. Right for 12 years. He is extremely supportive of my commitment to school. You have to be willing to sacrifice if this is truly the career path you want. There isn't a CRNA program in my state, so we have to move. We have committed to that sacrifice. That means selling our home, giving up friends, giving up family, starting over, going from 1600 sq feet to 700sq feet. You get the picture. Long story short...what are you willing to give up, and by the sounds of your previous posts the risks are not worth the rewards. I started my journey in the medical field 9 years ago. It has taken me 9 years combined with prerequisites, nursing school, working in an ICU, and preparing myself personally and professionally to get to CRNA school.

    I hope you find the answers you're looking for. Best of luck.
  9. by   Brittanyoc1630
    WOW you're good with numbers!!! I think you should work in finance, potentially financial planning. I don't say this sarcastically you're extremely bright and obviously gifted in mathematics. However getting you CRNA is much more than math and sciences, it is a lot of customer service too and building trusting relationships with patients! Please do not take this comment as an attack it just doesn't seem like something that is worth your time or money if it isn't something you truly want based on the principles of helping people which can be very challenging, and stressful.
  10. by   niiicole
    Thanks for the replies.

    I do like customer service. One of the things I like about an IT support job is being able to have some interaction with people and knowing I have resolved their technical issues. I'm an introvert but I do like to have some interaction with people so working with patients and stuff doesn't bother me. I like to be social every once in a while, so I'm not a complete introvert either all the time. I'm an easy going person so I don't tend to have conflicts with people. I think I would enjoy using my science knowledge to help a patient.

    I think it takes a more outgoing personality to work in finance and I'm not sure if I have that. It's hard to get a finance job without previous experience, I have tried before. But it's an area I will keep in mind, thanks for the suggestion.

    One of my main goals is to date and find a serious relationship in the next few years and I'm not sure how CRNA school will fit into this. I feel like I don't have too many "younger" years left and I'd rather spend the rest of those years dating than buried in books. But if I don't do it and I settle for a $40k job, is it wasting my potential?

    If I have kids I don't mind being a stay home mom for a few years, would that be wasting my efforts to get a CRNA? If it is possible to at least find a serious relationship, get engaged and married before when I finish CRNA school, then I could have kids afterwards. And maybe wait a few years after I graduate before I start practicing? So I might not start practicing until I am 40 years old. Would I forget everything that I've learned by then? These are just some of the thoughts that are coming to mind.

    There are some Doctorate degrees that are 3 year, and a master's in 2-2.5 years so even if I have to get a Doctorate if I enter after 2022 it wouldn't be more than a year more.
    Last edit by niiicole on Aug 20
  11. by   jj224
    It's been mentioned, but you will need more than 1 year in the ICU.

    Doctorate programs will cost more. You're underestimating interest.
  12. by   niiicole
    Is the following timeline realistic?
    -2 semesters of pre-requisites (take them online, while I am working full-time), maybe Spring 2018 and Summer 2018.
    -Apply to a ABSN program starting Jan 2019.
    -finish ABSN by summer 2010.
    -get certified as a RN, start working right away.
    -Apply for Doctorate entry for Fall 2012. (So I can fit in 2 years of ICU experience). At the time of application, it might be 1.5 years but would they count the fact that by the time I start school it would add more ICU experience?
    -3 years of doctorate, until Fall 2015.

    Wow, so that's 8 years out from now.
    I will be 40.

    How much is realistic to expect for expenses or earnings?
    e.g.,
    year 1, 2, 3: save maybe $20k from my job in the next year. cost 25k/year for two years for pre-reqs, ABSN
    year 4, 5: 2 years ICU, making $60k/year (maybe I can save $20k/year from that)
    year 6, 7, 8: cost 30k/year for a Doctorate program? (total cost: almost $100k)
    + student loan interest maybe another $20k.

    I also want to date, fall in love, and get married, etc.
    I can wait to have kids until I'm 40 but then I won't be able to "use" the CRNA I just got right away. I may be in debt.
    Be a stay home mom for a few years.
    Then start my career? Bad idea?

    Maybe this is not for me.
    Last edit by niiicole on Aug 21
  13. by   PVCCHoo
    I'd make sure you could spend the rest of your career as a nurse before even taking that first prerequisite class.

    I was in roughly the same spot as you 5 years ago - stuck in a 35K a year job - and decided to make a change. I don't think I even knew what a CRNA was until I was already back in school.

    Anyways, I had a prior bachelors and started with A&P in Jan of 2013. Graduated nursing school in May of 2016. Now have one year in ICU this month. Will apply to DNP program this winter and IF I get in will graduate in Dec of 2021 - 9 full years from my first prerequisite. I could have maybe shaved a year or two off that, but doing it in any less than 6 would be tough.

    I plan to stay the course, but lots more with the idea of becoming a CRNA will not. I worked all through school and paid for most of it with scholarships. Have a nice stack of cash to pay my mortgage while I am school, so will come out with 150K in debt plus around the same in lost income.

    20 years as a CRNA at 150 vs even 75 as an RN yields a lot more than 40K in additional lifetime savings at the end of the day by my numbers.

    I'd check my math again if I were you. But I'd also think long and hard about if you actually want to be a nurse first.
  14. by   niiicole
    You would have maybe
    20 years as a RN @ 75k (60k after taxes): 20*60000 = $1.2 million

    You will be in school for at least 5 years, so you will have maybe 15 years as a CRNA, minus schooling costs:
    15 years as a CRNA @ 150k/year (after taxes 100k): $1.5 million
    Even this already is not that much different, 1.5 million vs 1.2 million
    The difference is 300k

    $30k for nursing school, $100k for master's
    Difference: $170k

    And actually if you are CRNA the first two years you might make maybe $120k ($90k after taxes), not $150k. So take out another $20k.
    Difference: $150k.

    As a CRNA you have to pay maybe $4k/year for malpractice insurance. Over 15 years that's $60k.
    Difference: $90k.
    If you make more probably you will spend more, etc. You will probably spend more if you have the lifestyle of a CRNA than a RN. If you spend an extra $5k making $150k compared to making $75k/year, over 15 years that's $75k.

    Difference: $15k.

    Any student loans? Probably it will be $15k.
    Difference: negative now.

    Plus all the time studying to be a nurse, etc. (study/classes extremely hard, 10-15 hours a week and some people spend more on schoolwork. this is opportunity cost and time you could take a part time job, like driving for uber even if it only pays $12/hour.. let's say $10hr/hour after-taxes, for 15 hours a week, for 5 years of studying, that's 10*15*52*5 = $40k). And this is a low estimate, a lot of people study for more than 2 hours/day.
    no holidays, weekends, etc.
    Even if you add in 2 years of savings from working as a ICU it's still negative.

    + no guarantees you will get into school
    + liability issues
    + very competitive (is it true the competition for getting into CRNA school is way more than the competition in the job market to get a good RN job)?
    etc.

    So basically why work like 2x as hard for less money?

    I think this makes sense to do only if you love science/medicine or just want to be a CRNA, because financially I don't think it's worth it.

    Maybe you would prefer to study and get paid effectively for like $12/hour instead of driving for uber or taking another job for $12/hour. If you enjoy the subjects normally learned in nursing school or CRNA (pharmacology, anatomy, anesthesia, etc.) this could be a good way to spend your time and effectively get paid through your eventual earnings (even if it's a low rate). But I think most people don't really like the studying part, they are just doing it to get the higher salary later. So then I would say you could just drive for uber in the time you would have spent studying for school and make the same amount. But I think taking a random part time job for $12/hour job could be a good way to meet people or explore skills.


    I would rather have a $50k/year job and have weekends, evenings, holidays, etc. free to pursue other interests than work 50% harder for $60k/year
    Last edit by niiicole on Aug 22

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