Second guessing starting CRNA school


I worked pretty hard this past year to get accepted to a program. I'm a California RN (born and raised) and, and was recently accepted to a program across the country with 4 months notice to start.

As I'm starting to get all of my ducks in a row to move across the country, I find myself questioning whether or not this journey is going to be financially worth it for me given the job market for CRNAs in my state. The work REALLY fascinates me. The debt along with moving to a different state and potentially not being able to come back to California as a new grad are what has me second guessing everything. The added stress on my relationship (married, luckily no kids), and the fact that in my situation I will graduate with 150k in student loans doesn't help either (all of my family support is in state).

I'm one of those California RNs who makes good money. I take home about $7k/month after taxes working three 12 hour shifts per week at one place, and an extra 12 hour shift every two weeks at my per diem. I also like and don't mind critical care. I'm good at it. I have an offer to make better money in travel ($9600/month take home after taxes which is the take home for $200k/year gross in California) an hour away from where I live in a location that I've always wanted to live for awhile. If you travel up in Northern CA the pay comes close to $13k/month. Lots of people do this and knock out 5 or 6 shifts in a row and then fly back home, or rent a shack and bank it. Financially this seems like such an awesome deal.

A friend of mine also recently started out as a new grad CRNA in the area for $130k/year. This translates to $10k/month prior to taxes, roughly $7700/month after taxes in California according to a paycheck calculator. Not all that great considering my student loan payments will be around $1500/month, which would leave me with a take home of $6200/month. Less than I take home now. The work would be better in the long run, and anesthesia fascinates me. I've always wanted to do it. However, money makes the world round, and I have bills to pay. I would HAVE to move and pick up OT in order to make it financially worth my while, and I'm not sure that I would really want to leave my family and the entire social network that I've built throughout my life for a job. I REALLY enjoy my life outside of work.

I have NO desire to go rural (although I would if I absolutely had to make ends meet), but I feel like this has been my dream for so long that I don't want to regret not taking a shot at it. I'm OKAY with moving to another state for school, but I question whether or not living in a different state to work after school, and leaving friends, family, and uprooting my wife from her friends and family as well will be worth it.

Should I just suck it up, and follow my dream, or just enjoy life and continue working a job that I don't mind working? Maybe focus on getting into management or something else in the long run? I don't want to regret anything either way.

I want to enjoy my work more (Anesthesia would do this), but I also don't want to cripple myself financially and end up in a worse spot than I'm currently in. I guess this is more of an emotional decision than it is a logical one, since happiness isn't always dictated by money. I guess I could be happy either way.


88 Posts

I'm in CRNA school now and I can say it's hard to continue each day to be honest. School is so hard. I have a ton in loans (but no wife/kids) and I always question why I do this. Then I remember how much happier I'll be as a CRNA and I keep going. My school also frequently makes us remember how great the profession is.

Only you can decide if it's worth it. It is to me. Make sure your wife is fully on board with it as well, that will make things easier.


179 Posts

I'd have to think long and hard about that. You need to run the numbers on all that factoring in how much higher your salary could get to with more experience as a CRNA.

Not only are you going to take out 150K in loans, but you will forgo another 300K in income while you are in school. That's a hit of nearly half a million.

How many years do you have left in your career and what is the difference in lifetime earning potential for RN vs CRNA? That's what I would want to know.

I am still leaning toward pursuing CRNA, but where I work it is a no brainer. RN starts at 45K, CRNA starts at 130K - nearly triple. With 150K in loans and 150K in lost income, the career change would be paying off after only four years as a CRNA. Can't tell if it would ever pay off in your scenario.


33 Posts

If you are not planning to move out of CA,and you enjoy your current work well enough it doesn't seem to me to be worth it right off the bat. However if you are having to work some crazy hours to pull down your current RN salary in the long run it might be worth your investment of time, money and lost salary depending on how long you forsee yourself working.


5 Posts

As far the money goes it really is a no brainer. CRNA's make 150K-190K to start where I'm at. The last hospital I worked at the nurses could make $40 a hour but only after 18 years experience. The amount of money you give up for two years of school is your RN wage not CRNA money and you then have the rest of your career to make up the difference. However the biggest question you should be asking is your reasons for wanting to be a CRNA and your commitment. If it is just for the money then don't do it. I tell people it's probably the hardest thing you're ever going to do with your life and if you think that these personal circumstances are going to prevent you from being successful now just wait until you're studying and going to clinical every day all day. I've met people who actually left their spouse and families behind for two years and moved to another state and then came back a CRNA. Whenever I'm feeling bummed out about how hard CRNA school is I come here and read posts like yours and remember that I was once in the same position and why I made the choice that I did. You should be glad to have a spot in a program but if you don't want it then I'm sure there are 20 other people who are ready to take it. Good luck