What's the Difference Between DNP and DNAP CRNA Degrees? (2024)


December 7, 2021

What's the Difference Between DNP and DNAP CRNA Degrees? (1)

By: Kathleen Gaines News and Education Editor, MSN, RN, BA, CBC

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is one of the fastest-growing fields for nurses and one of the most in-demand careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), CRNAs are expected to see a 45% increase in career growth from 2020-2030 and earn an average median salary of$183,580 per year! But as of January 2022, in order to become one you need either a DNP or DNAP doctorate degree. To help you choose between the two options, we're breaking down the differences.

DNP vs DNAP CRNA Programs

There are two common types of doctoral degrees for aspiring CRNAs: the Doctorate of Nurse Practice (DNP) and the Doctorate of Nursing Anesthesia Practice (DNAP).

What is a DNP Degree?

The DNP is a doctor of nursing practice that is rooted in clinical practice and can be earned by any individual that holds an MSN degree.The DNP is obtained through a school of nursing, and has its curriculum is set by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Individuals who do not have a degree as a nurse anesthetist but a Master’s degree in another nursing-related field can obtain a DNP.

What is a DNAP Degree?

The DNAP degree is a professional practice degree in nurse anesthesia, which focuses on the utilization of research findings for evidence-based clinical practice, education, and/or administration/business management related to nursing anesthesia.

It is approved through the Nurse Anesthetists Council of Accreditation, which focuses on the utilization of research findings for evidence-based clinical practice, education, and/or administration/business management related to nurse anesthesia.

What's the Difference Between a DNP and a DNAP?

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) accredits DNP programs while the Nurse Anesthetists Council for Accreditation (NACA) approves DNAP programs, which are specially designed for nurse anesthetist students. Nurses with other Master’s degrees can earn a DNP, while ONLY CRNAs can earn a DNAP.

Most doctoral-level degrees require around 100 credits and take about 36 months to complete. This is slightly different for CRNA programs that award DNP or DNAP degrees upon completion. The programs typically are the same length with only a few changes to the practicum aspect.

The main difference between these two degrees is that some institutions do not recognize the DNAP as a terminal degree — meaning they don’t consider it the highest degree in the field. A DNP is considered a terminal degree for any advanced practice nursing field.

This primarily affects those who wish to obtain a university faculty position, as this may have a bearing on tenure eligibility. If you’re seeking to use your doctorate for practice, however, this shouldn’t hinder your career prospects.

Show Me DNP Programs

DNP and DNAP Programs

DNP and DNAP programs can be completed both online and in class. To pursue a DNP or DNAP, individuals already would have completed a traditional or accelerated BSN program and have an MSN. In order to apply for a DNAP program, individuals must have an active CRNA license.

A DNP or DNAP program completion can take roughly one to four years. This will depend on the program and whether it is being completed on a full time or part-time basis. Programs are typically between 30-40 credit hours and 1,000 clinical hours. A percentage of clinical hours earned during an MSN program can transfer in some programs.

Nurses who have earned their CRNA with an MSN can go back to earn their DNP or DNAP.

DNP & DNAP Classes

Individuals should expect to take the following classes:

  • Advance Leadership
  • Advance Healthcare Policy
  • Clinical Information Systems
  • Research
  • Evidence Appraisal
  • Project Development
  • Clinical Information Systems
  • Statistics
  • Clinical Reasoning
  • Clinical Pharmacology
  • Advanced Health Assessment and Measurement
  • Health Promotion and Risk Reduction Across the Lifespan
  • Epidemiology
  • Ethics for advanced nursing practice

DNP Curriculum

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing released a position statement for the basis of a curriculum for a DNP program:

  • Scientific Underpinnings for Practice
  • Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking
  • Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice
  • Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Health Care
  • Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care
  • Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
  • Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation’s Health
  • Advanced Nursing Practice

DNP/DNAP Admission Requirements

Requirements for DNP and DNAP programs will vary but most will require the following:

  • MSN degree from a regionally accredited higher education institution and a nationally accredited school of nursing
  • Valid CRNA certification
  • GPA of at least 3.0 or higher in the Master's program
  • Current, unencumbered nursing license
  • RN experience
  • Letters of Recommendation (both academic and professional references)
  • Official Transcripts (from all previous colleges/universities)
  • Current Resume/CV
  • Goal statement
  • Personal essay
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nursing license at the state level
  • Interview with faculty
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) if applicable
  • Application fee

>>See Accredited CRNA Programs in Every State


  • What is a CRNA?

    • A certified registered nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice nurse who administers anesthesia for surgery and/or other medical procedures.
  • What is the average salary for CRNAs?

    • The median pay for a certified registered nurse anesthetist as of May 2020 was $183,580 per theBLS.
  • Where can a CRNA work?

    • Colleges and Universities
    • Research
    • Textbook author
    • Public Health/Government Health Policy
    • Legislation
    • Hospital administration
    • Medical and surgical hospitals
    • Critical access hospitals
    • Mobile surgery centers
    • Outpatient care centers
    • Offices of plastic surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, pain management specialists, and other medical professionals
    • U.S. military medical facilities

Show Me CRNA Programs

DNP & DNAP Program Lengths

CRNA programs, regardless of whether an individual will earn their DNP or DNAP, are all extremely time-consuming. Students are highly discouraged to work as they expected to spend about 60 hours a week studying and preparing for classes on top of the time spent in class. During the practicum, students have call time and work full-time hours while still taking classes. Some programs will offer a stipend to students.

CRNA Certification

After graduating from an accredited nurse anesthetist program, individuals will be able to take their National Certification Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

The NCE is,

  • 100-170 test questions including 30 random, non-graded test questions
  • Computerized examination
  • Preliminary exam results are delivered immediately following completion of the exam
  • Official results are mailed 2-4 weeks after the exam
  • The cost of the exam is $995

Test takers have three hours to complete the exam, which includes questions related to:

  • Basic sciences (25 percent)
  • Equipment, instrumentation, technology (15 percent)
  • Basic principles of anesthesia (30 percent)
  • Advanced principles of anesthesia (30 percent)

CRNA Recertification

The recertification process for CRNAs can be confusing. It is a combination of continuing education hours, practice hours, and examinations. CRNAs will have to recertify both their state-level APRNs as well as their CRNA certification.

The NCE recertification is broken down into two-year blocks. CRNAs will have to complete a two-year check-in and by year four are expected to complete the following,

  • 60 Class A CE Credits
  • 40 Class B Credits
  • 4 CPC Core Modules (optional)
  • NOCPC Examination

During the second four year cycle the requirements are,

  • 60 Class A CE Credits
  • 40 Class B Credits
  • 4 CPC Core Modules
  • First CPC Examination (does not affect certification)

The CPC examination is a new requirement that is starting to be implemented. According to the NBCRNA, the first CPC exam (mandatory by 2024 or 2025) will be used to familiarize CRNAs with the exam content/format and will not impact certification. The second CPC exam (mandatory by 2032 or 2033) must be passed in order to recertify.

APRN recertification will vary by state but is typically every 2-4 years and includes,

  • Practice hours
  • Continuing education hours
  • Monetary fee

Additional Resources

RN to CRNA Guide

RN to DNP Guide

DNP Career Guide

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists

American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine

American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses

International Student Journal of Nurse Anesthesia

American Association of Colleges of Nursing

What's the Difference Between DNP and DNAP CRNA Degrees? (2024)


What is the difference between DNP and DNAP anesthesia? ›

While both the DNAP and DNP require advanced degrees for practicing nurses, the DNAP is a specialty with a sole focus on anesthesia. To become an advanced practice nurse (APN), working nurses must earn their DPN degree, including those focusing on aesthetics.

What is the difference between a DNP and CRNA? ›

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Nurse Anesthesia Program is for experienced critical care RNs who hold a bachelor's degree and wish to become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). It is a 36-month, full-time, front-loaded program that includes a 21-month clinical anesthesia residency.

What do you call a CRNA with a doctorate degree? ›

An anesthesiologist has a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, whereas a CRNA is a registered nurse who has a doctoral-level degree and has passed the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists.

Do DNAP make more than CRNA? ›

Having a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) does not increase your salary. Both DNAP and MSNA make the same amount of money per year, however a CRNA with a DNAP will be more marketable, and have an advantage when applying for job.

Can a DNAP be called Doctor? ›

So, the short answer is yes – a DNP nurse may be referred to as "doctor," however, some states have legislation surrounding this. For example, Arizona and Delaware forbid nurses, pharmacists, and other professionals from using the "doctor" title, unless they immediately clarify their role.

Can a DNP work in surgery? ›

To become a surgical NP, you must also complete graduate school with either a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree or a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) degree. On average, it will take 2 to 4 years to complete either of these degrees, depending on your chosen path.

Is DNAP higher than DNP? ›

A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is a terminal degree in nursing designed to prepare nurses for leadership positions. It's one of the highest degrees you can earn in nursing. What is a DNAP? A Doctor of Nursing Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) is the highest-level professional practice degree nurse anesthetists can earn.

Do nurses with DNP get called Doctor? ›

Nurses With a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) Should Not Call Themselves “Doctor” in a Clinical Setting - PMC. The . gov means it's official.

Is a CRNA a doctorate degree? ›

Under the change, all CRNA degree programs must include a doctoral degree as of January 1, 2022, and all students enrolled in master's degree programs at that time will be required to transition to a doctoral program.

Can I be a CRNA with a DNP? ›

Difference between the DNP and DNAP Degrees

Essentially the degrees are the same and lead to you becoming a CRNA. One degree type isn't better than the other and it is really a matter of personal opinion and future career goals.

Can a CRNA call themselves an anesthesiologist? ›

CRNAs are educated to be and practice as experts in the field of anesthesiology; therefore, the term “nurse anesthesiologist” is consistent, clarifying, and appropriate to describe a CRNA.

Is an NP higher than a CRNA? ›

Compensation. As senior healthcare positions, both CRNAs and NPs often earn competitive salaries. However, working as a CRNA is the more lucrative career path. The average salary for a nurse practitioner is $113,484 per year , while the average certified registered nurse anesthetist makes $176,509 per year .

Which CRNA specialty pays the most? ›

CRNAs are also among the highest-earning categories of nurses, considering registered nurses overall earn an average salary of $82,750.
Top 10 highest-paying states for nurse anesthetists.
Average CRNA Salary$276,540
Local EstimatesGet local estimate
9 more columns
Jan 4, 2023

What is the lowest a CRNA can make? ›

According to the website Salaryexpert.com, an entry-level nurse anesthetist will command an annual salary of $120,581, while a senior CRNA will earn $220,557.

What is the highest paid CRNA? ›

Alaska ranks as the top-paying state, with CRNAs earning an annual mean wage above $208,000.
Top-Paying States for Nurse Anesthetists.
StateAverage Salary
West Virginia$247,650
3 more rows

What is the highest paid DNP? ›

1 – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist- $208,000 or more

Nurse anesthetists are consistently recognized as being among the highest paid professionals in the field of nursing.

What can a MD do that a DNP Cannot? ›

M.D: Job Duties. ○ An M.D. can prescribe medications in all 50 states and DC. ○ While a DNP can prescribe medication under their advanced practice registered nurse license, restrictions are depending on the state. ○ An M.D. can practice to the full scope of their license in all 50 states and D.C.

Can a nurse anesthetist become a surgeon? ›

A CRNA who prefers primary care practice might choose to become a family practice doctor, internist or pediatrician. Surgery is another option for the CRNA-turned-physician.

What are nurses with DNP called? ›

A "DNP" is an advanced-practice registered nurse who may specialize in the following roles: Clinical Nurse Specialist. Nurse Practitioner. Nurse-Midwife.

Can a DNP become a MD? ›

You must first complete a medical residency. Acceptance into residencies is extremely competitive for many specialties. If you hope to practice dermatology, radiology or anesthesiology to name a few, you will not be as competitive of a residency candidate graduating from a foreign NP to MD program.

Is a DNP considered a Doctor? ›

One of the first questions patients may have when they see a DNP is simple: Is a DNP a doctor? And while that question is simple, the answer is not. A DNP program is undoubtedly a doctoral program.

How long is the CRNA doctorate program? ›

The minimum length for these programs is 36 months and requires full-time enrollment, although some programs may allow student registered nurse anesthetists (SRNAs) to work part-time as registered nurses.

Is DNP the highest degree in nursing? ›

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs prepare nurse leaders at the highest level of nursing practice to improve patient outcomes and translate research into practice.

Is a DNP better than a PhD in nursing? ›

Put simply, the PhD in Nursing is a research doctoral degree, and the DNP is a practice doctoral degree. The PhD program prepares nurse leaders for careers in scientific research.

Is a DNP a master's degree? ›

A DNP is a doctorate degree in nursing and it is the highest level of education in the nursing field.

Can DNP practice independently? ›

Nurse practitioners who operate in full-practice states are also allowed to establish and operate their own independent practices in the same way physicians do. REDUCED: NPs can diagnose and treat patients but need physician oversight to prescribe medications.

How do I write my DNP credentials? ›

For example, an NP certified through the ANCC and AANP respectively would sign his/her name Kyle Andrews, DNP, AGNP-BC, FNP-C. If both certifications are of the same specialty, the name would appear as Kyle Andrews, DNP, AGNP-BC, NP-C. Here are a few more examples: Michelle Adams, DNP, MSN, APRN, ACNP-BC.

Can you be a CRNA without being a nurse? ›

To become a nurse anesthetist, you must have a registered nurse (RN) license and a master's degree from an accredited MSN program with a CRNA program.

How do I write my CRNA credentials? ›

The preferred order of credentials for all nurses, regardless of employment setting, is as follows:
  1. Highest degree earned.
  2. Licensure.
  3. State designations or requirements.
  4. National certification.
  5. Awards and honors.
  6. Other recognitions.
Jan 13, 2023

Why is it important to attend a DNP program vs DNAP or Phd? ›

Arguably, the most important difference between the two degrees will be for those who have a goal of obtaining a university faculty position after completion of the degree. For some state university's, the DNAP will not be recognized as a terminal degree, and not be eligible for tenure.

Is it better to be a CRNA or NP? ›

As senior healthcare positions, both CRNAs and NPs often earn competitive salaries. However, working as a CRNA is the more lucrative career path. The average salary for a nurse practitioner is $113,484 per year , while the average certified registered nurse anesthetist makes $176,509 per year .

What is higher than a DNP? ›

Is a DNP the same as a nurse practitioner? No, a DNP is a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and a nurse practitioner (NP) is the title bestowed on a nurse who has at least an MSN degree and has completed the nurse practitioner clinical and didactic requirements.

Do I need a DNP to be a CRNA? ›

By 2025, however, all new CRNAs must hold a doctoral degree to practice. The path to this important transition began in 2004, when the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommended adopting a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (DNP) as the standard for entering the field.

Can I be called Dr with DNP? ›

Nurses With a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) Should Not Call Themselves “Doctor” in a Clinical Setting - PMC. The . gov means it's official.

Why do CRNAs need a doctorate now? ›

A Doctorate Degree for Entry CRNAs

Joan Stanley, Ph. D., RN, FAAN, CRNP, CNL, chief academic officer at AACN, states that this move was necessary due to the growing complexity and knowledge within healthcare.

What is the highest a CRNA can make? ›

The highest-paid CRNAs can earn up to $250,000 or more , depending on their experience and the region in which they work. Several factors can affect a CRNA's salary, including experience, location, and type of employer. Experienced CRNAs tend to earn higher salaries than those with less experience.

Do CRNAs make more than physicians? ›

Rough estimates have anesthesiologists earning an average of $360,000. And that's contingent upon successfully completing a residency in anesthesiology. While CRNAs on the other hand(specialty nurses in anesthesiology) average about $170,000, which is more than some primary care doctors.

Which is harder DNP or PhD? ›

A PhD degree program typically takes longer to complete compared to a DNP program. Students might spend 4-6 years earning a PhD in Nursing. However, PhD in Nursing programs do not typically require a certain number of clinical practice hours for graduation.

Can you be a CRNA with a master's degree? ›

Education Requirements for CRNAs. Currently, you need a master's degree and national certification to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist, but that will change in 2025, when a doctoral degree will be required to enter the field.

What is the fastest way to become a nurse anesthetist? ›

Current registered nurses seeking a career change can become a nurse anesthetist with 1-3 years of critical care experience and a graduate degree from a nurse anesthesia program. This route typically takes 2-3 years for those with a BSN or 3-4 years for RNs without their BSN.

How long is residency for CRNA? ›

CRNAs don't have to complete a residency, while anesthesiologists complete at least three years of residency after completing medical school.

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