Frequently Asked Questions

Five Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine students discussing at desks

The frequently asked questions below were curated to give you additional insight into the Master of Science in Anesthesia Program at Case Western Reserve University. The page is designed to help you get a more personal feel for our program. Some of the following questions and answers focus on curricular and prerequisite details; others are included to give you an idea of the professional outcomes for MSA Program graduates.

COVID-19 Updates: How it might impact your CASAA application

For Summer 2020, Fall 2020, and Spring 2021, the MSA Program will accept online prerequisites, including labs. We strongly encourage students to take our three key prerequisites in person: human anatomy with lab, human physiology, and biochemistry. For these courses, we feel traditional classroom learning will prepare you better for the program than online/remote learning. 

For Summer and Fall 2021, we expect that schools will mostly resume in person classes. Program prerequisites should be taken in person, unless your school intends to offer a course remotely or hybrid due to COVID-19. We continue to strongly encourage students to take our three key prerequisites in person. This may involve delaying taking these courses until the Fall or Spring semesters.

For any student not able to take our three key prerequisites in person, the MSA Program will require a copy of the course syllabus. The syllabus can be uploaded to your CASAA application and will be reviewed with your application materials.

As a precautionary action surrounding COVID-19, the MSA Program’s shadowing program has been placed on hold until further notice. The MSA Program does not require shadowing hours as part of its application, so do not hold off on applying until you can shadow. Under normal circumstances the program would encourage shadowing, but during this time it must be curtailed to protect the health and well-being of all.

For prospective students or applicants who would like to speak with a current student, contact your location of interest to schedule a chat session.

We recommend completing your application and submitting while you are waiting for your admission test scores or for your testing center to reopen. We will review your application as soon as it is submitted. 

ETS announced that the TOEFL and GRE Tests are now available at home to students who have been impacted by the coronavirus. Until test centers reopen, testing will be conducted through the use of live remote proctoring serviced by ProctorU. This real-time human monitoring of test sessions limits the number of seats available. Find answers to questions you may have on the TOEFL and GRE web pages dedicated to this purpose.

The AAMC also has information on the impacts of COVID-19 on its MCAT FAQs page.

CWRU faculty and staff are working diligently to provide courses in modalities that will enable all students to continue to move toward completing their degree and achieving their academic goals.  Regardless of the learning environment, the tuition and fees will be the same. The tuition and fees are in exchange for learning, academic credit, and certain non-academic services that will be provided whether in person, in a hybrid environment, or entirely remotely, and tuition and fees amounts will remain the same in the event the mode of course delivery changes during the semester.

Frequently Asked Questions

Applicants whose first choice is the Master of Science in Anesthesia Program at Case Western Reserve University are strongly encouraged to apply early decision. The program typically fills a significant number of seats during the early decision period, and does not guarantee seats for regular decision applicants.

Qualified applicants who apply for early decision will be interviewed in late summer or fall, and will receive an admissions decision from the program in advance of the usual notification date (usually by the end of December) stating that they have been accepted, denied, or that their application is still under consideration. Early decision applicants also have the opportunity to work one-on-one with our Network Admissions Director to strengthen their application, and have an advantage in terms of onboarding for the summer start.

However, each applicant is different and some may prefer the regular decision deadline. If you are unsure when to apply, we recommend contacting the main office at 216.368.2336 to discuss your options and find the path best suited for you.

There is no one major that is considered “better,” but a major with more rigorous science coursework may make a student feel more prepared for the MSA Program curriculum.

The admissions committee evaluates each applicant’s academic success (GPA, coursework, MCAT or GRE), letters of recommendation, meaningful life experiences, leadership, clinical experiences, research, and demonstrated commitment to healthcare. All of those pieces of information factor into decisions to interview and accept.

The Cleveland location accepts up to 27 students, the Houston location up to 32, and the Washington location up to 30.

The Austin-based students are considered a part of the Houston cohort, as they complete all didactic and simulation coursework at our Houston location. Students interested in being placed for clinical work in Austin should specify Houston as their preferred location of study when completing the application. 

All applicants are asked to rank their preferred location of study in the application. Students can rank all three program locations, or limit their choices to one or two locations. If you have selected Cleveland or Washington as your preferred location of study, but are interested in Austin as an alternative, you can select Houston as your secondary or tertiary location preference and express your interest in Austin on the personal application portal. 

No. However, all course prerequisites must be completed prior to the start of the program in the last week of May. Applicants for both the early decision deadline and the regular decision deadline should enter planned or in-progress coursework on their CASAA applications so that the admissions committee knows that they have a plan to take missing prerequisites.

You will be required to submit an MCAT or GRE score from within the last three years. If you took your test over three years ago, you will have to retake it.

If applying for the early decision deadline, we recommend taking the admissions test in April of your application year or sooner. In most instances, you should give yourself 3-4 months of study time and develop a study schedule to maximize your score.

MCAT administrators offer exams each calendar year until September. There are no test dates in October, November, or December. For this reason, applicants for both the early decision deadline and the regular decision deadline are encouraged to take the MCAT by the end of September at the latest. Scores from the September MCAT test dates are acceptable for early decision applications even though those scores are released after our October deadline.

You should aim to do as well as possible. However, the average MCAT score among MSA matriculants during the 2020-2021 application cycle was 501. The average GRE score among MSA matriculants was in the 60th percentile for each of these three sections.

The score you will want to aim for also depends on your GPA. The higher your GPA, the more you can withstand slightly lower admissions test scores

Historically, the MCAT has been the preferred admissions test for Master of Science in Anesthesia programs across the country because it is used widely by medical schools to measure aptitude for the clinical environment.

However, the MSA admissions committee at Case Western Reserve University considers the MCAT and GRE equally. Applicants who take the MCAT will not be weighted differently than those who take the GRE. You should take the test that you believe will best indicate your preparedness for graduate-level work.

The only exception would be for students whose coursework does not meet the program’s prerequisite time limits. Our three key prerequisites – biochemistry, human anatomy with lab, and human physiology – must be taken within 5 years of the application deadline. All other prerequisites must be taken within 7 years of the deadline. For any student whose coursework who does not meet the time limits, they should plan to take the MCAT since a composite score of 500 or higher on the MCAT will waive these time limits. See Master of Science in Anesthesia Requirements for more information.

Visit our Admissions Requirements for descriptions of our prerequisite courses. Applicants are encouraged to discuss the admission criteria with an academic advisor at their college or university to determine the appropriate courses to take. A good rule of thumb is for all prerequisite courses to be four-year college-level courses for science majors.

Yes. However, you must confirm that the courses you plan to take are at a four-year college level, are for science majors, and are what premedical students would take.

Please note that biochemistry and advanced statistics are typically not offered at an appropriate level at community colleges. Additionally, no survey, introductory, or remedial courses will be accepted, and no courses specific to a particular discipline (such as engineering or nursing) will be accepted.

No. While the MSA Program appreciates applicants with prior training or clinical experience, the curriculum is specifically designed for training the certified anesthesiologist assistant professional. Although other coursework may be similar, the MSA Program offers courses with a unique emphasis in anesthesia and the anesthesia care team model, as defined by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. 

No exceptions will be made for required prerequisite coursework, admissions test, or required graduate-level coursework within the MSA Program, regardless of degrees or certification received, prior experience, work background, or education. All accepted students must meet the admission requirements and follow the entire course curriculum.

Yes, we require a $3,000 tuition deposit to hold your spot in the program. This deposit must be submitted along with your written acceptance. The tuition deposit will be applied to your summer tuition once you matriculate.

Your deposit will be forfeited if you withdraw after accepting a spot in the incoming class. No exceptions will be made.

The Master of Science in Anesthesia Program awards the Helmut Cascorbi, MD, PhD Scholarship annually to the three students who earn the highest combined score on their clinical evaluations and exams at the end of their first year. The three scholarships of $500 are typically limited to one student per location of study. This number is not fixed, and can vary based on the program’s assessment of the cohort.

There is no application process; all first-year students are considered in the spring of their first year. Winners are announced in the summer term of the second year.

The program established the Cascorbi Scholarship in 2011 to honor Dr. Cascorbi’s significant and fundamental contributions to the anesthesiologist assistant program at Case Western Reserve University and his long commitment to the CAA profession.

Additionally, both the School of Graduate Studies and the Financial Aid Office maintain lists of outside funding and scholarship opportunities.

Please review the lists careful as these are generalized lists, and not all opportunities are available to or suitable for MSA students.

CWRU students in their second year of study have the option to do clinical rotations at nearly 100 affiliate hospitals. Our students are often invited to consider employment opportunities during their second-year rotations. By identifying where they would like to work and planning their second year carefully, CWRU students are likely to have at least one job offer prior to graduation.

Certified anesthesiologist assistants (CAAs) and nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are considered equivalents. The primary difference between the two is that CAAs have a premedical background while nurse anesthetists have a nursing background.

With regards to physician assistants, CAAs are similar in that they are both allied health professionals and physician extenders. The scope of practice for a physician assistant can be broader than a CAA because CAAs are focused on either general anesthesia care or specialty anesthesia care (such as anesthesia for pediatric patients).

Yes. CAAs continue to be in high demand due to the nationwide shortage of anesthesia care providers. Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in Anesthesia graduates specifically have experienced a 99.28% employment rate in the field for the past ten years.


Salaries vary depending on the regional cost of living. The average starting salary for Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in Anesthesia graduates is approximately $160,000 for a 40-hour work week, plus benefits and consideration of on-call activity. An increase of approximately 5% to 15% should be expected after the first or second year. Salaries are comparable to compensation paid to certified registered nurse anesthetists employed within the anesthesia care team nationally.

A criminal history is not taken into consideration during the application review process. However, students need to pass a criminal background check in order to be able to participate in clinical rotations at our partner hospitals, as well as to obtain their CAA licensure. If admitted, a prior felony conviction may restrict a student's ability to successfully complete the program or disqualify a student from obtaining professional licensure or employment. Acceptance into CWRU MSA Program or its completion does not imply or guarantee that a student will be able to obtain licensure or employment. 

The MSA Program has high grade expectations. The average matriculant total and science GPAs during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle was 3.6 across the MSA Program sites. Of course, the higher your grades, the better. It's much tougher to get into the MSA Program with low overall and science GPAs. For students who earned C grades in prerequisite courses, we recommend retaking these courses to improve your GPA and make your application more competitive.