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.

Applying to the Progam

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 interviews or seats for regular decision applicants. Top applicants who apply for early decision will be invited to interview on a rolling basis beginning in Fall. 
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.

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.

Our goal is to matriculate approximately 100 students every year between our four program locations. Competition can be affected by the size and composition of the application pool for a particular year. Generally speaking, our applicant-to-acceptance ratio is 4:1 - for every four applicants who apply, two receive an interview, and one is accepted into the program.

You will be required to submit an MCAT or GRE score that is no older than 3 years. If you took your test over three years ago, you will need 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. The average MCAT score among MSA matriculants during the most recent application cycle was 505. The average GRE score among MSA matriculants was in the 60th percentile or above for each of the three sections.

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.

Yes, we require a $1,000 tuition deposit to hold your spot in the program. This deposit must be submitted at the time of 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 (MSA) program does not currently offer any scholarships to students while in the program, although we are currently fundraising to be able to start! 

The MSA program does award the Helmut Cascorbi Valedictorian Award each Spring at commencement to the student with the highest grade point average (G.P.A.) from each program location. There is no application process; all students in good academic standing are considered. Winners are announced just prior to commencement and receive a $1,000 award for their impressive efforts throughout their two-year tenure with the MSA program. 

Additionally, the Financial Aid Office maintains lists of outside funding and scholarship opportunities.

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

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 the CWRU MSA Program or its completion does not imply or guarantee that a student will be able to obtain licensure or employment. 

Since we review applications holistically, we recommend that you still apply to the program if you feel your application is competitive. If you do not meet our admission requirements in some way, we ask that you submit a written petition with your application. The petition should be addressed to the Admissions Committee, and it should explain what you are requesting and why you are not able to meet the admission requirement. It should also provide compelling reasons for why the committee should grant your request. The petition should be in a letter format and uploaded to the Documents section of your CASAA application. The Admission Committee will review your petition along with your other application materials when you apply. Applicants who petition will be considered only after those applicants who do meet all admission requirements. Note that petitions for missing prerequisite courses will not be approved; all prerequisite courses must be taken to be considered for admission into the MSA Program.

Before the start of our program and assignment to a new clinical rotation, the student must be compliant with required immunizations. Download our immunization sheet here.

Yes. You may start a new application, or use your CAS ID to copy your application from a previous cycle to the new application cycle. Items such as coursework, official test scores and transcripts, etc. can be copied into the new application. Evaluations, essays, payments, and program-specific information cannot be copied into the new application. More information can be found in the CASAA Applicant Help Center.

Casper scores cannot be rolled over from one application cycle to the next.

General suggestions for strengthening an application can be found here.

Prerequisite Academics

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.

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.

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.

Use the CWRU MSA Prerequisite Worksheet form for assistance in organizing your prerequisite courses.

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.

The MSA Program has high grade expectations. The average matriculant total and science GPAs during the last admissions cycle was 3.7 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.

Prerequisite courses must continue to be taken in person. We will be accepting prerequisite courses taken during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 academic years that were meant to be taught in person, but were temporarily moved online due to COVID. For our current 2023-2024 admissions cycle, all prerequisites must be taken in person.

Post Graduate Employment 

CWRU students in their second year of study have the option to do clinical rotations at nearly 80 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 nearly 100% employment rate. 

Salaries vary depending on the regional cost of living. The starting salary for Case Western Reserve University Master of Science in Anesthesia graduates is averaging above $200,000 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.