Anesthesiologist: Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for anesthesiologists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Anesthesia Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information At a Glance

During surgery or other medical procedures, anesthesiologists administer anesthesia or supervise administration by nurse anesthetists. The following chart gives you an overview about entering a career as an anesthesiologist.

Degree Required Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
Training Required 1-year internship, 3- to 4-year residency, followed by optional 1-year fellowship
Key Responsibilities Determine, prepare and administer proper anesthesia for each patient; monitor patient during procedure and respond to changes in status; provide for post-operative or daily pain-management; record dosage and type of medication used in patient records
Licensure and/or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification in anesthesiology is available
Job Growth (2012-2022) 18% for all physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (2014) $260,497**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Does an Anesthesiologist Do?

You are responsible for the care and safety of patients who are under anesthesia or coming out of anesthesia. In addition, you supervise the work of anesthesiology assistants on your team. Other duties include evaluating patients before surgery, conferring with surgeons, planning the type and quantity of anesthesia and managing any complications from anesthesia.

Where Could I Work?

Medical clinics, outpatient surgical centers, dental offices, pain management clinics, and hospital surgical units, labor and delivery units and critical and intensive care units are your potential employers. Teaching and research provide other employment options. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 30,200 worked as anesthesiologists as of May 2013 (www.bls.gov). The BLS expected employment of physicians and surgeons to grow 18% from 2012-2022. Increased demand for medical services by an aging population will be the main driver of growth.

What Education Do I Need?

You will have to complete four years of undergraduate studies and at least eight years of post-graduate studies to become an anesthesiologist. Relevant undergraduate majors include pre-medicine, biology or chemistry. The eight years of post-graduate study include four years of medical school, one year of an anesthesiology internship and at least three years of a residency. It is also common to complete a 4-year residency. In addition, if you're interested in practicing a specialty, you can participate in a 1-year fellowship.

Residency programs in the first year have you accumulate experience performing basic anesthesia under supervision. In the second year, you begin working in a broad range of anesthesia sub-specialties. These might include cardiovascular, obstetric, critical care, and neuroanesthesia. The third year brings you in contact with complex cases and further exploration of your preferred specialties. Some programs have a research-intensive academic track in the third year if you would rather teach or conduct research.

Fellowship programs provide an intensive immersion in a single sub-specialty. You are expected to develop deep intuitive and technical knowledge of the human physique associated with it and will work with the most complex anesthesia cases. Pediatric, cardiothoracic, trauma, and obstetric anesthesiology are some of the areas where medical schools offer fellowships.

How Do I Become Certified?

After completing your internship and residency you may gain certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) by passing a certification exam. As of April 2011, the ABA and the ABPS exams are both composed of an oral section and a written section. The format of the ABA's written section consists of 250 multiple-choice questions. The ABPS's written section consists of 200 multiple-choice questions.

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