How to Become an Anesthesia Assistant in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an anesthesia assistant. Learn about the educational and certification requirements, job outlook and salary information, to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Anesthesia Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Anesthesia Assistant Do?

Anesthesia assistants help licensed anesthesiologists administer anesthesia and monitor patients who undergo surgery. These physician assistants are often responsible for making sure there is an adequate supply of anesthetic gas and anesthetic equipment is available and functional prior to surgery. During surgeries they are often tasked with monitoring patients, making sure air ways are kept clear and are ready to perform emergency treatment in the event of a complication. The table below provides information for this career:

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Biology (undergraduate), anesthesia (master's)
Key Responsibilities Administer painkillers and anesthetics to patients, monitor vital signs and equipment
Certification National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants certification
Job Growth (2014-24) 30%* (for all physician assistants)
Median Salary (2015) $98,180* (for all physician assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is an Anesthesia Assistant?

Anesthesia assistants, known more commonly as anesthesiologist assistants, work with licensed anesthesiologists to administer painkillers and anesthetics to patients prior to surgery. During surgery, you'll monitor a patient's vitals, such as blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. You may also be in charge of documenting any such changes during the patient's transition from surgery to post-operation.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Any undergraduate degree is acceptable as long as the premedical requirements are met. One of the best options may be to earn a bachelor's degree in biology. The program covers many of the pre-med courses needed to continue your education, including anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, genetics, physiology and pharmacology.

Step 2: Take the Medical College Admissions Test

If you intend on entering an anesthesiologist assistant program, you must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT measures the basic concepts of science and critical thinking skills needed for a medical education. The examination is divided into four sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences and writing.

Step 3: Earn Your Master's Degree

You'll want to complete a master's degree program in anesthesia. Programs are designed for prospective anesthesiologist assistants who want to work as part of an anesthesia team, which also includes nurses, an anesthesiologist technician and an anesthesiologist. Generally, 24 months are needed to complete a program that includes classroom instruction and a clinical experience. Classes teach you the basic techniques used by anesthesiologists. You'll study topics such as airway management, anesthesia delivery methods and instrumentation.

Step 4: Earn Certification

After you've completed your master's program and clinical experience, you'll need to look into certification. Certification through the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants is obtained by passing the Certifying Examination for Anesthesiologist Assistants and the Examination for Continued Demonstration of Qualifications (CDQ). You must also register any continuing education credits earned.

Step 5: Pursue Continuing Education

To be able to hold onto certification, you must take 40 hours of continuing medical education within a 2-year period. The credits earned are registered every two years, with the first earned credits registered at the time you first take the CDQ exam. You will continue to be certified as long as you meet the bi-yearly continuing education requirements and take the CDQ exam every six years.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Many of the duties performed by anesthesia assistants are also performed by nurse anesthetists who are registered nurses who specialize in the administering of anesthetics. Aside from anesthetics, physicians assistants may work in many other areas, such as primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine and psychiatry. There are other types of medical assistants as well, including dental assistant who may assist in administering anesthetics for dental procedures.

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