How to Become an Anesthesiologist in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for anesthesiologists. Get the facts about education, salary, licensure requirements and 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.

What Does An Anesthesiologist Do?

Anesthesiologists administer anesthetics, ensure that patients' vital signs are maintained during surgery and provide pain relief to patients. They must take into account a patient's height, weight, and medical conditions when making the crucial decision regarding the amount of drugs to administer. During surgical procedures, they also must monitor patients' vital signs like their heartbeat and breathing rate and adjust the drugs as necessary. The following chart provides an overview about a career in anesthesiology.

Education Required Doctor of Medicine
Training RequiredResidency in anesthesiology; fellowship also available
Key Skills Patience, dexterity, physical stamina, compassion
Licensure or Certification All states require doctors to be licensed; board certification in anesthesiology is available
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 21%*
Mean Salary (2015) $258,100*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is an Anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologists are physicians who specialize in relieving pain and putting patients to sleep for surgical procedures. As an anesthesiologist, you'll be responsible for monitoring and maintaining a patient's vitals during surgery. If a problem arises during surgery, it'll be up to you to restore the patient's vitals to his or her normal state.

Step 1: Learn About the Profession

In addition to performing the duties described above, you'll also provide pain relief to women giving birth, patients in intensive care, patients with chronic pain and cancer patients. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean yearly salary in 2015 for anesthesiologists was $258,100 (www.bls.gov).

Step 2: Complete an Undergraduate Degree

If you wish to become an anesthesiologist, you must earn a bachelor's degree that is considered a pre-medicine track. Pre-med programs are heavy in biology, chemistry, physics and math courses. These programs prepare you to sit for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which includes questions on basic science principles needed for success in medical school.

Step 3: Complete Medical School

To be an anesthesiologist, you must continue on to medical school to obtain a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Prior to applying to a medical program, you'll need to take the MCAT examination. The Association of American Medical Colleges states that most medical schools expect MCAT exams to be taken within three years of admission to medical school (www.aamc.org).

Medical training typically takes four years beyond undergraduate study, with the first two years spent in classroom training and the second two focused on clinical experience. Some colleges provide bachelor's degree and medical degree blended programs, which can cut back on the typical eight years of study.

Step 4: Complete a Residency

After completing medical school, you'll then undergo a residency in the specialty area of anesthesiology. The first year includes rotations through many areas of general medicine, such as internal medicine, pediatrics and emergency medicine. The second through fourth years are focused solely on anesthesiology. Some residency programs spend time on anesthesiology sub-specialties.

Post-residency fellowship programs are also valuable. Fellowship programs focus on a sub-specialty of anesthesiology, such as pediatric, neurosurgery, transplant or dental anesthesiology. These programs typically last 1-2 years.

Step 5: Get Licensed and Certified

Like all physicians, anesthesiologists must be licensed by the state in which they practice, according to the BLS. Each state has individual licensing requirements. You can also seek optional certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology (www.theaba.org). Board certification requires completion of written and oral exams.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of other medical careers that prospective anesthesiologists may want to consider. If you are interested in anesthesia, there are also careers available in nurse anesthesia. These professionals perform many of the same tasks as anesthesiologists, though only a master's degree is required for entry to the field. If you are more interested in other areas of medicine, you could choose a different speciality in medical school, like pediatrics. Pediatricians care specifically for children, and like anesthesiologists, they need to complete not only medical school, but specialized residencies and potentially fellowships in their field.

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