How to Become an Anesthesiologist: What You Need to Know in 2022

Interested in a rewarding career in the medical field? Learn how to become an anesthesiologist in 2022!

Before you undergo surgery, you’ll need to receive an anesthetic to numb the pain. An anesthesiologist is the skilled medical professional that administers that anesthetic. 

Anesthesiologists are doctors specialized in perioperative care, developing anesthetic plans, advising on anesthesiology topics, and administering anesthetics. Their ultimate concern? Safety and comfort through surgery. 

A common assumption associated with anesthesiologist schooling years is that it takes forever. Luckily, that’s not the case. But is being an anesthesiologist hard? Not if you love it and dedicate ample time to developing your skills!

If you’re interested in embarking on an anesthesiologist career, your first step is to learn how to become an anesthesiologist, including learning about the average anesthesiologist salary and duties.

We’ll discuss what you need to know about the anesthesiologist career path, including anesthesiologist schooling, the MCAT, and prospective salaries. By the end, you’ll learn how to become an anesthesiologist. 

 

How to Become an Anesthesiologist: Step-by-Step Guide

The education for anesthesiologists is vigorous, and includes the following steps: 

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Write the MCAT and Apply to Medical School
  • Complete a medical school program
  • Specialize in a residency program
  • Pursue a fellowship in a sub-specialty
  • Obtain a license and become board-certified

The below table provides detailed information on the degree, careers, skills, and requirements for an anesthesiologist.

Career Title

Anesthesiologist

Degree Requirements

Degree of Medicine Degree

Experience required

Minimum of 4 years

Salary (2022)

$308,080

How long does it take to become an anesthesiologist?

12 years

Required Skills

Communication, Active listening, problem-solving, good decision making, Leadership.

Everything you need to know about becoming an anesthesiologist is further elaborated in the guide below.

What does an Anesthesiologist do ?

Before surgery, an anesthesiologist keeps track of a patient's health condition and needs. An anesthesiologist will be by the patient's side throughout the surgery and ensure that their health is stable upon surgery completion to better progress into recovery 

Here’s a look at some of the job responsibilities of an anesthesiologist: 

  • Continuously monitor the patient’s vital signs

  • Oversee and administer anesthesia

  • Make modifications if necessary

  • Recognize any possible life-threatening crises and provide timely intervention

  • Ensure the safety of the patient and take appropriate steps to avoid any injuries to the patient’s body during the anesthetic period

You might wonder: how many hours do anesthesiologists work? Anesthesiologists work between 40-60 hours per week, making their work-life balance strained at times. But at an over $300,000 salary, the hours are worth it. 


Steps for becoming an Anesthesiologist

1

Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

The first step in education for anesthesiologists is a bachelor’s degree.  Anesthesiologist schooling does not require a designated pre-medical degree program, but we recommend completing a bachelor’s in the physical sciences to better meet your requirements for medical school. Anesthesiologist majors include biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, and health sciences.

2

Write The MCAT And Apply To Medical School

Earning a four-year medical degree is the basic criteria to become an anesthesiologist. You also need med school to pursue a doctor of medicine (M.D) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O) degree. 

Med school is one of the most competitive forms of education, and admission depends on how you fare on the MCAT. The MCAT, or the Medical College Admissions Test, is a standardized, multiple-choice exam used to determine a candidate's knowledge of science concepts, as well as their problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Most medical schools require the MCAT, but luckily, some medical schools don’t require the MCAT.

3

Complete A Medical School Program

Most medical school programs take four years to complete. An aspiring anesthesiologist’s goal in medical school is to obtain a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). During the initial two years, students will take general medicine courses like microbiology, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, medical ethics, and anatomy. 

During the remaining two years of medical school, students start to gain practical experience caring for patients in medical facilities, such as hospitals and clinics. Clinical rotations are administered by experienced physicians and permit students to explore a variety of specialties that include pediatrics, gynecology, cardiology, and geriatrics.

4

Complete An Anesthesiology Residency

At the end of medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists complete a residency for between three to seven years. Residency includes clinical anesthesia training. To successfully enroll in a residency program, students must perform well in school and obtain letters of recommendation.

5

Pursue A Fellowship In A Sub-Specialty

Anesthesiology might feel like an already specialized field, but you can specialize even further into neurosurgery, transplants, or even dental anesthesiology. Following residency, you can take a fellowship that will lead you closer to a specialist certification.

6

Get Licensed

Like all medical professionals, anesthesiologists must obtain licensure from the American Board of Anesthesiology to legally practice. This usually entails writing two exams, a basic and advanced. And, anesthesiologists must obtain continuing education credits. Different states may have different requirements on how to maintain that license.


Anesthesiologist Degree Levels

Associate

Earning an associate in this area will help students to work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist in a number of different circumstances including standard operations and emergencies. Students tend to become skilled at assessing the physical condition of patients, helping prepare patients for surgery, transporting patients, and maintaining and monitoring equipment.

EKG analysis
  • Recording the electrical activity of the heart

  • Cardiology test

  • Non-invasive procedure

  • Reflect underlying heart conditions

Objectives
  • A detailed study of the systematic method to interpret the ECG and able to identify common ECG abnormalities

Anatomy and physiology
  • Structure and relationship between body parts.

  • The function of body parts

  • Introduction to cytology

  • Introduction to neurology

Objectives
  • Study and understand the fundamental scientific concepts related to physiology.

Microbiology
  • Study of micro-organisms
  • Structure, function, use of organisms.

  • Effects of micro-organisms

  • Introduction to Virology

Objectives
  • The study of microbiology helps to treat and prevent diseases that are caused by micro-organisms.

Bachelors

Bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement that a student needs to enter a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy. The first two years of medical school focus on anatomy and physiology along with common diseases and medical disorders. Third- and fourth-year medical students complete rotations and clerkships to acquire hands-on experience in the full range of medical practice specialties.

Pharmacology
  • Study of drug action

  • Personalized medicine

  • Clinical pharmacology

  • Study of molecular biology

Objectives
  • A detailed study of biology and its techniques to be implemented in medicine.

Neurology
  • Study of disorder of nerves
  • Deals with the peripheral nervous system

  • Working of cranial nerves

  • Computed axial tomography

Objectives
  • Study and diagnose neurological emergencies to initiate treatment for patients.

Pain management
  • Dealing with improving quality of life

  • Medical practitioners

  • Pharmacists

  • Clinical psychologists

Objectives
  • A study introduced to deal with understand the fundamentals of caring for patients with acute, chronic, and cancer pain

Masters

Students interested to pursue a career as nurse anesthetist need to earn a master's degree. This program trains students to work with patients and support anesthesiologists. A detailed study of vital signs and administer numerous forms of anesthesia in various medical situations. This program comprises theoretical coursework as well as clinical practice, which helps students gain hands-on experience working under the supervision of professionals in the field.

Principles of anesthesia
  • Study preoperative and postoperative care

  • Determine anesthetic and surgical procedure

  • Anesthesia professional

Objectives
  • This course presents the theory of clinical anesthesia to Anesthesia Assistant program students

Anesthesia pharmacology
  • Drug passage across the cell membrane

  • Drug action

  • Drug interaction

  • Isomerism

Objectives
  • This course is designed to provide basic instruction in the principles of pharmacology

Anatomy and physiology for nurse anesthesia
  • Presentation of anatomy and physiology 
  • Introduction to cell physiology

Objectives
  • To govern anesthesia depending on the patient’s anatomy and physiology

Certificate

Anesthesia certificate programs focus on merging theoretical educations with experimental rotations. Students are educated about the procedures involving specialties ranging from pediatrics to neurosurgery

Critical Care Medicine Certification
  • The program helps in understanding the Management of critically ill patients, Training in primary specialty, and Specialization in critical care medicine.

Objectives
  • Utilize recognized techniques

  • Clinical judgment

  • Critical thinking

Pain medicine (PM) Certification
  • The certification includes learning of Diagnosis of painful disorders, Treatment for such disorders, Multidisciplinary subspecialty, and the anatomical basis of pain perception.

Objectives
  • Application of medicine for complicated cases

Hospice and Palliative Medicine certification
  • The course knowledge offered under this is Scientific knowledge about symptom control, Research efforts about seriously ill patients, Acquire subspecialist-level knowledge and Skills in hospice and palliative medicine.

Objectives
  • Acquiring deep knowledge about caring for seriously ill patients.


Anesthesiologist Admissions Requirements

Some states and cities have higher salaries for anesthesiologists. However, make sure you take a nuanced approach when deciding where to practice. If a city offers the highest anesthesiologist salary, chances are their costs of living are more expensive as well. 

According to US News, here are the US cities with the highest-paid anesthesiologists and their corresponding average salaries:

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania ($307,390)
  • Duluth, Minnesota ($306,350)
  • Tallahassee, Florida ($303,600)
  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina ($293,620)
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado ($287,900)

Additionally, here are the highest-paying states for anesthesiologists:

  • Iowa ($291,670)
  • Pennsylvania ($289,850)
  • Colorado ($298,920)
  • Arizona ($285,470)
  • Indiana ($282,310)

 

Best Colleges for Anesthesiologists

Here is a list of colleges that offer the best anesthesiology programs:

 

Anesthesiologist Specializations

There are several of subspecialties for an anesthesiologist.  Most of them require additional training and advanced skills. The following is a list of common specializations: 

  • Cardiothoracic: Cardiothoracic anesthesiologists train in anesthesiology for heart and chest surgeries and other invasive procedures. They also monitor a patient’s physical condition by using invasive monitors in addition to keeping an eye on the patient’s bodily reactions to drugs during a surgical procedure. 
  • Critical Care Medicine: The job of a critical care anesthesiologist is to coordinate, supervise, and manage a patient’s care with the ICU team and work closely with surgeons and other specialty consultants as needed. 
  • Neurocritical Care: Neurocritical care anesthesiologists are specially trained to diagnose and manage complex neurological conditions like encephalitis, traumatic brain injury, and spinal infections. They work in collaboration with neurologists and neurosurgeons, monitor the health of the patient throughout surgery, and take part in the pre- and post-operative measures.
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine: Anesthesiologists specializing in hospice and palliative medicine provide care to prevent and relieve the suffering of patients with life-limiting illnesses. They work in collaboration with an interdisciplinary hospice and palliative care team to maximize quality of life, while addressing the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of both the patient and their families.
  • Pediatric: Anesthesiologists specializing in the treatment of babies, infants, children, and adolescents are known as pediatric anesthesiologists.

 

Optimal Skills for an Anesthesiologist

Anyone who follows the steps to becoming an anesthesiologist will likely be able to find a position in the field. But to be a great anesthesiologist you must possess an array of useful skills. These include: 

  • Critical thinking: An anesthesiologist must possess the ability to use logic and reasoning before making any decision related to a patient’s health. They should be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of an alternative decision quickly. 
  • Active Listening: Anesthesiologists must be active listeners. They must pay full attention to the physician's team, the patient, and the surgical team. It is important that an anesthesiologist takes time to understand the points being made and asks questions at the appropriate time. 
  • Judgment and Decision-making: Anesthesiologists should possess strong decision-making skills. They should be able to make hard decisions while considering relative costs and benefits of potential actions in a timely manner, since their role may oversee choices that make the difference between life and death. 
  • Complex Problem-solving: One of the most important skills for an anesthesiologist is to identify complex problems, review related information, develop options, and evaluate implemented solutions.

 

What is the Fastest Way to Become an Anesthesiologist? 

The road to becoming an anesthesiologist is a long one. You won’t find many shortcuts on this career path, and any time decreases will come only from hard work. You might take summer school during your bachelor’s or medical school to quicken the pace to graduation. You might also aspire only to become a general anesthesiologist instead of specializing, as that fellowship will take more time. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 

    1. Do You Get Paid During Residency?

Residency students do get paid, but nowhere near as much as a licensed medical professional. On average, medical residents get paid about $63,000. 

    2. Is 35 Too Old for Medical School?

Certainly not! You’re never too old to follow your dreams and obtain a college education. 

    3. Is Anesthesia a Dying Field?

No. Anesthesiologists’ job outlook is positive, with thousands more positions expected to become available in the next ten years. More people, unfortunately, are living with complex illnesses that require surgery and anesthesia. 



The Bottom Line 

Now that you know how to become an anesthesiologist, you can decide if it’s the right career choice for you. While the job certainly entails a lot of stress, the financial rewards often make up for it. And, job satisfaction is high because you spend your days helping people get better. Looking to learn more about the anesthesiologist career path? Check out our more detailed article about anesthesiologist education requirements!