How to Become an Anesthesiologist: A Career Guide


Published in Health Articles

Are you considering pursuing a career as an anesthesiologist?

You’ve made a smart decision. With a mean annual wage of $331,000 and the employment of healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners forecast to grow 12 percent over the next decade, an anesthesiologist career is richly rewarding.

However, before you get carried over with the perks of anesthesia jobs, you need to understand what it takes to qualify for employment. Read on to learn how to become an anesthesiologist.

What Does an Anesthesiologist Do?

Before we delve deeper into the occupational path of an anesthesiologist, it’s important that you have a detailed grasp of what this professional actually does.

An anesthesiologist, or a physician anesthesiologist, is the head of the anesthesia care team in a hospital. Other professionals in the team include an anesthesia assistant and a nurse anesthetist.

Your primary responsibility is to make perioperative medical decisions. Your focus is on the pain management of patients before, during, and after surgeries. Depending on the nature of the surgery, you may need to put a patient under regional anesthesia or general anesthesia.

In addition to patient care responsibilities, it’s possible to have administrative duties in your place of work. For example, you may be tasked with ensuring the anesthesia department is well staffed.

With that out of the way, let’s focus on the steps you need to take.

Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to pursuing a career in anesthesiology is to pursue a bachelor’s degree. There’s no specific field of study you should pursue. The degree is to qualify you for medical school admission.

However, there are programs that will give you the best preparation for a career in anesthesiology. A program that majors in biology or chemistry, for example, will introduce you to scientific concepts that will come in handy in medical school.

It’s also possible to start out your career as an anesthesia practitioner. This is especially if you’re not ready to go to medical school right after your bachelor’s degree. Or when you aren’t sure whether you really want to become a physician anesthesiologist.

For instance, you could opt to first become an anesthesiology assistant. This will require you to pursue a master of science in anesthesia.

Join Medical School

Since anesthesiologists are specialized physicians, medical school is a rite of passage.

First up, though, is the medical college admission test (MCAT). You must pass this test in order to enhance your chances of being admitted to a medical school. Medical colleges will also consider other things, such as your personal attributes, before making a decision on your application.

Upon successful admission, you’ll spend four years pursuing a Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree. You’ll spend the first two years of med school in a classroom and laboratory environment. The courses you’ll take include pharmacology, anatomy, medical ethics, and biochemistry.

The last two years of med school largely involve getting hands-on experience in healthcare facilities. You’ll work under the supervision of licensed physicians, and your tasks will include diagnosing and treating patients.

Pursue a Residency Program in Anesthesiology

After medical school, get licensed as a medical doctor in your state. This requires you to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. You can then practice as a general doctor in a wide range of healthcare facilities.

However, your goal isn’t to be a general doctor. You want to become a physician anesthesiologist. You still have a couple of hurdles in front of you.

The next step is to pursue an anesthesia residency program. This is typically a four-year program offered in medical schools. You’ll undergo intensive training in the fundamentals of anesthesia, blood transfusion therapies, respiratory therapy, and many other areas.

At this stage, and depending on the options available after your residency program, you may choose to undertake additional specialty training (one fellowship year). This will enable you to specialize in a specific field of anesthesiology, such as:

  • Pediatric anesthesiology
  • Cardiac anesthesiology
  • Critical care medicine
  • Neuroanesthesia
  • Obstetric anesthesia

Get Licensed to Practice as a Physician Anesthesiologist

The last thing that stands in your way is getting licensed as a physician anesthesiologist in the state you’d like to work in.

Specific licensing requirements may vary from state to state. In general, however, you need to prove that you’ve met all the educational training requirements and passed a licensing examination.

Besides being licensed, you may choose to pursue a state board certification. The certification is optional, but most anesthesiologists are board-certified. It adds to your professional credibility and makes you an irresistible candidate for employment.

Getting Employed or Starting a Private Anesthesia Practice

Most licensed physician anesthesiologists start out by finding employment in hospitals and clinics. However, you’re free to enter private practice and start your own clinic.

Unlike being formally employed, private practice makes you self-employed. You’ll be running a business, which calls for a unique skill set. To run a successful practice, ensure you have adequate capital, build a strong team, and make the most of technology.

You can outsource some functions, such as anesthesia medical billing and healthcare data management. This way, you can focus on what really matters: providing quality anesthesiology services.

How to Become an Anesthesiologist: Start Your Journey

Having read this guide on how to become an anesthesiologist, you now know this career is as challenging as it’s rewarding. It takes a determined and competitive person to go through the rigors of medical school and residency programs. Hopefully, you’re up for the challenge.

Good luck, and keep tabs on our blog for more career tips and advice.




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