How to Become an Anesthesiologist

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How to Become an Anesthesiologist

Anesthesiologists are specialist physicians who administer pain-relieving medications during surgical procedures and monitor the patient’s vital signs.

Anesthesiologists work not only in the operating room, they also provide pain relief services for people with chronic pain, patients in intensive care units, during labor and delivery, and for the minor surgical procedure in some out-patient facilities.

If you love science, looking to pursue a career in medicine, and enjoy the stimulation and challenge of working in a dynamic environment, then anesthesiology might be the right specialization for you.

To be a successful anesthesiologist you have to be very strong academically and possess good communication skills, leadership, problem-solving skills, be calm under pressure, as well as organized and detail-oriented. For the day-to-day duties of the job a high degree of physical stamina and dexterity also helps.

As an anesthesiologist, you would be called upon to use highly specialized medical equipment and computer software, as well as deal sensitively and empathically with patients. The demand for medical doctors and anesthesiologists continues to rise as the population ages, and job growth is higher than the average.

Anesthesiologists are paid well, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, reporting an anesthesiologist’s average salary is more than $265,000. And, the anesthesiologist was ranked as the No. 1 Best-Paying Job by the U.S. News. However, in Karen Sibert’s excellent insight into being an anesthesiologist, she urges against pursuing the career for the money.

In this article, we are going to take a look at what you will need to do to become an anesthesiologist. It is not going to be fast and will generally take about 12 years before you can be registered, but here is our step by step guide.

Step 1: Undergraduate Degree

The goal is to get to medical school, so you should think of setting yourself up well for that in your choice of undergraduate degree. You must successfully complete a four-year undergraduate college program before entering medical school.

Undertaking a liberal arts degree which allows a pre-med course of study is ideal. Complete a standard pre-med curriculum, including biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, calculus, and physics. Academic majors are not important for medical school entry.

Medical schools like to see applicants who are committed to the field and already have some clinical and healthcare experience. Consider joining volunteer programs or internships in the medical field, including at healthcare clinics or hospitals where you can gain practical experience.

You can also use these experiences to gain letters of recommendation which will assist your application. Joining a pre-med club at your college can also assist with networking and work experience opportunities.

Be sure to also check out the resources your college offers, to find out more about medicine and anesthesiology – read the books and popular anesthesia journals in the library collections. The American Society of Anesthesiologists recommends reading – Miller’s Anesthesia, and checking out The Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, at the ASA Headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill. (

You will need to gain a passing score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to apply for medical school admission. The test assesses candidates’ knowledge across a variety of subjects, including physics, biology, organic and general chemistry, as well as general writing skills, critical thinking and problem-solving.

How to Become an Anesthesiologist

Step 2: Medical School

After completing your four-year bachelor’s degree, you need to complete four years of graduate education at a medical school. This will lead to a qualification in medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.).

Medical schools rotate their students through a wide range of experiences across many areas of medicine so that students can choose an area which best suits their skills and the kind of work they enjoy.

Training for anesthesiologists crosses over with internal medicine, obstetrics and pain medicine, critical care, emergency medicine, organ transplants and all kinds of surgery.

If you are excited by the operating room environment, plus enjoy working with cutting-edge medical technology you may want to pursue anesthesiology.

Step 3: Anesthesiology Residency

Once you have obtained your medical degree, anesthesiologists must spend an additional 4 years in a residency program. The first year is spent completing various hospital rotations. The next 3 years involve dedicated training in clinical anesthesia. There will be specialized training in sub-specialties like cardiac anesthesia, pediatric anesthesia, and regional anesthesia, and in the final year, residents can opt to do either advanced clinical training or research.

After residency, many anesthesiologists complete an additional fellowship year of subspecialty training in areas such as pain management, cardiac anesthesiology, pediatric anesthesiology, neuro-anesthesiology, obstetric anesthesiology or critical care medicine.

Step 4: Medical Licensing & Board Certification

All anesthesiologists must be licensed through the medical board to practice medicine in their state. As well as completing the medical degree, and a residency program, you will need to pass the practical and written exams to be licensed. For national licensing passing the United States, Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is also required.

About 75% of anesthesiologists are also registered with the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA).

Top Medical Schools for Anesthesiology

Not all medical schools have anesthesiology as part of their core curriculum, but the following school offers good options. USNews offers some great advice on what to look for in a medical school if you want to pursue anesthesiology. They rank the following medical schools as the top 10 for anesthesiology.

#1           Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

#2           UC San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA

#3           The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

#4           Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

#5           Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC

#6           University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI

#6           Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO

#8           Columbia University, New York, New York

#8           Stanford University, Stanford, CA

#10         Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, Rochester, MN

#10         University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

#10         Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT

The Association of American Medical Colleges has a complete listing of medical schools and a wealth of knowledge across all areas of medicine.

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