How To Become an Anesthesiologist

Information Last Verified: September 14, 2021 by Jordan Fabel

If you want to know how to become an anesthesiologist, you should first understand what this career is. As an anesthesiologist, you will play a very important role in the process of a surgery. The anesthesiologist is the person that administers the anesthesia.

While this isn’t the only thing you will do, it is a very large part of this career. As an anesthesiologist, you will likely earn a very high salary, too. Let’s look at the job duties of an anesthesiologist, and how you can become an anesthesiologist.

How To Become an Anesthesiologist

Job Duties of an Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor with a specific specialty in anesthesiology. You may become an anesthesiologist with a Doctor Osteopathic Medicine Degreeor a Doctor of Medicine Degree.

You will be trained to work with anesthesia when patients need surgery or another medical procedure. The type of anesthetic you will use may vary quite a bit. It could be a mild numbing agent or general anesthesia. It will often depend on the type of procedure needing to be done.

The job duties of an anesthesiologist will include specific things done before, during, and after surgery. This role is very important when it comes to surgery. Your duties will include:

When you work as an anesthesiologist, you will likely work in a surgical setting. Some specialties will allow you to work with chronic pain in another setting, however. You may treat patients with migraines, fibromyalgia, or another chronic condition.

How To Become an Anesthesiologist in 9 Steps

Step #1 – Do Very Well in High School

An anesthesiologist is a doctor, so you will need to do well in high school to enter this career. The best doctors will have a high GPA and score well on the SAT or ACT. With high scores, you will be able to get into a better bachelor’s degree program.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is the next stepping stone in the path to becoming an anesthesiologist. You will want to get a degree in natural sciences, biology, or another related field. A GPA from 3.5 to 4.0 is likely going to be necessary to help you get into medical school, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

Step #3 – Score Well on the MCAT

Passing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) isn’t enough. You need to score very well if you want to get into a top medical school. A passing score will help, but a higher score will give you an even better chance to get into medical school.

The right test prep course for the MCAT can make a huge difference. Many students use a top test prep course to ensure they can score higher on the MCAT.

Step #4 – Finish Medical School

As an anesthesiologist, you will be a doctor. This means, you need to complete medical school, which will take about four years. During this schooling, you will learn about all the major areas of medicine and prepare for your residency.

Step #5 – Pass the USMLE

You will also need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) to become an anesthesiologist. This exam is required in all states and you will take the first two parts in medical school. The final part will be taken after you receive your degree.

Step #6 – Finish a Residency Program

You will need to complete a four-year medical residency program after graduating from medical school. The first year will put you in a variety of rotations in a hospital. The final three years will be specific to anesthesia training. You can go into many different subspecialties during your residency, as well.

Step #7 – Get your State License

After completing a residency program, you will need to apply for your state license. This license will be given through the state medical board. Those who have completed the necessary requirements will earn a license.

Step #8 – Complete a Fellowship

A fellowship isn’t necessary but can allow you to gain experience in a subspecialty. If you choose to go this route, it will take one or two years to complete your fellowship. Common options include pediatric, dental anesthesiology, neurosurgery, or transplant.

Step #9 – Become Board Certified

You don’t have to become board certified to work as an anesthesiologist. However, it’s a good option and can help earn you a higher salary. You will need to apply to take the exam and pass the exam to become board certified.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming an Anesthesiologist

How much can I make as an anesthesiologist?

If you become an anesthesiologist, you can earn an average salary of about $398K per year, according to Salary.com. The range runs from about $296K to more than $500K per year for this type of medical career.

Your actual salary will be determined by your employer, experience, and your location. New York offers the highest average salary, while Texas, Pennsylvania, and Arizona are next on the list.

According to doctorly.org, if you work in an office with multiple specialties, you will earn around $345K per year. If it’s a single-specialty office, the pay will be closer to $340K per year.  Solo practices will pay around $294K per year, while outpatient clinics pay around $283K per year.

What type of benefits does an anesthesiologist receive?

Most employers will provide you with malpractice insurance, AD&D insurance, a flexible spending account, and health insurance. It’s also common to have access to employee stock purchase plans, a 401(k), life insurance, loan assistance, and relocation assistance. Other benefits may be available, depending on your employer.

What type of hours does an anesthesiologist commonly work?

This is a full-time medical position that will usually require quite a few hours every week. Some anesthesiologists will work 24-hour shifts alternating with days off. It’s not uncommon for an anesthesiologist to work 60 to 80 hours per week.

Some positions will include 12-hour shifts. You may also need to be on call 24/7. Your employer will likely determine your hours, along with the current surgeries and emergency surgery needs of the facility.

How long will it take me to become an anesthesiologist?

The entirety of education and residency will take about 12 years to complete. You will need to finish a bachelor’s degree (four years), medical school (four years), and a residency (four years). Some programs will allow you to complete your bachelor’s degree and medical school together in just six years. This can shave two years off the total and allow you to become an anesthesiologist in just 10 years.

Where do anesthesiologists work?

You will likely work in a hospital or medical facility where surgery is performed. Most anesthesiologists work with inpatient and outpatient surgeries.

What type of qualities are important for an anesthesiologist?

You will need to have the right education and experience, of course. Along with the education and experience, you want to have good communication skills, stamina, and dexterity.

Since you will stand or sit for long periods, you need to have plenty of stamina. During this time, you will still need to be attentive to your patient. Surgeries can last several hours.

Dexterity is necessary as you will be inserting endotracheal tubes, intravenous lines, and performing other procedures. These procedures need to be done with incredible precision and care.

Of course, any medical position requires excellent communication skills. You will need to answer the questions of the patient and their family. It’s also important to work with other medical professionals and communicate well with them.

Is this career growing?

Yes, but it’s growing very slowly. Compare to the average of all occupations, the occupation of an anesthesiologist is growing a little slower at about 4% over the next four years.

If you’re interested in a high-paying medical career, becoming an anesthesiologist is a great choice. This is one of the higher-paying options in healthcare today. It will take many years to become an anesthesiologist, but it can be a very rewarding career.

Use the steps above about how to become an anesthesiologist. Along the way, make sure you score very high on the necessary exams and keep your GPA up.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story takes more time. Coming soon!