How do I Become an Anesthesiologist?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
An anesthesiologist administering inhalation anesthesia before surgery.
An anesthesiologist administering inhalation anesthesia before surgery.

A person who wants to become an anesthesiologist will spend many years in training for this field. Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who have completed several more years of specialty training beyond medical school. The field is one in which there exists high demand for precision and competency, and it offers doctors the opportunity to work with many different types of patients.

Anesthesiologists must know how to produce all levels of sedation, from a twilight sleep to a deep, fully anesthesized sleep for surgeries.
Anesthesiologists must know how to produce all levels of sedation, from a twilight sleep to a deep, fully anesthesized sleep for surgeries.

Anyone who would like to become an anesthesiologist first begins by graduating from high school, and applying in senior year to colleges. Grades should be good, to have the most opportunities to attend college, and people should especially focus on studies in math and science. These are of particular importance in preparing for training in medicine.

Anestesiologists must complete several additional years of specialty training beyond medical school.
Anestesiologists must complete several additional years of specialty training beyond medical school.

In some countries, like in the UK, students complete medical school with college. In the US, a student who wants to become an anesthesiologist will need to get a four-year college degree before going to medical school. Typical majors that are appropriate include those in pre-med or in the sciences. Some people also train as registered nurses and receive a Bachelor of Science in nursing. In junior year, students will need to take the MCAT or Medical College Admission test, and must score well on this test. Grades in college must be excellent to increase opportunities for acceptance to medical school.

To become an anesthesiologist, people need to get good grades in high school and college.
To become an anesthesiologist, people need to get good grades in high school and college.

Students will spend three to four years in medical school prior to becoming licensed as physicians, and in their last year of training, they make the decision as to whether they would like to specialize. If a student has decided to become an anesthesiologist, he or she will need to apply to anesthesiology training programs. Again, this additional training takes a minimum of four years in most cases, and many anesthesiologists complete a fifth year of study in a subspecialty like pediatric anesthesiology, pain management, critical care anesthesiology, cardiac anesthesiology or several other fields. Students can also choose to primarily focus on research in anesthesiology.

Anesthesiologists may want to work on achieving a comforting and helpful bedside manner.
Anesthesiologists may want to work on achieving a comforting and helpful bedside manner.

Once training is complete, students in the US will need to take oral and written exams with the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). When passed these exams allow doctors to say they are board certified. Some subspecialties may have additional exams offered by the ABA too.

At this point the anesthesiologist is board certified, but if he or she intends to practice somewhere else he may need to obtain state licensing. Anesthesiologists are in high demand in locum placements agencies. If a doctor chooses locum work, he may require a license to practice medicine in several states.

Most students can expect to spend a minimum of 12 years studying to become an anesthesiologist.
Most students can expect to spend a minimum of 12 years studying to become an anesthesiologist.

From the start of college, most students can expect to spend a minimum of twelve years studying to become an anesthesiologist. It is a time-consuming specialty to pursue. Anesthesiologists are often particularly noticed by patients not only because “they provide the drugs” but because of their calm demeanor. Having patience, and a calm and assured attitude may be very helpful to patients worried about surgeries or anesthesiology in general, and anesthesiologists may also want to work on achieving a comforting and helpful bedside manner.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

burcinc

Those who do not want to go to medical school can become anesthesiologist assistants which just requires a Bachelor's degree in anesthesiology. Certification is required for this position as well however.

stoneMason

@turquoise-- I don't know how it works in other countries. In the US, anesthesiologists are physicians. So they must receive basic education that all physicians in the US are required to receive.

I don't believe that the educational requirements for anesthesiologists in the US are too much. Anesthesia has many risks. It's not just about putting people to sleep and waking them up. Serious complications can occur during anesthesia and so anesthesiologists have to be expert physicians who are completely in grasp of the procedure. They need to be aware of the risks and take the proper precautions.

turquoise

Is the education required for anesthesiologists in the US too much?

It seems like it's a little easier to become an anesthesiologist in other countries. My mother was an anesthesiologist in another country. She went to a nursing "college" which was basically a vocational school for nursing and the equivalent of high school. She worked as a nurse for some years and then went to a four-year medical school to be an anesthesiologist. In fact, she went back to school for this when I was three or four years old.

She then worked as an anesthesiologist for thirteen years before she became an anatomy teacher at a vocational school for health practitioners.

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    • An anesthesiologist administering inhalation anesthesia before surgery.
      By: reflektastudios
      An anesthesiologist administering inhalation anesthesia before surgery.
    • Anesthesiologists must know how to produce all levels of sedation, from a twilight sleep to a deep, fully anesthesized sleep for surgeries.
      By: Tyler Olson
      Anesthesiologists must know how to produce all levels of sedation, from a twilight sleep to a deep, fully anesthesized sleep for surgeries.
    • Anestesiologists must complete several additional years of specialty training beyond medical school.
      By: evok20
      Anestesiologists must complete several additional years of specialty training beyond medical school.
    • To become an anesthesiologist, people need to get good grades in high school and college.
      By: VIPDesign
      To become an anesthesiologist, people need to get good grades in high school and college.
    • Anesthesiologists may want to work on achieving a comforting and helpful bedside manner.
      By: asierromero
      Anesthesiologists may want to work on achieving a comforting and helpful bedside manner.
    • Most students can expect to spend a minimum of 12 years studying to become an anesthesiologist.
      By: diego cervo
      Most students can expect to spend a minimum of 12 years studying to become an anesthesiologist.