The 5 Steps to Becoming an Anesthesiologist



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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
June 16, 2024 at 3:18PM UTC
So you want to become an anesthesiologist. That's a great career choice! Here's what you should know about anesthesiologists — what anesthesiologists do, how to become an anesthesiologist, what your responsibilities would be as an anesthesiologist and how much anesthesiologists get paid.
First  things first: What is an anesthesiologist? Anesthesiologists are physicians who happen to specialize caring for surgical patients who are in need of pain relief. Anesthesiologists administer drugs (anesthetics) in order to reduce or totally eradicate the sensation of pain during surgical operation and other medical procedures.
"An anesthesiologist is a board-certified physician who has attained either a doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor osteopathic medicine (DO) degree and chosen to specialize in the field of anesthesiology," according to Very Well Health. "These professionals are trained to safely administer anesthetics to induce a temporary loss of sensation or consciousness for the performance of a medical procedure. This involves a variety of drugs ranging from local numbing agents to general anesthesia. Anesthesiologists are an integral part of the surgical team, which includes surgeons, surgical assistants, nurses and surgical technologists."
You may have had an anesthesiologist administer anesthetics on you while getting surgery like getting your tonsils taken out or having your wisdom teeth pulled, for examples. Those are two common surgeries when anesthesiologists are often needed.

How do I become an anesthesiologist?

Here's how to become an anesthesiologist in five simple steps.

1. Get educated.

Anesthesiologists typically need a bachelor’s degree to start out. From there,they'll need to go onto get a degree from a medical school, which takes another four years to complete.
Remember that medical schools are tough to get into sometimes. You will need to submit your undergraduate transcripts, as well as your scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) that you'll need to pass, and letters of recommendation in order to apply for medical schools. 
Upon graduation from medical school, anesthesiologist candidates must pass the U.S. Medical and Licensing Examination (USMLE).

2. Complete your residency.

After finishing school and passing the USMLE, anesthesiologists will have to complete anywhere from three to seven years in an internship and residency program. This will give anesthesiologists a taste of what the job really looks like in the real world.

3. Get certified.

Individual subspecialties will require more certification at the end of your residency program, which is obtained by the successful completion of a written and oral exam administered by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). You may be able to achieve an additional ABA-board certification in the subspecialties of critical care, pain medicine, palliative medicine and hospice.

4. Network, network, network.

While you're in school and during your residency, it's important to always be networking with your peers, professors and colleagues. You may also want to start joining groups on Facebook or anesthesiologists, attending networking events in your area and joining LinkedIn discussions and groups for anesthesiologist. Basically, you'll want to start putting feelers for jobs out there before you graduate and finish your residency program so that you can land a job and transition seamlessly from your program into the working world. 

5. Apply for anesthesiologist jobs.

Start applying for anesthesiologist jobs in your area (or in the area in which you'd like to work!). You can find anesthesiologist jobs on job boards like Fairygodboss!
Remember that the job of an anesthesiologist is highly sought-after. But don't get discouraged. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job growth for physicians like anesthesiologists and surgeons will grow at a faster-than-average rate of 7% between 2018 and 2028.

How many years does it take to become an anesthesiologist?

It takes several years to become an anesthesiologist. Because most anesthesiologists go through a bachelor program, medical school and a residency program, it can take upwards of 15 years to become an anesthesiologist. Hang in there, though! The job can be hugely rewarding and lucrative if you can stick out all the schooling and training.  According to PayScale, on average, anesthesiologists can earn about $292,369 per year.

What should I major in to become an anesthesiologist?

Most anesthesiologists major in health- and science-related fields in undergraduate school, like biology, chemistry, physical science and health science.

How much does it cost to become an anesthesiologist?

Becoming an anesthesiologist can be costly.
For the 2017-2018 school year, tuition at a four-year private college costed students across the country an average of $34,740, according to Student Debt Relief. Meanwhile, public universities charged in-state students an average of $9,970 and out-of-state students an average of $25,620.
In 2017, the average cost of medical school was $32,495 for a just one year of study at a public medical college and $52,515 for a just a single year of study at a private medical college, according to Student Debt relief.
When you do the math, that's hundreds of thousands of dollars however you slice the cake.

Are anesthesiologists in high demand?

Yes! Anesthesiologists are in high demand. As the population seems to always demand medical professionals, job growth for anesthesiologists is expected to increase anywhere between 10% and 20% over the next decade, according to Global PreMeds.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30,590 anesthesiologists were practicing all across the United States in 2017. The vast majority of those anesthesiologists maintain private or group practices — or they are employed by general or surgical hospitals throughout the country.
So tough out those schooling years — you may have a great job waiting for you at the end of it all!

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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