How does one become an anesthesiologist in the first place? Is it harder than other specialties? Read on below to learn more about how to become an anesthesiologist.
A recent study revealed how anesthesiologists rose under the shadow of the pandemic. Anesthesiologists, who are used to working with patients requiring ventilators, were central in handling the pandemic: “even freshly passed anesthesia residents are coveted, which only accentuates the importance of the specialty.”
Pre-med and medical school students may wonder if anesthesia is right for them. We’ll cover how to become an anesthesiologist, including steps, job outlook, and how to decide if it’s the right specialization for you.
To become a successful anesthesiologist, students must complete six steps (and two optional):
Let’s dive into the steps to becoming an anesthesiologist.
There are no specific college programs aspiring anesthesiologists must enroll in. As long as they meet med school course requirements and perform well on the MCAT, they can choose any bachelor’s degree.
However, some majors are particularly helpful for students interested in becoming anesthesiologists:
However, you should pick whichever major interests you most. You can supplement your major with minors and electives to meet med school requirements.
Most students spend at least three to six months studying for the MCAT. Many students take the MCAT in the same academic year they plan to apply to medical school.
However, it’s not necessary to go from college straight to medical school. A recent AAMC study shows more than 44% of matriculants took a gap year. Many students use this time to study for the MCAT or improve their scores.
It’s crucial to develop an excellent MCAT study plan to succeed. Many students may find seeking an MCAT tutor’s help worth it!
Medical school prepares students to become physicians. You’ll explore different specialties throughout your four years at med school. The first half of med school is perfect for networking and building foundational scientific knowledge.
You can apply for elective rotations once you’re confident anesthesiology is right for you. These take place at an affiliated hospital or elsewhere. For example, Johns Hopkins University offers an Anesthesia Clerkship for Medical Students to students, pairing them with a senior anesthesia resident.
Similarly, Weill Cornell Medicine offers a Clinical Anesthesiology Elective open to candidates worldwide. The program “welcomes fourth-year medical students for a dynamic and educational month-long experience” and exposes them to “the full breadth of anesthesiology practice.”
Medical students should also prepare to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Here’s a recommended timeline medical students can work with:
Once you match, you can finally work up close with anesthesiology. In the early stages, residents can do simulation-based training.
For example, at the UCLA Simulation Center, “residents benefit from simulator experience at least four times during their first month of training in anesthesiology, and multiple times throughout their residency for practice in handling critical incident scenarios.”
Later on, residents are exposed to the perioperative phases of surgery. According to Yale University’s calculations, each resident in their anesthesiology program “will be involved in approximately 400-500 anesthetics per year.”
You’ll complete your residency under a doctor’s supervision. Your residency provides the tools you need to become a fully-fledged anesthesiologist.
To practice medicine in the U.S., anesthesiologists must obtain licensure in the state they wish to work in. Requirements can vary by state. For example, to receive a California license, candidates can complete an online application to provide a full record of their medical education.
While not a mandatory anesthesiology education requirement, the American Society of Anesthesiologists strongly recommends residents pursue a fellowship.
A fellowship is a great way to “get a foot in the door in a competitive job market, and serves as a springboard for those seeking an academic career.” It also boosts the CV of anesthesiologists, making them attractive job candidates.
Fellows can choose among various anesthesiology subspecialties. Some specialties include:
Consider a fellowship for additional schooling anesthesiologists use to level up their skills and knowledge.
Universities and hospitals seek anesthesiologists who think long-term and have specialized skills. Anesthesia is dependent on new technologies. Anesthesiologists with impressive fellowships and research output can understand and foresee shifts in trends within their specialty.
Another optional step an anesthesiologist can take is getting board certified. The American Board of Anesthesiology clarified the appeal of certification: “Physicians, healthcare institutions, insurers and quality organizations look for board certification as a measure of a physician’s ability to provide quality healthcare within a given specialty.”
Initial certification requires you to sit for three exams. After completing a subspecialty fellowship, you can sit for a final exam and receive full certification.
Anesthesiologists are doctors who “specialize in anesthesia care, pain management, and critical care medicine.” They care for patients before, during, and after surgery by ensuring they’re fit it, monitoring them while unconscious, and caring for them post-op.
Anesthesiologists are in charge of handling care, including:
Anesthesiologists participate in all types of procedures and surgeries, from open-heart surgery to getting stitches.
According to Main Residency Match statistics, 2,691 candidates competed for the 1,509 available anesthesiology residency program positions(PGY-1 entry). Data from other specialties can show you how hard it is to become an anesthesiologist in comparison:
While dermatology and neurology are more competitive than anesthesiology, the other specialties on this list are less competitive.
Like typical medical careers, it takes between 12 to 14 years to become an anesthesiologist. Future anesthesiologists have a fairly standard career route:
However, how long it takes to be an anesthesiologist depends on whether or not you pursue a fellowship.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for anesthesiologists is $302,970. However, the annual wage you can expect to earn can be higher or lower depending on where you work.
For example, anesthesiologists working in physician offices make $311,030 on average annually, while those working in outpatient care centers make $373,720. Between now and 2031, the employment growth for anesthesiologists is estimated to increase by 1%.
According to U.S. News, these are the top-paying cities for anesthesiologists:
How can you be sure that anesthesiology is right for you? Before starting the process, it’s recommended to consult with anesthesiology residency programs. The med school curriculum is broad – evaluating residency programs can offer a glimpse into life as an anesthesiologist.
Pay attention to the type of rotations involved and ask yourself if it’s something you see yourself doing. For example, here’s a table with subspecialty rotations within the anesthesiology residency program at Yale-New Haven Hospital:
Notice the diversity offered within the program. However, don’t let the idea of specialization intimidate you. Medicine remains an interdisciplinary effort, and anesthesiology leaves room for professionals to develop other interests.
As the Department of Anesthesiology at Johns Hopkins University puts it: “Whatever interests you within the field of medicine, there is a way to incorporate it within a career in anesthesiology.”
Still have questions about how to become an anesthesiologist? We’re here for you.
The process is long, and residencies can be somewhat competitive. You’ll also need to gain extensive skills and knowledge to succeed. Becoming an anesthesiologist can be considered difficult, although certainly doable!
Anesthesiology residency programs are typically four years long.
If you’re passionate about anesthesiology, pursuing it is worth it. If you’ve considered how long you’ll spend in school, the cost, and other factors and still want to become an anesthesiologist, you should go for it!
According to the BLS, the average anesthesiologist’s salary is $302,970.
Yes: the educational requirements to become an anesthesiologist include attending medical school and obtaining an MD or DO.
Anesthesiologists must finish college and medical school before completing a residency program and earning state licensure. Although not a requirement, you can pursue a fellowship, but this influences how long it takes to become an anesthesiologist.
Anesthesiologists use math to calculate dosages for patients. However, you must also have an excellent command of science (and math) to get into medical school.
Any position in medicine can be a stressful profession – however, the responsibility of a patient’s life, long hours, and short staffing can make an anesthesiologist’s job quite stressful. However, these stresses are worth it if you’re invested in the specialty.
According to U.S. News, Harvard University has the nation’s best anesthesiology program.
Anesthesiologists must have excellent technical skills to perform their roles. They must also be compassionate, honest, and excellent communicators.
Anesthesiology is an exciting field, both clinically and academically. Becoming an anesthesiologist is a long process, but it’s worth it if you’re passionate about the specialty. If your dream is to work in anesthesia, book a free consultation with Inspira Advantage to discuss how we can help you achieve your goals!