How To Become An Anesthesiologist

For several years, anesthesiologists have delivered absolutely safe and effective anesthesia services to their patients. It is a challenging job to take care of the patients who are in need of having their anesthesia administered during surgical operations which may last for hours or days.  The medical field that offers great career opportunities for young physicians aspiring for a career in either emergency medicine, family practice, internal medicine or general surgery is anesthesiology.

Becoming an anesthesiologist takes years of specialized training and education, but this article on how to become an anesthesiologist will explain what you need in the way of training, education and licensing to become a board-certified anesthesiologist.

What is an anesthesiologist?

An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the medical field of anesthesiology. An anesthesiologist may hold either a Doctor Osteopathic Medicine (DO) Degree or a Doctor of Medicine (MD). These medical professionals have been specially trained to use anesthesia on patients before and during various medical procedures and surgeries. The anesthetics that an anesthesiologist uses vary greatly and may include mild numbing agents to general anesthesia. Anesthesiologists work as a team with other medical professionals including doctors, surgeons, surgical technologists and nurses.

Anesthesiologists must be extensively trained in not only anesthetics but also pharmacology, physiology and other areas that directly relate to administering anesthesia to patients and monitoring them throughout surgery. They must know how to monitor a patient’s blood pressure, airways and respiration rates, as well as their pulmonary and cardiovascular health throughout a medical procedure. Should any of these areas falter, an anesthesiologist must know how to resuscitate the patient or use other means to ensure the patient is returned to health.

How To Become An Anesthesiologist

Steps to Become an Anesthesiologist

1. Prepare for Anesthesiologist Schooling and Medical School

Before attending medical school to become an anesthesiologist, a student must have a bachelor’s degree. This undergraduate degree can be in any discipline but a background in the natural sciences, especially biology, is essential. Strength in chemistry, mathematics, physics and English is also needed. Some schools offer bachelor’s degree programs that are specifically designed to prepare students for medical school.

The selection process for medical school is very competitive. Students with exceptional academic performance will likely be the strongest candidates. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), a GPA from 3.5-4.0 is typical of most successful applicants to medical school. Additionally, evidence of interest in service can be helpful when applying to medical school. Gaining clinical or healthcare experience can help students demonstrate their commitment to medicine. Students can consider volunteering in a clinic or hospital in an effort to obtain practical experience. Building a professional network based on these experiences can also be helpful when seeking letters of recommendation.

A passing score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is required for medical school admission. The exam is designed to assess candidates’ knowledge in a variety of subjects, including physics, biology, organic and general chemistry, general reading and writing skills, problem-solving and critical thinking. Though the MCAT no longer contains a writing assessment, it features a multiple-choice exam consisting of 4 sections, which include biological sciences, verbal reasoning, chemical and physical sciences, and behavioral sciences.

There are a variety or resources to prepare for the MCAT. The website for the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, offers content outlines for each section covered on the MCAT. Students can also consider using the official guide to the MCAT exam and purchase practice tests offered by the AAMC.

2. Pass Medical School and the USMLE

After passing the MCAT exam, those interested in becoming an anesthesiologist must attend 4 years of medical school. During the first year, medical students can expect to take courses in the basic sciences. The second year of medical school is focused on organ systems.

Clinical training and gaining direct experience in patient care occurs in the third year. Students participate in a variety of clinical rotations and gain experience diagnosing and treating a variety of patients. During the fourth year, medical students will participate in additional clerkship experiences, like ambulatory care, acute care and inpatient care.

Many medical schools offer electives that students can choose to take in their third or fourth year. Medical students preparing for a residency in anesthesia can benefit from this exposure and education because it allows them to work alongside anesthesiologists and educates them about both patient care and invasive techniques.

How to Become an Anesthesiologist

During medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists should make sure they adequately prepare for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which is taken to obtain medical licensure in the United States. Students can find numerous study materials on the USMLE website, including examination descriptions, sample test materials and information about the test format.

The USMLE consist of three parts and is designed to evaluate a physician’s ability to apply the concepts, knowledge and principles that are the foundation of effective and safe patient care. The first 2 steps of the USMLE can be taken during medical school or after graduation, while step 3 must be accomplished after receiving an M.D. degree.

3. Complete a Residency

After attaining an M.D. degree, anesthesiologists spend an additional 4 years completing a residency program. During the clinical base year, residents complete various hospital rotations. The remaining 3 years are dedicated to clinical anesthesia (CA) training.

The first year of CA training consists of working with faculty preceptors who provide basic instruction on the fundamental principles of anesthesia. During the second CA year, residents will participate in rotations related to anesthesia sub-specialties, including cardiac anesthesia, pediatric anesthesia, and regional anesthesia. For the third and final year of CA training, residents can choose from advanced clinical training or clinical research.

4. Obtain State Licensing

Anesthesiologists must apply for licensing through the medical board in the state where they plan to practice. Graduating from an accredited medical school, completing residence training in anesthesiology and passing practical and written exams is the typical process for obtaining state licensure. Passing the USMLE is also required for national medical licensing.

5. Become Board Certified

Although achieving board certification is a voluntary process, employers are likely to prefer anesthesiologists who are board certified. The American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) and the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) offer opportunities for anesthesiologists to become board certified. Upon successful completion of an exam, an anesthesiologist can use the title of ‘Board Certified Anesthesiologist‘. Additional certification options can also be obtained through the ABA in subjects including critical care medicine, pain medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, sleep medicine, and pediatric anesthesiology.

Licensing

The physician will need to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and/or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) to obtain licensure to practice medicine in the US.Step 9

Certification

Board certification is optional. Not all anesthesiologists are board-certified, but most (90%) are. Board certification demonstrates a physicians’ expertise and commitment to the practice. Completing the anesthesiology board certification exams indicates mastery of anesthesiology, as well as a professional commitment to adhere to the ABPS Medical Code of Ethics.

anesthesiologist salary

The average salary of an anesthesiologist in the United States is $343,412 per year. Several factors can affect an anesthesiologist’s salary, including geographic location, training, experience and place of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, anesthesiologists have one of the highest-paying occupations in the nation.

What skills does an anesthesiologist need?

Anesthesiologists need several key skills and qualities to succeed in their field:

  • Strong communication
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving and organizational skills
  • Detail-orientation
  • Patience
  • Dexterity
  • Empathy
  • Physical Stamina
  • Extensive medical knowledge
  • The ability to use specialized medical equipment and computer software

how to become an anesthesiologist assistant

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree (4 Years)

The first step to becoming an Anesthesiologist Assistant is to earn a bachelor’s degree in an undergraduate pre-med program.

Common areas of study include:

  • Advanced Mathematics
  • General & Organic Chemistry
  • Advanced Biology
  • Physics

Most medical fields are highly competitive and Anesthesiologist Assistant is no exception. Aim to achieve a minimum of a 3.0 in undergrad, with a 3.5 or higher being ideal to getting accepted into a master’s program.

Undergraduate pre-med programs vary from school to school, so the preparation timeline below outlines general suggested courses:

Anesthesiologist - Career Rankings, Salary, Reviews and Advice | US News  Best Jobs
Grade LevelExample Courses
FreshmanGeneral Biology I & LabGeneral Biology II & LabGeneral Chemistry I & LabGeneral Chemistry II & LabCalculus ICalculus IIHumanities RequirementsElectives
SophomoreOrganic Chemistry I & LabOrganic Chemistry II & LabFundamentals of Microbiology & LabGeneticsPhysiologyHumanities RequirementsElectives
JuniorPhysics I & LabPhysics II & LabCell Structure & FunctionGeneral Virology & LabMicrobial Genetics & LabBiochemistry IBiochemistry IIHumanities RequirementsElectives
SeniorUpper Level BiologyUpper Level ChemistryUpper Level PhysicsUpper Level PsychologyUpper Level KinesiologyRemaining Requirements & Electives

Although anesthesiologist assistants do not have to complete medical school, they do still have to pass the MCAT and it’s advisable to start as early as possible.

Typically the best time to begin studying is in your late sophomore and early junior years of undergraduate.

2. Take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam)

To be admitted into an anesthesiologist assistant’s program, candidates must first pass the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or the GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam).

Depending on the university or school, programs may require one or the other. You will have to check with the institutions you’re interested in to find out which.

The MCAT is a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to asses the applicant’s knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

The GRE is a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

SectionSection Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems59 multiple-choice questions95 minutesTests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems59 multiple-choice questions95 minutesTests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior59 multiple-choice questions95 minutesTests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills52 multiple-choice questions90 minutesTess reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the MCAT website. If you are unsatisfied with your score on any of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

The GRE is broken down into six main sections

SectionSection Breakdown
1 Analytical Writing Section2 writing assignments60 minutes Tests student’s abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas.
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections20 multiple-choice questions35 minutes per section Tests student’s abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data.
2 Verbal Reasoning Sections20 questions per section30 minutes per section Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored SectionA duplicate of one of the above sections

You can find study materials, GRE registration, and test scores on the GRE website.

If you are unsatisfied with your score on either of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

3. Complete a Master’s Degree (2 Years)

After finishing an undergraduate pre-med degree and taking the MCAT or GRE, completion of a master’s level anesthesiologist assistant program is necessary. These post-baccalaureate programs generally focus on:

  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry

Within those four areas, different systems of the body are emphasized, including cardiovascular, renal, and the nervous systems.

4. Compete Anesthesia Training

Becoming an AA requires special training in anesthesia as well. However, students who have already chosen anesthesia as their specialty can choose a focused anesthesiology assistant training program to be completed alongside a master’s.

These students can typically enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. Training programs generally include 600 hours of classroom and laboratory coursework, including 2,000 hours of clinical training and a minimum of 63 didactic hours.

The clinical portion of the training will require the students to administer up to 600 different anesthetics for a variety of surgical procedures. Clinical training is designed to prepare students for monitoring of patients, operation of anesthesia delivery system, operation of life support systems and accurate patient assessment.

Programs include extensive clinical instruction in patient monitoring, maintaining life support systems, accurate use of anesthesia delivery systems, extensive patient assessment and education in the skills needed to provide quality and compassionate care.

Training programs should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and work closely with a medical school. Students should work under board-certified anesthesiology physicians.

5. Obtain Licensing & Certification

In order to practice, Anesthesiologist Assistants must have completed their certification. The process is overseen by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) and requires the passage of a 6-hour exam administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Successful completion of 6-hour National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) certification exam.

6. Maintain Ongoing Education

Anesthesiologist assistants must also complete 40 hours of continuing education every 2 years and they must retake the exam every 6 years.

how to become an anesthesiologist in the uK

Anesthesia is the largest single hospital specialty in the NHS. It’s a highly varied field that treats patients of all ages and has subspecialties in all kinds of surgical procedures, as well as critical care and pain medicine.

Whether you are already an Anesthetist overseas, or just starting out on your journey to a career in Anesthesia, there’s a path to the UK for you here in this comprehensive IMG guide.

The steps to work in the UK

These are the general steps for any IMG to work in the UK:

  1. Understand the UK Anesthesia training pathway
  2. Determine your long-term goal
  3. Get registered with the GMC
  4. Find a suitable job
  5. Obtain a work visa
  6. Start work

It is possible to do steps 2 & 3 simultaneously depending on the type of job. It is also possible to interchange steps 2 and 3 by finding a job first, and obtaining GMC registration after you’ve received a job offer as long as the employer agrees to this in advance.

We also have a short course where we explain how it is possible to get into UK training in 2 years time.

The UK Anesthesia training pathway

Whether you plan to enter the UK training pathway or not, it’s important to understand the pathway so you have an idea of what it takes to become a recognized UK Consultant Anesthetist.

Anesthesia training for UK medical graduates is currently 9-10 years long in total after medical school and consists of the following stages:

  • 2 years UK Foundation Programme
  • One of the following core training programmes: 
    1. 2 years in Core Anesthetic Training (these years are designated CT1 and CT2)  OR
    2. 3 years in Acute Care Common Stem – Anesthesia (these years are designated CT1, CT2 and CT3)
    3. Whichever programme is completed, a resident AKA trainee must pass the Royal College of Anesthetists primary exam (FRCA) in order to proceed to higher specialty training.
  • 5 years in higher specialty training 
    • These years are designated ST3, ST4, ST5, ST6 and ST7.
    • The first 2 years of this stage of training is known as intermediate level training, while the final 3 years are known as advanced level training.
    • Trainees must pass the Royal College of Anaesthetists final exam (FRCA) before they can proceed from intermediate to advanced level training.

For IMGs, the pathway can look a little different. We’ll go into the possible alternatives a bit later.

The application process for core training and higher specialty training are separate ie. 2 separate applications. This makes Anesthesia training what’s called an “uncoupled” training programme.

Anesthesia residency in the UK

Let’s talk a bit more about the UK Anesthetics training programme.

It is 7-8 years long in total with 2-3 years in core training (designated CT1, CT2 +/- CT3), and 5 years in higher specialty training (designated ST3, ST4, ST5, ST6 and ST7). You have to apply for core training and then separately for higher specialty training so it involves 2 applications.

Throughout the 7-8 years you will be administering anesthesia for all kinds of inpatient and outpatient procedures, seeing patients in clinics, consulting with other medical and surgical teams on the wards, managing emergencies overnight and on weekends, and attending teaching sessions and conferences.

In most programmes, you will rotate to a new hospital every 6-12 months  (usually 12 months) throughout all 7-8 years.

You will be paid a salary while you are training.

how to become an anesthesiologist nurse

Steps to Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist

Before becoming a nurse anesthetist, each professional must satisfy certain eligibility requirements, including earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), obtaining a registered nurse (RN) license, pursuing specializations, gaining admission to an accredited nurse anesthesia program, earning certification, and obtaining licensure.

1. Earn a BSN Degree

Before professionals can become licensed to work as nurse anesthetists, they must earn a BSN or other appropriate major and complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice. Students should complete bachelor’s programs at regionally accredited colleges or universities. Earning a BSN allows each degree-seeker to enroll in an advanced degree and qualifies them for RN licensure.

2. Obtain RN Licensure

To obtain RN licensure, each student must first complete a BSN. In addition to the educational requirements needed for licensure, professionals must complete and pass the NCLEX-RN.

3. Pursue Specializations While Working as an RN in an Acute Care Setting

While working as an RN, professionals can consider pursuing critical-care registered nurse (CCRN) certification if they possess the required amount of clinical practice hours. A CCRN is a specialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely/critically ill adult patients regardless of their physical location. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, a minimum of one year full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting is required.

4. Gain Admission to an Accredited Nurse Anesthesia Program

Before individuals can pursue licensure as nurse anesthetists, they must gain admission to an accredited graduate nurse anesthesia program. Students can explore opportunities across 121 different accredited nurse anesthesia programs, along with nearly 1,800 active clinical sites. Program requirements vary depending on the college or university but typically require an applicant to hold valid RN licensure, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and minimum GPA requirements. Many programs may require an MSN.A minimum of one year full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting is required. The average experience of RNs entering nurse anesthesia educational programs is 2.9 years (AANA, 2019).

5. Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Anesthesia (DNAP) Degree

At this time, some nurse anesthesia programs offer a master’s degree that qualifies the graduate for the certification exam. However, that is changing. In 2025, all CRNAs will need a doctorate in nurse anesthesia to enter the field. A few programs may still offer a master’s degree that meets criteria for certification until 2022.While CRNAs with a master’s degree will be grandfathered in, many degree-seekers choose to enroll in doctoral programs, which equip them with the most advanced skills and knowledge in the field and allow them to consider more career opportunities with higher salary options. Coursework in DNAP programs includes additional depth in topics such as anesthesia pharmacology, obstetric anesthesia, anesthesia pathophysiology, anesthesia biology, and geriatric anesthesia.

6. Obtain Certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetist (NBCRNA)

To obtain certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, professionals must pass the national certification examination. Once professionals complete their degree from an accredited program, they can satisfy the exam requirements, answering between 100 and 170 questions of comprehensive topics.

7. Obtain Nurse Practitioner State Licensure

Professionals who want to practice advanced practice nursing in the nurse anesthetist specialty must earn licensure specific to their state. Licensing requirements vary by state.

8. Find Employment

Once certified nurse anesthetists graduate from an accredited program and pass the certification exam for the specialty, they become eligible for entry-level employment in the field. During their job search, professionals can look for opportunities in specialized areas.

Leave a Comment