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How Do I Become an Anesthesiologist?

An anesthesiologist administering inhalation anesthesia before surgery.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 July 2014
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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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Discuss this Article

burcinc
Post 3

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
Post 2

@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
Post 1

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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