How to Become an Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist is a physician who provides anesthesia during surgery, assists in the medical care during surgery, and helps with pain management. To become an anesthesiologist, you are required to complete eight years of post-secondary education, including medical school, an internship and a three year residency in anesthesiology.

Education

As a physician, an anesthesiologist will need to complete an undergraduate degree, in any field, as well as graduate from an accredited medical school program. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) accredits these programs and a list of accredited programs, both US and international, is available on their website. Some anesthesiologists will also complete an additional fellowship in a specialization area after completing their residencies.

License and Certification

All physicians must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and obtain a license to practice in their state. Not all states will allow a physician from a different state to practice in their state, so you must investigate the state's requirements should you decide to move to another state after becoming an anesthesiologist. There is also an option to pursue board certification, by completing required education and successfully completing examinations administered by the American Board of Anesthesiology.

Tips and Advice

While completing your undergraduate degree, take classes in biochemistry, physiology and pharmacology, as well as completing prerequisite courses for admission to medical school. A student who wishes to become an anesthesiologist should also take courses in ethics, especially medical ethics, and communication courses so they are able to deal with patients, other health care professionals and social workers.

There is a misconception that the role of the anesthesiologist is over once surgery is completed, but that is not the case. An anesthesiologist will usually see patients on post-anesthesia rounds and address patient concerns prior to surgery. It is a good idea to get experience in counseling and patient education, especially in addressing fears and myths about anesthesia. While courses and education can help, it is a good idea to get either paid or volunteer experience in a clinic, hospital or hospice setting. As an applicant to medical school, these experiences can be referred to on the application to medical school or during the medical school admissions interview.

Subspecialties

There are a wide variety of subspecialties for anesthesiologists including critical care medicine, neurosurgical, obstetrical, pediatric, pain management and post-operative care. Critical care medicine includes working in intensive care and oversees patients who need life or organ support. Neurosurgical includes treatment of the spine and epilepsy and assesses the function of the nervous system while under anesthetic. Obstetrical anesthesiologists treat and assist pregnant women and neonatal patients before, during and after delivery. Pediatric anesthesiologists will provide anesthesia and pain management for neonatal patients, infants, children and young adults. Pain management will reduce and relieve pain for all patients, research new pain management techniques and treatments and they may also specialize in oncology or rehabilitative settings. Post-operative care is a service offered by all anesthesiologists, but in this field they may also assist transplant recipients and offer both non-invasive and invasive treatments. There are also opportunities in academia, teaching medical students and other physicians about anesthesia and post-anesthesia, by performing rounds, teaching classes and conducting research into the field.