Anesthesiologist: Career Profile, Employment Outlook, and Education Requirements

Learn about the typical duties and employment prospects of anesthesiologists. Read on for details about the education and certification required to become an anesthesiologist. Schools offering Anesthesia Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does an Anesthesiologist Do?

During surgery or other medical procedures, you administer anesthesia or supervise administration by nurse anesthetists. You are responsible for the care and safety of patients who are under anesthesia or coming out of anesthesia. In addition, you supervise the work of anesthesiology assistants on your team. Other duties include evaluating patients before surgery, conferring with surgeons, planning the type and quantity of anesthesia and managing any complications from anesthesia.

Where Could I Work?

Medical clinics, outpatient surgical centers, dental offices, pain management clinics, and hospital surgical units, labor and delivery units and critical and intensive care units are you potential employers. Teaching and research provide other employment options. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about 34,820 worked as anesthesiologists as of May 2010 (www.bls.gov). The BLS expected employment of physicians and surgeons to grow 22% from 2008-2018. Increased demand for medical services by an aging population will be the main driver of growth.

What Education Do I Need?

You will have to complete four years of undergraduate studies and at least eight years of post-graduate studies to become an anesthesiologist. Relevant undergraduate majors include pre-medicine, biology or chemistry. The eight years of post-graduate study include four years of medical school, one year of an anesthesiology internship and at least three years of a residency. It is also common to complete a 4-year residency. In addition, if you're interested in practicing a specialty, you can participate in a 1-year fellowship.

Residency programs in the first year have you accumulate experience performing basic anesthesia under supervision. In the second year, you begin working in a broad range of anesthesia sub-specialties. These might include cardiovascular, obstetric, critical care, and neuroanesthesia. The third year brings you in contact with complex cases and further exploration of your preferred specialties. Some programs have a research-intensive academic track in the third year if you would rather teach or conduct research.

Fellowship programs provide an intensive immersion in a single sub-specialty. You are expected to develop deep intuitive and technical knowledge of the human physique associated with it and will work with the most complex anesthesia cases. Pediatric, cardiothoracic, trauma, and obstetric anesthesiology are some of the areas where medical schools offer fellowships.

How Do I Become Certified?

After completing your internship and residency you may gain certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) by passing a certification exam. As of April 2011, the ABA and the ABPS exams are both composed of an oral section and a written section. The format of the ABA's written section consists of 250 multiple-choice questions. The ABPS's written section consists of 200 multiple-choice questions.

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