Anesthesiology is one of the most demanding careers that you can pursue, just as much as the other medical-related careers like allergist or immunology specialist doctors

Statistics show that there were about 31,200 anesthesiologists that were working in the United States. These were spread out hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, private clinics as well as physician’s offices (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018). Career opportunities as an anesthesiologist are certainly vast and promising…

Are you planning to pursue a career in anesthesiology? Want to know about what you should expect from this lucrative job? Well, you have come to the right place. This article will look at all the information from the duties, salaries, skills and the career prospects. So relax and read on. 

What are anesthesiologists?

Anesthesiologists are medical doctors (also called medical practitioners) who specialize in anesthetics. 

These are drugs that are administered to patients to either decrease or completely eliminate the pain that the patient may experience prior, during or even after a surgical procedure or any other excruciating medical treatments. 

In other words, anesthetics are pain killers or sedatives.  This is known as perioperative medicine, the specialty of anesthesiologists.

The aim is to help the patient transition from the surgery to a normal state in a way that is somewhat less painful. So, it is safe to say that anesthesiologists specialize in pain management.

Normally, anesthesiologists work with doctors or surgeons and they have a duty to customize anesthesia according to a patient’s medical history, just as any specialist medical doctor does before any treatments. 

Looking through the patients’ medical history is important because it gives the medical practitioner a reference of the medical issues as well as treatments that the patient has received in the past. 

Once this information is evaluated, the anesthesiologist will then identify the type of sedatives that should be administered throughout that particular surgery or medical procedure. 

Before administering those drugs though, the anesthesiologist is required to assess more information, such as the patient’s age, immunity as well as the type, length and magnitude of surgical procedure that will be conducted. 

Other duties that you will be required to accomplish as an anesthesiologist include informing patients of risks associated with anesthesia and observing the patient’s reactions to the sedatives all the way through the entire definite procedures, among many other duties. 

To be successful during the course of this career, you will need to have some essential skills that will enable you to take all the punches that this career has to through at you. 

Just to “rough draft” a few, you will need to be a person that pays close attention to every detail, you should have good spoken communication abilities and, as we mentioned just a minute ago, you have to have an extraordinary mark of monitoring skills, because those are the most crucial to your patient’s medical condition. 

Compared to standard doctors or surgeons, anesthesiologists do not usually meet patients until the day that the procedure will be piloted, in which case he/she will open by telling the patient the benefits and risks of the type of anesthetic that he/she will administer, before moving forward to the actual medical procedure. This step will require a great amount of verbal skills.

 On top of that, you should always communicate with doctors or the surgeons about the magnitude of the procedure and the necessary anesthetics. 

Overall, the job requires that one must be prepared to carry on conducting a lot of research from time to time. Alternatively, this means that you will be continuing your education, so you will likely want to pursue a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), whichever one you pick, you won’t go off beam in the anesthesiology world.

With the slowly increasing competition and a shortage of anesthesiologists around the world, a career in anesthesiology will always be a lucrative one, plus very eventful. 

What is this career like?

As pointed out earlier, anesthesiology is a specialty that requires an exceptionally skilled person. You have a responsibility to manage pain, along with many other responsibilities, some of which are outlined below. 

  • Reviewing medical files and lab results 

As an anesthesiologist, this is one of the most significant parts of your job. Here, you will go through the patients’ medical history, which includes inspecting all the tests and lab procedures that were conducted, as well as the medicine that was prescribed. 

It is in this section where the anesthesiologist may learn useful information, such as the type of drugs or anesthetic treatments that the patient may be allergic to. Ultimately, this will prevent any further complications. 

  • Administering pain relief before, during, and after medical procedures

After assessing the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, the anesthesiologist will then know what treatments should be administered to the patients, as well as the right amount of those sedatives. 

This will be done before the medical procedure in order to numb the patient’s sensations, during the procedure to keep the patient stabilized and finally, after the procedure is completed to ensure that the patient transitions to a normal state without having to go through a lot of discomfort and agony. 

In general, anesthesia should help the patient transition into, throughout, and out of the particular medical procedure with relative comfort.

  • Supervising anesthesia assistants and certified registered nurse anesthetists

Besides being a qualified anesthesiologist, you must ensure that your team of anesthesiologists are certified and fit for the task. 

Since you are leading, you should closely supervise the work of the assistants and registered nurses that will be working next to you every now and then. Above all, you have to educate them and set a good example. After all, they will likely want to be in your position in the future. 

  • Informing patients of risks associated with anesthesia

Here is another vital element that make your career meaningful. Before any anesthetic is administered to the patient, it is important that you should let the patient as well as the family members about the risks that are linked to that specific type of anesthesia. You owe them that much. 

Above and beyond that, you have to tell the patient about the benefits of such an anesthetic and why you have chosen that type of anesthetic treatment. Also, cheer and encourage the patient that he/she will do fine. That should raise the patient’s spirit, if you know what I mean.

  • Approving general, sedative, regional, or local anesthetics

As an anesthesiologist, you may be picking up calls from time to time requesting you to test and review various types of sedative treatments (general, sedative, regional or local), particularly first-hand ones. 

After testing these anesthetics, you will either approve their circulation or not depending on some reasons, which must be clearly stated to any interested medical practitioners or manufacturers

  • Monitoring patients’ vital signs during procedures

There have been a few a few cases where a particular medicine or anesthetic may not show any reactions at the beginning of the medical procedure until somewhere in between the procedure. 

Since a patients reactions are sometimes very hard to predict, it is the duty of the anesthesiologist to always keep both eyes on the patient’s vital responses to the treatments. Depending on the extent of the procedure, the patient’s life and well-being depends on your monitoring skills.  

Eventually, the patient will usually have no complications stemming from the anesthesia or pain medication during or after the procedure. On some occasions, though very rare, the drugs administered for the intention of eliminating pain can yield unwanted reactions in patients. 

When this transpires, anesthesiologists are supposed to restore the patient to a steady status for the procedure to either carry on or to be tried another day.

  • Complying with medical and hospital procedure policy

This point is pretty much self-explanatory. The anesthesiologist has to comply to all the health law and regulations, just as the rest of the medical specialists should. 

In this case, complying with medical and hospital procedures means administering the right and approved treatments, communicating and most importantly, exercising competence and proficiency in your field. 

Working Environments

In terms of the amount of hours of work, the anesthesiologist’s work is very similar to that of other physicians as well as surgeons. 

While the amount of time may be similar, there quite a few differences between their work. Their main difference has to be the amount of time that they spend with patients. 

While doctors meet the patients after a couple of minutes or a few hours, this is totally different to anesthesiologists, who rarely meet the patients until the day of the procedure. 

Classically, the anesthesiologist will receive the orders earlier to the day of the procedure, along with the patient’s medical records and history, which he/she will use in determining the right type and amount of anesthetic that will be necessary for the whole procedure.

When it comes to the schedule, it will be very rough and irregular, as it usually is with other doctors. As said, you will not be working as many hours as, let’s say, surgeons. 

Since, the world doesn’t have a lot of anesthesiologists, you will probably have a lot of work to do, which should push you to work on a full-time basis. 

What skills are needed?

As an anesthesiologist, you have to have a high degree of technical skills and must have knowledge of anything that you are undertaking, which in this situation are the treatments that being administering to his/her patients.

Below are the various skills that the anesthesiologist should possess in order to progress in this career. 

  1. Attention to Detail: 

You must pay close attention to every detail before, throughout, after you procedure is completed. 

For instance, the smallest element in a patient’s medical history could signal major warning signs that a patient should avoid certain kinds of medication. 

Once you prioritize details, you will be able to detect signs of reactions either prior, during or after the medical practice is done. 

Detected adverse signs may be due to the amount of anesthetic administered, the patient’s allergies or the type of anesthetic altogether. This takes us to our next point

  1. Critical Thinking: 

Knowing the type of medication to be administered to your patients based upon their age and medical history is not a “no-brainer” situation.  It requires a high level of thinking skills to make the right choices. 

On top of that, particular procedures often require unambiguous anesthetics or variants of an anesthetic type.

  1. Monitoring: 

We have mentioned this point a couple of times in this article. An anesthesiologist is responsible for pursuing any ups and downs in vital signs and the patient’s state during a particular anesthesia. I can’t stress this point enough. 

  1. Problem Solving: 

Having problem-solving skills will be important in times when you have to deal with an unexpected predicament that may arise at any time during the procedure. 

It is not unusual for an anesthetic treatment to cause unforeseen reactions during the procedure. This calls upon you, as an anesthesiologist to intervene accordingly. 

  1. Verbal Communication: 

As we mentioned earlier in this article, you will be required to communicate with all the people that are involved and associated with the risks of those procedures. 

Here, you should properly talk to the standard doctors, surgeons as well as other anesthesiologists. 

In addition to that, it is up to you to make sure that the patient and their family fully comprehend such risks.

  1. Organizational skills

As an anesthesiologist, you have to be a very well organized person. You should always put your appointments on a schedule and stick to it. 

Also, time should be your closest partner- last thing you want to do is to show up in the theatre at 9:30 a.m. for a procedure that was supposed to begin an hour earlier. In the medical field, a situation like this can be quite catastrophic, and most cases, this can even cost you your job. 

  1. Physical strength

When we speak of physical strength, we don’t mean that you have to be physically built. I mean, it’s not like you will have to carry 100 kgs of weights in your office, unless you are an anesthesiologist who competes in the “World’s strongest Man/Woman” competitions. 

Anesthesiologists simply have to have the strength to stand for a very long time. This skill should come in handy during surgical procedures, for instance.

What is the pay? (Salary)

Just as it is with other specialist medical practitioners as well as any other career in general, a higher degree is likely to attract a higher pay and additional benefits. 

In terms of anesthesiologists, they start making a six-figure salary just instantaneously after they get they are employed. 

The salary that an anesthesiologist makes is averaged somewhere around $267,020 on an annual basis. 

What is the career outlook?

The medical field, just like many other sectors, continues to grow each and every year. This means that the demand for qualified anesthesiologists will get even more progressive. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of anesthesiologist jobs is expected to grow by 15% by 2026. 

What education is required?

In the medical field, almost every medical doctor is required to complete his/her undergraduate, graduate as well as the residency programs. The same applies to anesthesiologists. Let’s break these down a little further. 


First of all, you should complete a degree in either pre-med or a science-related arena. This degree should take you a minimum of 4 years to complete. 

After that, you then have to be accepted into medical school. Here, you have the choice to pursue either a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). This choice will depend on your preference.  

If you lean on the traditional medicine side, I recommend pursuing an MD. The DO is for people that prefer alternative medicines. 

Generally, you will spend about 15 years (that’s after high school) of training before becoming an anesthesiologist. That’s something you should always research properly in advance, just like you are doing now. 

Licensure and Certification

You will, without a doubt, be required to have necessary certifications prior to applying for jobs, especially in the medical field. 

There are 3 levels of credentialing that are specifically for anesthesiologists. These are outlined before:

  1. Licensure

This is a state-based qualification that comprises route of the U.S. Medical and Licensing Examination (USMLE). 

You can earn this licensure once you graduate from the medical school which, if I should add, should be accredited.

  1. Certified Anesthesiology Specialty

This certification is earned after the applicant passes the written an oral examinations administered by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA)

  1. ABA-board Certification

You can also be awarded the ABA-board certification in the anesthesiology subspecialties of critical care, pain medicine, and hospice and palliative medicine. This is usually an awarded as an addition to the other accreditations. 

Residency and Fellowship

To become an anesthesiologist, you will also need to undergo a medical residency training program. This training program usually lasts about 4 years and it is taken after graduating from medical school. 

The first year is usually either a medical or surgical internship, which is then followed by three years of intense training in anesthesiology. 

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