Anesthesiologist Training Programs and Requirements

Anesthesiologists begin their careers with an undergraduate degree, typically in one of the life sciences or mathematics. From there, students must obtain a medical degree and complete a residency program in anesthesiology. During residency, students study anesthesia theory and complete internships in areas such as critical care, cardiology and emergency medicine.

Essential Information

Anesthesiologists must undergo extensive formal training, devoting four years to a baccalaureate degree, four years to medical school and four years to a residency program. Only a small number of schools offer a master's degree in anesthesiology.

Anesthesiologists need to be self-motivated and able to withstand long working hours. They also need managerial skills, since most anesthesiologists supervise certified nurse anesthesiologists and anesthesiology assistants. Additionally, since they work closely with other physicians and surgeons about treatment options, anesthesiologists must possess strong communication skills.

  • Program Levels in Anesthesiology: Master of Science, Doctor of Medicine.
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree.
  • Program Length: Two years for the MS; six years for the MD, including residency.
  • Other Requirements: A residency is generally required.

Master of Science in Anesthesiology

A 2-year master's degree program in anesthesiology teaches potential anesthesiologists how to administer a variety of anesthetics in surgical and non-surgical circumstances. Students study courses in physiology, pharmacology, pulmonary mechanics and electrocardiography. Clinical practicum units take place during the entire program, with many occurring at nearby hospitals and medical centers.

Doctor of Medicine

Students spend a majority of their first two years of medical school in laboratories and classrooms completing a multitude of science-based courses, including cell and tissue biology, gross anatomy, pharmacology and microbiology. For the third and fourth years, students work at hospitals or clinics practicing patient care. Near the end of the fourth year, students interview for residency positions at hospitals, where they choose a field of specialty, such as anesthesiology.

Job Experience

Anesthesiologists require years of training and experience before they can obtain their license. Some anesthesiology residency programs allow students to practice clinical situations on simulator-based equipment. Residency programs also teach students about basic operating room procedures, organ transplants, post-anesthesia care and equipment troubleshooting.

Many employers require potential anesthesiologists to possess 2-4 years of experience after they complete their residency program. Additionally, most employers require applicants to have Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification, which can be completed through coursework in a master's degree program in anesthesia. The American Medical Resource Institute also offers certification programs online.

Licenses and Certifications

The American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) issues certification in anesthesiology and anesthesiology sub-specialties. Applicants must possess a medical degree to qualify for the written and oral examination. Recertification must be completed every ten years.

The American Osteopathic Board of Anesthesiology (AOA) has 18 separate medical specialty certifications including anesthesiology. Applicants must pass a written and oral examination and be observed administering anesthesia in an operating room. In addition to the exam, applicants must maintain a minimum 120 hours of continuing medical education credits within a 3-year period. The AOA requires recertification every ten years.

Workshops and Seminars

The ABA and other professional organizations offer conferences and workshops year-round for anesthesiologists. Some conferences last 3-5 days and allow individuals to learn about the effectiveness of specific types of catheters, how to improve postoperative patient care and pharmacology. At anesthesiology workshops, candidates spend several days learning about the different types of anesthesia, including pediatric, obstetrical, bariatric and regional.

Additional Professional Development

Anesthesiologists can choose to work for a hospital or outpatient medical facility once they complete their residency program. If they wish to specialize in a specific area of anesthesia, they can partake in fellowships to gain additional experience. Fellowships normally take 1-3 years to complete. Some areas of specialty include obstetrical, pediatric or cardiac anesthesia or pain management.

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