What Should I Major in to Become an Anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologists are medical physicians who focus on pain relief and a patient's life functions during surgery. These physicians work with other doctors in order to monitor and assess a patient's body temperature, heart rate and breathing before, during and after surgery.

Anesthesiologist Major

Because an anesthesiologist is a physician, prospective students must receive the formal medical education required of all doctors and physicians. At the undergraduate level, while there is no one major required for a career in anesthesiology, it's recommended that students choose to major in a natural science or enroll in a pre-medical program to prepare for medical school. Biology is the most popular major for candidates interested in medicine, but majors in microbiology, chemistry, neuroscience or nutritional science can also prepare students to become anesthesiologists.


Within a biology major, students take classes in human biology, anatomy, microbiology, physiology, comparative anatomy, developmental biology, horticulture and parasitology. Undergraduate pre-medical programs allow students to major in chemistry, psychology and other sciences, but also include electives that specifically prepare students for medical school. These courses may include chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics and calculus.

Once in medical school, students spend the first two years in a classroom setting, studying biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, medical ethics and many other topics. Anesthesiology is a medical specialty in which students may gain clinical experience during their second two years. After finishing medical school, students may apply for anesthesiology residency programs, which provide the bulk of professional training and prepare students to become licensed anesthesiologists.

Anesthesiologist Job Description

Anesthesiologists are responsible for dispensing pain relief drugs before, during and after surgery. They calculate proper drug dosages for patients, administer anesthesia and monitor patients' vital signs throughout surgical procedures.

Salary and Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) 2012 information, the majority of physicians and surgeons were employed by private physician's offices, followed by hospitals and healthcare organizations (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that anesthesiologists' annual earnings vary by employer and state, but the mean annual salary in May 2013 was $235,070.

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