What Should I Major in to Become an Anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologists are physicians who focus on pain relief and a patient's life functions during surgery. Examine possible majors that may prepare individuals for becoming anesthesiologists, and review related career information. View article »

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  • 0:04 Aspiring…
  • 0:55 Undergraduate Curriculum
  • 1:21 Medical School
  • 1:40 Residency
  • 2:10 Anesthesiologist Job…
  • 2:31 Salary and Career Information

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Video Transcript

Aspiring Anesthesiologist Majors

Aspiring anesthesiologists can benefit from information about education at the undergraduate level, in medical school and residency, as well as career and salary information.

Because an anesthesiologist is a physician, prospective students must receive the formal medical education required of all doctors and physicians. At the undergraduate level, there is no one major required for a career in anesthesiology, but aspiring medical students do need to fulfill pre-medical educational requirements for admission. Many of these are in the sciences, so many students who plan to become anesthesiologists choose to major in a scientific field.

Biology is the most popular major for candidates interested in medicine, but majors in microbiology, chemistry, or health sciences can also prepare students to become anesthesiologists.

Undergraduate Curriculum

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aspiring anesthesiologists who plan to enroll in medical school need to take courses in the following subjects: biology, chemistry, physics, math, English, humanities, and social sciences.

Within a biology major, students also take specific classes in anatomy, physiology, comparative anatomy, developmental biology, ecology, and biodiversity.

Once in medical school, students spend the first two years in classroom and laboratory settings, studying topics like biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and medical ethics. During their second two years, medical students gain clinical experience in multiple subspecialties, including anesthesiology.


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. These programs last for four years. Students in these programs gain extensive knowledge and experience in their first and second years and in the second half of the program may gain experience in particular subspecialties, like regional anesthesia. Opportunities for research may also be included in some programs.

Anesthesiologist Job Description

Anesthesiologists are responsible for dispensing pain relief drugs before, during, and after surgery. Common job duties include calculating proper drug dosages for patients, administering anesthesia, monitor patients' vital signs, like body temperature, heart rate, and breathing, throughout the surgery process.

Salary and Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of anesthesiologists in May 2016 were employed by private physician's offices, followed by general medical and surgical hospitals and outpatient care facilities. The BLS also reported that anesthesiologists' annual earnings vary by employer and state, but the mean annual salary in May 2016 was $269,600.

Although there is no undergraduate major required for an anesthesiologist, undergraduates must complete certain requirements to prepare for enrollment in medical school and an anesthesiology residency in the future.

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