Anesthesiologists are medical doctors responsible for safely administering anesthetics—select combinations of drugs used to induce a lack of awareness during surgery. As highly skilled surgical technologists, anesthesiologists ensure that patients receive appropriate amounts of anesthesia before, during and after medical procedures. These specially trained physicians may give anesthesia to patients directly or oversee the delivery of anesthesia by licensed and designated nurses or assistants.
Anesthesiologists play an important role in most surgical procedures. The majority of these professionals work in hospital operating rooms or outpatient surgical centers. Anesthesiologists should have expert knowledge of the various drugs, tools and processes associated with anesthesia. They should also be well-versed in the different forms of anesthesia, including; general, local, dissociative and regional anesthesia.
Highly specialized training and an advanced education are required to become an anesthesiologist. Specifically, anesthesiologists must have an undergraduate degree and either a Doctor of Medicine (MD) doctoral degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) doctoral degree from an accredited educational institution. In addition to four years of medical school, anesthesiologists must also successfully complete a one-year medical or surgical internship and a three-year anesthesiology residency.
To practice anesthesiology, these professionals must also become certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology. Certification is earned by successfully passing an exam by the American Board of Physician Specialties. Many anesthesiologists also participate in a one-year fellowship program to focus on areas of specialty such as critical care, cardiac, pain management or pediatric anesthesiology.
Anesthesiologists are well-compensated for their extensive training and advanced knowledge of medicine, surgery and anesthesiology. According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, anesthesiologists earned a mean annual wage of $220,100. The highest paid anesthesiologists work in physician’s offices and earn a mean annual wage of $228,040. Specialists working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earn a mean annual wage of $181,600—considered the lower end of the pay scale for anesthesiologists.
The job outlook is considered extremely favorable for physicians and surgeons, with 22 percent growth expected from 2008-2018. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects increased opportunities for physicians practicing in rural and medically underserved communities.
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics