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Anesthesiologist Career Guide

If you’re someone who can remain calm under pressure and work well as part of a team, then we think you might thrive as an anesthesiologist!

Anesthesiologists are physicians that specialize in pain management. They work with other physicians and surgeons in assessing and creating treatment plans and procedures for patients before, during, and after surgery. To become an anesthesiologists, will need to complete an undergraduate degree, attend medical school, complete a residency program and become board certified.

I have heard people, my colleagues included, compare physician anesthesiologists to pilots. No one claps when the plane lands, just as no one expects any less than a perfect uncomplicated anesthetic every time. We physician anesthesiologists draw great personal satisfaction from doing what we do, and from providing a unique type of personalized medicine. Our patients and their families depend on us to be at our best, always.

Edward R. Mariano

Anesthesiologist Career Ratings

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Contribution

Influence

Overview

What an Anesthesiologists does

Have you ever wondered what it would be like undergoing a major surgery without anesthesia? It would look like a patient writhing in pain and a surgeon unable to perform effectively…. A botched surgery. Pain management not only ensures an effective and efficient surgery, but it also improves post-operative recovery.

Anesthesiologists are physicians that specialize in pain management. They work with other physicians and surgeons in assessing and creating treatment plans and procedures for patients before, during, and after surgery. Prior to surgery, they assess the patient’s medical history and create a plan for the specific needs of the procedure. During surgery, they monitor the patient’s vitals and adjust anesthetics as necessary. Post-surgery, anesthesiologists monitor and handle patient’s pain management to achieve better surgical outcomes and recovery. The job duties of general physician will vary depending on their experience and where they work. However, all anesthesiologists can expect to conduct tasks such as:

  • Assessing whether a patient is fit enough to undertake an operation before the surgery takes place
  • Agreeing on an anaesthetic plan
  • Reassuring patients about what will happen during and after the operation
  • Initiating anaesthesia, providing safe pre-operative care and pain relief to patients using anaesthetics and analgesics
  • Continuing the use of anaesthesia in the operating theatre
  • Monitoring patients while they’re under anaesthesia to make sure they remain in a stable condition
  • Working with a range of other health professionals, such as surgeons, operating department practitioners, theatre nurses, radiographers and radiologists, to ensure a patients wellbeing
  • Performing administrative tasks in areas which relate to the care of patients (e.g., summaries of patient treatment, writing discharge letters)
  • Attending multidisciplinary team meetings both on and off-site
  • Training, teaching and supervising more junior staff in both critical care and anaesthesia

Why they are needed

Humans get sick – whether it’s cancer, broken bones or heart failure. We need anesthesiologists in order to manage our pain and allow us to undergo major surgery. Without anesthesiologists, we would not be able to perform effective surgery or manage our pain afterwards. We would be stuck in the olden days, where they used to give people leather to bite on to help with the pain whilst performing major surgery… yikes!

The pros and cons of a career as an anesthesiologists

Pros:

  • Anesthesiologists are very highly respected and regarded, both professionally and in society
  • Anesthesiologists have an excellent career outlook and high job security
  • There is high levels of personal satisfaction as each day anesthesiologists will help people go through the surgery they need
  • Anesthesiologists work in small and cohesive teams with other health-care professionals
  • No two days are the same and there is rarely a boring day as a anesthesiologists
  • There is lots of variety and lots of professional development opportunities

Cons:

  • As anesthesiologists are very specialist, the education required is lengthy and typically very expensive which, even with a high income, can take years to pay off
  • Being an anesthesiologist can be very stressful and highly pressured, especially when things go wrong in operating theatres
  • Anesthesiologists have a lot of responsibility (e.g., they need to ensure the patient receives the correct dosage) which can place a huge amount of pressure on them
  • Anesthesiologists may have to work long hours or be on call
  • Not all patients have a happy ending, which can be incredibly draining
  • It can be a very competitive field to enter

Employability

Job Market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of anesthesiologists in the United States will show no change from 2019 to 2029. This is because there will still be a demand for anesthesiologists, as we will continue to need surgery forever. However, the advances of nurse anesthetists and assistants may hinder the demand for anesthesiologists. This makes it quite a competitive career to secure a job in.

Career paths

As anesthesiologists are specialized physicians, the career path to becoming one is lengthy, with most anesthesiologists spending around 10 years or more in school!

Firstly, anesthesiologists must complete an undergraduate degree that has work in biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. Whilst doing this, it is advisable to volunteer in a local hospital and gather some relevant work experience! This experience can be in any area, but it would perhaps be advisable to try and work in the theatres or in post-surgery care.

After completing your undergraduate degree, you will then need to apply to medical school. Warning: these are highly competitive! To apply, you must submit your transcript and a letter of recommendation. You must also pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and attach your score to your application. To have the absolute best chances of getting accepted into medical school, you should have extracurricular activities, work experience and be able to show leadership qualities.

Whilst at medical school, you will spend the first 2 years in laboratories and classrooms where you will learn about anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, medical ethics and the laws that govern medicine. In the last two years, the fun really begins as you will work with patients under the supervision of experienced physicians! You will work in a number of different areas (e.g., family practice, obstetrics and gynaecology) to gain experience in diagnosing and treating a wide range of illnesses.

Note: an alternative career path is to find a medical school that combines undergraduate degrees with medical school programs. These last 6 to 8 years, but very few schools offer this!

After medical school, all graduates will enter a residency program in anesthesiology (note: these are very competitive). This can lasts around 4 years. Finally, after all this, aspiring anesthesiologists must pass a certification examination by the American Board of Anesthesiology.

Example Job Titles for Anesthesiologist

Below is a list of common job titles in the Anesthesiologist field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for all physicians was equal to or greater than $208,000 in 2019. Specifically, anaesthesiologists were the highest paid physicians. They received a median annual salary of $261,730 per year.

Autonomy and flexibility

Anaesthesiologists will not have a huge amount flexibility at the very start of their career, as they are supervised by more experienced anaesthesiologists during their residency program in order to gain valuable experience. However, once fully qualified, most anaesthesiologists will have a huge amount of autonomy. In fact, the level of autonomy is one thing that many anaesthesiologists love about their job. They are normally the most senior anesthesist in the room and therefore have control about how they will treat that patient. Flexibility is perhaps lower, as surgeries are busy and therefore anesthesiologists will have little control over the hours they work.

Locations and commute

According to Zippia, the best states to be an anesthesiologists, based on average annual salary and number of job opportunities available, are:

  1. North Dakota, where the average annual salary is $216,811
  2. Wisconsin, where the average annual salary is $204,875
  3. Indiana, where the average annual salary is $202,225
  4. Minnesota, where the average annual salary is $218,292
  5. South Dakota, where the average annual salary is $221,413

The worst states, according to Zippia, are Oregon, South Carolina, California, Alaska and Hawaii.

Work environment

Anesthesiologists held about 33,800 jobs in the United States in 2019. Most will work in physicians’ offices and hospital. They may also work in academia or for the government. Anesthesiologists tend to work in very clean and sterile environments, where they will work with a range of other health professionals (e.g., surgeons, operating department practitioners, theatre nurses, radiographers and radiologists) to ensure patient wellbeing.

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Anesthesiologist careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Anesthesiologist career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Anesthesiologist.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DISC

  • None

Enneagram

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

Personality types

Although there has not been much exploration as to what personality types will make a successful anesthesiologists, one study found that the ISTJ was most common personality type of anesthesiologists, followed by ESTJ. ISTJs (the ‘inspector’), are responsible and reserved. They typically have a strong focus on detail and doing things correctly, which is essential as anesthesiologists must ensure that they are administering the correct pain relief (otherwise, the consequences could be fatal). Finally, ISTJs like to follow regulations and stick to schedules, this makes them reliable, predictable and dutiful!

Accomplishment and mastery

Anesthesiologists train for around ten years in order to become fully qualified and licensed. Therefore, when they finally qualify and learn all the skills they need, accomplishment is likely to be high.  What is more, is that throughout their career, anesthesiologists will continue to feel accomplished every time they help perform effective surgery and improve someones quality of life.

Meaning and contribution

It goes without saying that the work of an anesthesiologists has high meaning and contribution. Without them, we would not be able to perform the surgery that improves and/or saves our lives. Anesthesiologists have a huge meaning and contribution to everyones lives.

Top tip: if you’re looking for a truly meaningful career, you may decide to become an anesthesiologists and work in deprived or remote areas. That way, you can help those who need it the most!

Life fit

Most anesthesiologists will work full time, but there are opportunities for part time work. Many anesthesiologists work long, irregular, and overnight hours. They may travel between offices and hospitals to care for their patients or make emergency visits to different places.

Who will thrive?

Thriving anesthesiologists will have qualities such as:

  • The willingness to commit to the long educational process required and to get work experience and complete extra curricular activities
  • A genuine passion and excitement for helping others
  • The ability to communicate with a wide range of medical professionals
  • Due to the likelihood that medical emergencies will occur, individuals who remain calm, composed and work well under pressure are likely to thrive in a medical environment

Who will struggle?

You are likely to struggle as an anesthesiologists if you aren’t physically fit enough spend periods of time bent down/bent over or to move patients around. If you prefer to work alone, rather than as part of a team, you may struggle with the communication and teamwork focus of being an anesthesiologists. Finally, those who cannot remain calm in unforeseen circumstances will struggle during surgery if an emergency occurs (e.g., a patient stops breathing).

Requirements

Skills and talents

  • Communication skills, as anesthesiologists will need to communicate effectively with other healthcare staff. They may also need to explain to patients the procedure and process
  • Teamwork skills, as anesthesiologists will work as part of a cohesive healthcare team (e.g., they will work with surgeons, physicians and nurses)
  • Detail-orientation, as it is crucial that the patient receives the correct dosage and that they are correctly monitored
  • Organizational skills, as anesthesiologists must be able to manage their time and stick to their schedule
  • Leadership skills, as anesthesiologists may be responsible for supervising junior anesthesiologists
  • The ability to work well under pressure, as anesthesiologists will be faced with medical emergencies and must be able to work efficiently to treat the patient, and support their family, in this time

Education

Firstly, all aspiring anesthesiologists will need an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After, all anesthesiologists will attend medical school. To get accepted into medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists must submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). After medical school, almost all graduates will enter a residency program in anesthesiology (note: these are highly competitive).

Certificates

In every state, anesthesiologists must be licensed but requirements will vary by state. Generally speaking, to qualify for a license, candidates must graduate from an accredited medical school and complete residency training in their specialty.

All physicians and surgeons also must pass a standardized national licensure exam. M.D.s take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). D.O.s take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). Anesthesiologists should also aspire to become board certified – to do this, you must complete a residency and then pass a specialty certification exam from a certifying board including the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).

How to Become

Anesthesiologists are physicians that specialize in pain management. They work with other physicians and surgeons in assessing and creating treatment plans and procedures for patients before, during, and after surgery. Prior to surgery, they assess the patient’s medical history and create a plan for the specific needs of the procedure. During surgery, they monitor the patient’s vitals and adjust anesthetics, as necessary. Post-surgery, anesthesiologists monitor and handle patient’s pain management to achieve better surgical outcomes and recovery.

Immediate action

The main thing that all aspiring anesthesiologists should  do is to obtain relevant work experience. As mentioned early, whilst studying your undergraduate degree, you should volunteer in a local hospital. Similarly, in order to have the best chances of getting into medical school it is advisable to have as many extra curricular activities as possible. So, you should aim to do as much as possible outside of school (e.g., sports, teaching, quizzes, drama etc).

Education and learning

Anesthesiologists will need to complete an undergraduate degree that has a focus on  biology, chemistry, physics, math and English. After this, anesthesiologists will attend medical school. To get accepted into medical school, aspiring physicians must submit a transcript, a letter of recommendation and pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). After medical school,  graduates will enter a residency program and become board certified.

FAQs

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