Extensive education and training is required to become an anesthesiologist. Anesthesiologists must complete 4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of medical school, and a 3- to 8-year residency program. Undergraduate studies often include classes in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, social sciences, the humanities, and English. While in college, many pre-med students volunteer in clinics and/or hospitals.

After graduating from college (e.g., with a Bachelor of Science [B.S.] degree), the student must apply and be accepted to an accredited medical school. Med school applicants must submit school transcripts, letters of recommendation, and an admissions essay; must interview with an admissions committee; and must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

During the first 2 years of medical school, students focus on courses in anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, physiology, and pathology. During the final 2 years, they learn how to provide comprehensive medical care, often working under the supervision of physicians in clinics or hospitals. Upon successful completion of medical school, the doctor receives a medical degree (e.g., M.D., D.O.) and begins his or her internship and residency.

Following his or her residency, doctors who wish to be board certified in anesthesiology must take and pass an exam administered by a medical specialty board (e.g., American Board of Anesthesiology [ABA], American Society of Anesthesiologists [ASA]). In the United States, all physicians also must pass a licensing examination administered by the state in which they wish to practice medicine.

Anesthesiologists may receive additional training in order to sub-specialize. Anesthesiology sub-specialties include the following:

  • Airway management
  • Ambulatory anesthesia
  • Cardiac anesthesia
  • Critical care anesthesia
  • Neurosurgery anesthesia
  • Obstetrical anesthesia
  • Orthopedic anesthesia
  • Pediatric anesthesia
  • Regional anesthesia
  • Trauma anesthesia
  • Vascular anesthesia

Board certification in anesthesia is valid for 10 years. To remain certified, anesthesiologists must complete the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA®) before their certificate expires.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 26 Feb 2009

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015