Anesthesia is a critical component of a patient’s surgical experience. As a way to control pain during a procedure, it may be used to relax the patient, block pain, and help control breathing, blood pressure, blood flow, and heart rate and rhythm.
Without it, procedures would be extremely different -- and a lot more painful. However, not just anyone can administer or help administer anesthesia. These specially-trained individuals are the most qualified to make anesthesia-related decisions including administering anesthesia, monitoring patients under anesthesia, and restoring patients to a stable condition after surgery.
While the main hospital job that comes to mind when thinking about anesthesia is an anesthesiologist, a medical doctor with additional training in anesthesia, there are other careers those with an interest in anesthesia can pursue. If you are interested in a career in this field, keep reading for information on three exciting paths in anesthesia:
Anesthesiologists are highly skilled and highly trained physicians (either M.D. or D.O.) who specialize in anesthetics. With their extensive background and knowledge in the field, these physicians are the most qualified to make decisions regarding anesthesia.
Along with help from other anesthesia practitioners, anesthesiologists are responsible for patient care before, during, and after a procedure.
Physician anesthesiologists are experts in general anesthesia and regional or local anesthesia. They are responsible for studying a patient’s medical history and assessing their responses to an anesthetic, checking vital signs and monitoring the patient’s condition during the procedure, and caring for them after surgery.
Outside of the operating room, anesthesiologists can also work in the Intensive Care Unit and the obstetrics unit.
To become a physician anesthesiologist, one must first earn a bachelor’s degree and take the prerequisite courses required for matriculation to medical school, such as biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and psychology.
Upon completing undergraduate studies, the next step is earning a medical degree through a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program. These programs typically take four years to complete, and involve traditional coursework, clinical rotations, and board examinations.
The estimated annual salary for physician anesthesiologist is $317,000, or $152.40 hourly. To read more about a career as an anesthesiologist, check out our anesthesiologist career profile.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, or CRNAs, work alongside physician anesthesiologists in surgical, trauma, and obstetrics units to provide care for patients during their experience with anesthetics.
While anesthesiologists hold the highest positions in the anesthesia team, CRNAs are regarded with a high level of professional respect. Because they hold licensure as registered nurses, and have advanced practice degrees, they are given autonomy. In fact, in some rural areas of the United States, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia to patients.
CRNAs provide essentially the same anesthesia services as physician anesthesiologists -- they administer anesthesia and monitor patients during their surgeries, just like an anesthesiologist would. To become a CRNA, one must first earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree, which is typically a four-year program.
Those with associate’s degrees in nursing and an RN licensure can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program, which takes around two years to complete.
After obtaining a BSN degree, one must complete a CRNA master’s program, which can take up to three years. Upon completion of a CRNA program, nurses must take and pass the national certification exam which allows them to practice in all 50 states.
The estimated annual salary for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists is $159,690, or $75.81 hourly. Visit our nurse anesthetist career profile page to find more information about a career as a CRNA.
Anesthesiology assistants work on the anesthesia team under the supervision of physician anesthesiologists. The main duties of anesthesiology assistants include operating anesthesia equipment, monitoring patients during procedures, and caring for them after surgery.
In addition, anesthesiologist assistants perform pre-procedure duties such as reviewing medical histories, providing physical examinations, and patient interviews. They also design and implement anesthesia care plans and administer local and general anesthesia, among other responsibilities.
To become one, the first step is earning a bachelor’s degree with curricula similar to a pre-med student, with courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and more. The next step is preparing for and taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and applying for an anesthesiologist assistant master’s program.
The master’s program typically takes two years to complete after undergraduate studies. After these two years, additional training is required in the field, involving 600 hours of classroom and laboratory work, 2,000 hours of clinical training, and 63 didactic hours, which can be completed alongside their master’s degree.
After completing and passing the 6-hour National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) certification exam, one is officially certified as an anesthesiologist assistant.
Anesthesiologist assistants earn an estimated salary of $97,280 annually, or $46.77 hourly. Explore the full career profile to read more about anesthesiologist assistants.
Anesthesia technicians are allied healthcare workers who are involved in all aspects of a patient’s anesthetic care. They contribute to a safe and successful anesthesia experience for patients and help to ensure the current functioning of anesthesia equipment before, during, and after surgical procedures.
According to Salary.com, the median annual salary for anesthesia technicians is $38,852. The minimum education level necessary to become an anesthesia technician is a high school diploma, but many hospitals prefer one to complete a degree program (the majority of which are online).
Certification is achieved through passing the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT) national certification exam, which covers topics like infection control techniques, operating room duties, and different types of anesthesia.
Careers in anesthesia require advanced education and skills, but are rewarding and high-paying. To browse current hospital job openings in the anesthesia field, visit our career opportunities page.