Anesthesiologist Assistant - How to Become an Anesthesiologist Assistant

Anesthesiologist Assistant

Jump to:

Anesthesiologist Assistant Job Description


Anesthesiologist assistants work directly under the supervision of anesthesiologists, physicians licensed in anesthesia specialty medicine, and in conjunction with the anesthesia care team, to create and implement anesthesia care plans. See the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Duties include the operation of anesthesia equipment to monitor patients while delivering direct anesthesia care. Anesthesiologist assistants provide direct patient care before, during and after anesthesia to ensure continuity of care and quality. Other duties may include assisting with life-saving measures, such as CPR and life support.

Anesthesiologist assistants are, as with most health care positions, in high demand and a career choice with a promising future.




Anesthesiologist assistants function as an extension of the physician and are responsible for performing critical measures to maintain the safety of the patient to ensure an optimal health outcome.

The anesthesiologist assistant’s responsibilities generally include the following:

  • Obtaining complete patient medical histories, conducting physical exams, and pre-procedure interviews.

  • Administering required diagnostic and laboratory tests.

  • Making recommendations regarding anesthetic care plans

  • Administering general and local anesthesia

  • Maintaining anesthesia delivery systems and monitors, including testing and calibration

  • Preparing patients to be effectively monitored

  • Monitoring patients under anesthesia




Anesthesiologist assistants are required to demonstrate a solid understanding of safety protocols and exemplary communication skills in order to excel as part of the patient treatment team. They must also demonstrate a mastery of the sciences, particularly those dealing with the human body, and the ability to draw conclusions from data.

They must also possess the ability to think critically, follow directions, and communicate with people of all walks of life. Anesthesiologist Assistants work as part of a team, and as such, must be capable of vigorous collaboration and criticism. Candidates who are looking to enter the health care industry and prefer to work in a team environment, are patient, great listeners, compassionate, open-minded, and tolerant may want to consider Anesthesiologist Assistant as a serious career path.


Working Conditions


Anesthesiologist assistants work under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist in hospitals and surgery centers. They generally work in sterile, cool environments and conduct most of it on their feet. AAs are closely managed and directed to avoid potential error, and must follow strict protocols in order to maintain the cleanliness necessary for proper patient care in an operating room.

A typical workweek may include a rotation for on-call, evening or weekend assignments, so flexibility is key to success.  

Offices of health pratitioners


Hospitals; state, local, and private


Outpatient care centers 7%
Government 4%
Educational services; state, local, and private 3%


How to Become an Anesthesiologist Assistant:


1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)


The first step to becoming an Anesthesiologist Assistant is to earn a bachelor's degree in an undergraduate pre-med program. Common areas of study include:

  • Advanced Mathematics
  • General & Organic Chemistry
  • Advanced Biology
  • Physics

Most medical fields are highly competitive and Anesthesiologist Assistant is no exception. Aim to achieve a minimum of a 3.0 in undergrad, with a 3.5 or higher being ideal to getting accepted into a master's program.


Undergraduate pre-med programs vary from school to school, so the preparation timeline below outlines general suggested courses:


Freshman Year
  • General Biology I & Lab
  • General Biology II & Lab
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • Electives
Sophomore Year
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Social Sciences Requirements
  • Electives & Courses to Satisfy Your Major
  • Begin MCAT or GRE

Junior Year

  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab
  • Electives & Courses to Satisfy Your Major
  • Request Application from the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)
  • Register for the MCAT or GRE
Senior Year
  • Complete Required Graduation Coursework
  • Prepare for Interviews 
  • Search for Scholarships, Loans, Grants and Other Funding Options


Although Anesthesiologist Assistants do not have to complete medical school, they do still have to pass the MCAT and it's advisable to start as early as possible. Typically the best time to begin studying is in your late sophomore and early junior years of undergraduate. 


2. Take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam)


To be admitted into an anesthesiologist assistant's program, candidates must first pass the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or the GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam).

Depending on the university or school, programs may require one or the other. You will have to check with the institutions you're interested in to find out which.

The MCAT is a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to asses the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

The GRE is a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.


The MCAT is divided into four sections:


Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 53 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences


You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the AAMC website.


The GRE is broken down into six main sections:


1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • ~20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data

2 Verbal Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections


You can find study materials, GRE registration, and your test scores on the GRE website.

If you are unsatisfied with your score on either of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.


3. Complete a Master's Degree (2 Years)


After finishing an undergraduate pre-med degree and taking the MCAT or GRE, completion of a master's level anesthesiologist assistant program is necessary. 

These post-baccalaureate programs generally focus on:

  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry

Within those four areas, different systems of the body are emphasized, including cardiovascular, renal, and the nervous systems.


4. Compete Anesthesia Training


Becoming an AA requires special training in anesthesia as well. However, students who have already chosen anesthesia as their specialty can choose a focused anesthesiology assistant training program to be completed alongside a master's. These students can typically enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.

Training programs generally include 600 hours of classroom and laboratory coursework, including 2,000 hours of clinical training and a minimum of 63 didactic hours. The clinical portion of the training will require the students to administer up to 600 different anesthetics for a variety of surgical procedures. Clinical training is designed to prepare students for monitoring of patients, operation of anesthesia delivery system, operation of life support systems and accurate patient assessment.

Programs include extensive clinical instruction in patient monitoring, maintaining life support systems, accurate use of anesthesia delivery systems, extensive patient assessment and education in the skills needed to provide quality and compassionate care.

Training programs should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and work closely with a medical school. Students should work under board-certified anesthesiology physicians.


5. Obtain Licensing and/or Certification


In order to practice, Anesthesiologist Assistants must have completed their certification. The process is overseen by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) and requires the passage of a 6-hour exam administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Apply for the exam

Successful completion of 6-hour National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) certification exam.


6. Maintain Ongoing Education


Anesthesiologist Assistants must also complete 40 hours of continuing education every 2 years and they must retake the exam every 6 years. 

Total Time to Become an Anesthesiologist Assistant = 6 - 9 Years


Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
Internal job applications/transfer requests must be completed through the Ascension Health Associate Portal in order to be processed. Assistance for the disabled If you have a disability and/or require assistance completing the online...
  1. Anesthesiologist Assistant Tulsa, OK St. John Health System
    Internal job applications/transfer requests must be completed through the Ascension Health Associate Portal in order to be processed. Assistance for the disabled If you have a disability and/or require assistance completing the online...