What They Do:

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists:

“Physician anesthesiologists are primarily responsible for the safety and well-being of patients before, during and after surgery. This may include placing them in the state of controlled unconsciousness called “general anesthesia”, the provision of “regional anesthetics” where only a portion of the body is made numb, or administering sedation when indicated for the relief of pain or anxiety.  These anesthetics provide continuous pain relief and sustain patients’ critical life functions as they are affected throughout surgical, obstetrical or other medical procedures.

The role of the physician anesthesiologist extends beyond the operating room. He or she is responsible for the preoperative assessment of the patient, an evaluation process that carefully considers both the patient’s current state of health and the planned surgical procedure that allows physician anesthesiologists to make judgments about the safest anesthesia plan for each individual patient. The physician anesthesiologist is also responsible for the well being of the patient postoperatively while the patient emerges from the effects of anesthesia. They are often involved in the management of acute postoperative pain, as well as chronic and cancer pain; in cardiac and respiratory resuscitation; in blood transfusion therapies; and in respiratory therapy.”

Anesthesiologists are well-paid, but there are high levels of job stress and a very hectic on-call schedule to deal with. Anesthesiologists also do not have much interaction with patients – brief pre-op and post-op visits are about the extent of any doctor-patient interactions.



  • Four year bachelor’s degree

  • Four year graduate education leading to a degree in medicine (M.D.) or osteopathy (D.O.)

  • A year of internship and then 3 years of residency

  • After residency, many anesthesiologists complete an additional fellowship year of subspecialty training in areas such as pain management, cardiac anesthesiology, pediatric anesthesiology, neuro-anesthesiology, obstetric anesthesiology or critical care medicine.

  • Sit for the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) examination

  • Become state licensed


What They Make:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary was more than $187,199 in 2015, and the average pay for this position was $258,100.


Where They Work:

Anesthesiologists work primarily in hospitals and surgery centers.


Career Outlook:

The profession is expected to grow by 21% through 2024, with 7,100 new jobs.





Updated November 2018