CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become an anesthesiologist.

Step 1

Is becoming an anesthesiologist right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do anesthesiologists do?
Career Satisfaction
Are anesthesiologists happy with their careers?
What are anesthesiologists like?

Still unsure if becoming an anesthesiologist is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an anesthesiologist or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

If you're interested in becoming an anesthesiologist, it's important to start preparing early. In high school, you should focus on taking courses that will prepare you for college-level science and math classes. Here are some high school courses that can be helpful if you're considering a career in anesthesiology:

  • Biology: Anesthesiologists need a strong foundation in biology to understand the human body and its functions. Taking biology classes in high school will give you a good foundation in this subject.
  • Chemistry: Anesthesiologists use various medications and anesthesia to manage patients during surgical procedures. Chemistry is therefore an essential subject for anesthesiologists, and taking high school chemistry classes can help you prepare for college-level courses.
  • Physics: Anesthesiologists work with various medical equipment, such as monitors and ventilators, that use physics principles. Taking high school physics classes can help you understand the physical principles underlying these devices.
  • Math: Anesthesiologists need to be skilled in math, especially algebra and calculus, which are used to calculate medication doses and fluid management during surgical procedures.
  • English: Anesthesiologists must communicate effectively with patients, other healthcare professionals, and their teams. Strong communication skills are essential, and taking English courses in high school can help you develop your writing and speaking skills.

In addition to these core courses, it can also be helpful to take electives in psychology or sociology to develop an understanding of human behavior and social dynamics. It's important to remember that while high school courses are important, they are just the beginning of a long educational journey to becoming an anesthesiologist.

Step 3

Formal Education Steps

Becoming an anesthesiologist requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and resources. However, for those who are passionate about medicine and enjoy the challenge of a demanding profession, it can be a highly rewarding career choice.

To become an anesthesiologist, a formal education that includes a bachelor's degree, medical school, and a residency program in anesthesiology is required. Here is an overview of the formal education required to become an anesthesiologist:

  • Bachelor's degree: The first step in becoming an anesthesiologist is to complete a four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Students typically pursue a pre-medical curriculum that includes courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math.
  • MCAT - After graduating with an undergraduate degree, students must pass the MCAT. The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a standardized exam used for admission to medical schools in the United States. Students can prepare for this test by taking practice exams, or enrolling in an MCAT preparatory course. Scores from this exam plus a student's transcript will be the basis of acceptance to medical school.
  • Medical school: After passing the MCAT, students must attend a four-year medical school program to earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. During medical school, students take courses in basic medical sciences, clinical medicine, and patient care.
  • Residency program: After completing medical school, aspiring anesthesiologists must complete a residency program in anesthesiology, which typically takes four years. During this time, residents work under the supervision of experienced anesthesiologists, gaining hands-on experience in administering anesthesia and managing patients during medical procedures.
  • Optional fellowship: After completing a residency program, anesthesiologists can choose to pursue a one- or two-year fellowship to gain additional specialized training in areas such as pain management, critical care, or pediatric anesthesia.
  • In addition to formal education, anesthesiologists are required to pass a licensing examination to practice medicine in their state. They must also stay up to date with advances in the field by participating in continuing education and professional development activities.
Step 4

Medical School

Medical school typically involves a combination of classroom instruction, laboratory work, and clinical training, and generally takes four years to complete.

During the first two years, students focus on coursework in basic sciences such as anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and medical ethics, while the second two years are more clinically oriented with rotations through various medical specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, and psychiatry.

In addition to coursework and clinical rotations, medical students are also required to pass various exams, including the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to become licensed physicians.

Medical school can be both academically and emotionally challenging, but it can also be highly rewarding as students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to practice medicine and improve the health of their patients.

Step 5


Anesthesiology residency typically involves a combination of clinical rotations, didactic lectures, and simulation training, and typically takes four years to complete.

During the first year of residency, anesthesiology residents typically receive broad-based training in perioperative medicine and gain experience in administering anesthesia in a variety of settings, including the operating room, labor and delivery, and critical care units. In the second and third years, residents focus on developing more advanced skills in areas such as pain management, regional anesthesia, and critical care medicine. In the fourth year, residents have the opportunity to pursue more specialized training in areas such as pediatric anesthesia, cardiothoracic anesthesia, or neuroanesthesia.

Throughout their residency, anesthesiology residents work closely with attending anesthesiologists and other members of the perioperative team, including surgeons, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. They also participate in research and quality improvement initiatives and are required to pass various exams, including the American Board of Anesthesiology certification exam, in order to become board certified and practice as independent anesthesiologists.

Residency can be both intellectually challenging and demanding, but it is also a time of tremendous professional growth and the development of lifelong professional relationships.

Step 6


Fellowship is an optional additional period of training for anesthesiologists who wish to develop expertise in a particular subspecialty area, such as pediatric anesthesia, pain management, critical care medicine, or cardiac anesthesia. Fellowship programs typically last one to two years and involve a combination of clinical training, research, and teaching.

During fellowship training, anesthesiologists work closely with attending physicians who are experts in their subspecialty area, and gain additional experience and knowledge in the management of complex patients and procedures. Fellows also have the opportunity to pursue research in their area of interest, and to develop teaching skills by working with medical students, residents, and other healthcare professionals.

After completing a fellowship, anesthesiologists are typically well-prepared to practice independently in their subspecialty area, and may be recognized as experts in their field. Fellowship training can be an important step in career advancement and can open up opportunities for leadership roles, academic positions, and other professional opportunities.

Step 7

Board Certification

Board certification is a credential that anesthesiologists can earn after completing their residency training and passing both a written and an oral exam administered by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). Certification by the ABA is recognized as a mark of excellence in the field of anesthesiology and signifies that the anesthesiologist has demonstrated a high level of knowledge and expertise in the specialty.

To maintain board certification, anesthesiologists must participate in ongoing continuing medical education (CME) activities, which are designed to keep them up to date with the latest advances in the field. They must also periodically pass a secure, proctored exam, known as the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA) exam, which is designed to ensure that they continue to meet the highest standards of knowledge and expertise throughout their career.

Step 8


Anesthesiologists in the United States are required to be licensed in the state where they practice. Licensing requirements vary by state, but typically involve completing an accredited medical school program, completing a residency in anesthesiology, and passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA). In addition, anesthesiologists must also pass the written and oral exams administered by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) in order to become board certified and maintain their certification.

Some states may also require anesthesiologists to obtain additional certifications, such as certification in advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) or pediatric advanced life support (PALS). Anesthesiologists must also stay up to date with the latest advances in their field by completing continuing medical education (CME) requirements, which vary by state and by certification board.

Overall, licensing and certification requirements for anesthesiologists are designed to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide safe and effective care to their patients.

Step 9


The following associations not only offer professional support but also provide platforms for anesthesiologists to collaborate, share knowledge, and contribute to advancements in the field of anesthesiology. Membership in these associations can offer valuable opportunities for continuing education, professional networking, and staying updated with the latest research and practices in the specialty.

  • American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA): The ASA is one of the largest organizations representing anesthesiologists in the United States. It offers various resources, educational programs, and publications to support anesthesiologists in their professional development. The ASA also advocates for patient safety, research, and advancements in the field of anesthesiology.
  • International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS): The IARS is a global society dedicated to fostering research and innovation in the field of anesthesiology. It offers research grants, organizes scientific meetings, and publishes the journal Anesthesia & Analgesia.
  • Society for Ambulatory Anesthesia (SAMBA): SAMBA is a professional society focused on promoting and advancing safe and efficient ambulatory anesthesia care. It provides educational resources, guidelines, and networking opportunities for anesthesiologists involved in ambulatory surgical settings.
  • World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA): The WFSA is a global organization representing anesthesiologists from around the world. It works to improve access to safe anesthesia care, advocates for patient safety, and provides educational resources to support anesthesia training and practice worldwide.