How Long to Become an Anesthesiologist
Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who specialize in anesthesia, pain management, and critical care medicine. They often administer anesthesia to induce unconsciousness or numbness to patients undergoing invasive medical procedures. To ensure they can provide optimal and safe care to patients, aspiring anesthesiologists undergo extensive education and training.
Anesthesiologists spend 12 to 14 years in school and training after high school.
Generally, anesthesiologists spend:
- 4 years in undergraduate school
- 4 years in medical school
- 4 years in residency
Anesthesiologists may choose to participate in a fellowship program to gain additional training in an anesthesiology subspecialty.
4 Years for Undergrad
Many students interested in becoming anesthesiologists choose to pursue premed tracks as they earn their four-year degree. While premed students can major in any subject, most choose a math or science major to complement their premed concentration. As students complete their undergraduate coursework, they are encouraged to begin volunteering to gain hands-on experience.
Students can gain volunteer hours by shadowing local physicians or volunteering at local clinics, nursing homes, or hospitals.
During this time, students also prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Premed coursework may help prepare students for the MCAT, but it is primarily focused on preparing students for medical school. To better prepare for the test, premed students often use MCAT prep materials and take practice tests.
This can be a lot of material to cover in a short amount of time. Students can take the MCAT during their junior year of undergraduate studies or during a gap year. Students may retake the MCAT, but each score will be reported when students apply to medical school.
Additional resources can be found in our MCAT Information post here.
4 Years for Medical School
Aspiring anesthesiologists can apply to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) medical school program. Both programs cover medical sciences, clinical rotations, and require students to pass the two phases of a medical licensing exam. Graduates of both programs can earn their medical license to be considered a medical doctor.
After years 1 and 2, students must pass the first section of a licensing exam. MD students must pass Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). DO students must pass Level 1 of the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA).
Once students pass Step 1 of USMLE or Level 1 of COMLEX, they continue to their clinical rotations. During their rotations, students treat real patients and gain experience in various medical specialties. When students complete their rotations, they are eligible to take USMLE Step 2 CK or COMLEX-USA Level 2.
4 Years for Residency
Residency provides post-graduate medical training and helps graduates, known as medical interns, transition from student to physician. Anesthesiology residencies help students gain hands-on experience providing care before, during, and after surgery. Their schedule may also require working through various specialties such as neurosurgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, general surgery, and more.
After the first year of residency, medical interns are eligible to take USMLE Step 3 or COMLEX-USA Level 3. Once graduates pass the final level of their licensing exam, they will be licensed to practice medicine. In the second and third years of residency, interns are now referred to as residents.
As residents, they spend the rest of their residency gaining experience in their chosen subspeciality. Anesthesiologists can specialize in:
- Adult Cardiac Anesthesiology
- Clinical Informatics
- Critical Care Medicine
- Neurocritical Care
- Obstetric Anesthesiology
- Pain Medicine
- Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesiology
- Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine
After completing the anesthesiology residency, graduates are eligible to earn board-certification through the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA).
Optional: 1-2 Years for a Fellowship Program
After earning their board-certification, anesthesiologists may begin applying for jobs and working. If anesthesiologists want to further their subspecialty expertise, they can enroll in an anesthesiology fellowship. It provides additional research opportunities and clinical training.
Although aspiring anesthesiologists can anticipate spending 12 to 14 years in school, time will pass quickly.
The American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine’s (AUC) offers a four-year MD program. Years 1 and 2 combine medical sciences with high-fidelity simulations to help students develop clinical reasoning. Years 3 and 4 allow students to operate as vital members of teams composed of students, residents, and attending physicians.
Ready to start training to become a doctor? Reach out to AUC today.