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They are probably the last man or woman you will see before you are put to sleep for surgery or other procedures. When someone is given anesthesia, they are placed in a medically induced coma, during which they will be unconscious, unresponsive, unable to feel pain and rendered amnesic of the events going on around and inside them. We expect the anesthesiologist—the person who is administering such complete power over our lives—to be well-trained. The anesthesiologist salary should be large enough to compensate for that training and the experience we depend on when we are so vulnerable.

What Is the Average Salary of an Anesthesiologist?

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The average salary of an anesthesiologist in the United States as of 2018 is $376,612. Salaries range between $326,270 and $426,966, but this range is variable because of certain factors:

  • Years of experience
  • Credentialing
  • Certification
  • Training
  • Education
  • Location
  • Complexity of cases

Are Anesthesiologists in Demand?

Anesthesiologists are in demand because America’s baby boomer generation is aging and needs more healthcare. In 2010, a study projected an annual growth rate in demand for anesthesiologists of 1.6% to 3%. By 2020, the national shortage will be as high as 12,500 anesthesiologists if the growth in demand is 1.6%. That shortage increases to 12,500 if the growth in demand for anesthesiologists turns out to be closer to 3%.

The demand, however, for anesthesiologists will be about more than an aging population. In a decade, those in the 65-and-older age bracket will be around 50%, compared to 3% for those under 18. But, one-third of practicing physicians will be in the 65-and-older age bracket within the next ten years. Not only will America’s population require more surgery, ergo more anesthesiologists, but the area of practice known as anesthesiology might be thinned out unless present anesthesiologists continue working.

Anesthesiologists are not distributed evenly within the country. There are many under-served communities where patients have to travel far and wide to find anesthesia care. The sad thing is that in the United States in 2018, there are counties that have no anesthesia services at all. This problem will not change until anesthesiologists are reimbursed at a premium to compensate for relocation to less-desirable areas; increasing telemedicine or web-connected communications will help, but training more anesthesiologists will not.

Getting to the Anesthesiologist Salary: Education and Career

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To become an anesthesiologist, one must earn an M.D. level degree. This starts with a Bachelors degree, which can be in any discipline, but a degree in biology or health sciences is the logical choice. Entrance into a medical school requires a passing score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

The first year of medical school entails learning the basic sciences. The second-year of medical school focuses on organ systems. In the third-year, clinical training begins and includes direct experience in patient care. The fourth-year will find students engaging in patient care at increasing levels of responsibility until they graduate as medical doctors.

After medical school comes four years of a residency program. During the first year of residency, physicians in training will rotate through various disciplines. The last three years are the meat of clinical anesthesia training. The career begins when licensing and certification are earned.


Anesthesiologist doing operation

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So, just what does an anesthesiologist do? An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor. He or she is required to get an undergraduate degree, go to medical school, train during residency and train more in the specialty of anesthesiology. The anesthesiologist salary will have to be enough to eventually pay back all the expenses incurred to learn how to put people to sleep before procedures.

Anesthesiologists deliver medications to render patients unconscious, amnesiac, and pain-free during procedures requiring general anesthesia; procedures requiring conscious sedation require less medication. Anesthesiologists are also responsible for monitoring the vital signs, fluid and medication status during the procedure. An anesthesiologist also provides relief for those suffering from chronic pain.

Anesthesiology is more than pushing gas and medication, however. Anesthesiologists must work with other physicians and ancillary personnel to develop a plan of care, including plans for any possible emergencies. Anesthesiologists will also continue to monitor patients after the procedure, in recovery rooms and sometimes all the way to the patient room or holding area before discharge.

The pathway to becoming an anesthesiologist is a hard-fought challenge. The reward for expending all that brainpower and diligence can be found in the anesthesiologist salary.

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