California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Anesthesiologists in California

May also be called: Medical Doctors

Specialties within this occupation include: Anesthesiologist Critical Care Specialists; Cardiac Anesthesiologists; Pain Management Physicians; and Pediatric Anesthesiologists

What Would I Do?

Anesthesiologists are specialty physicians practicing in the areas of pain relief and care of surgical patients. They work with other physicians and medical staff. They monitor, assess, and adjust a patient's vital life functions during surgery. This includes heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing. During major surgery, Anesthesiologists need to be careful because of the medications that slow the patient's vital life functions to such a low level that a misjudgment by them could be deadly. Anesthesiologists also provide pain relief in the intensive care unit and during labor and delivery. They may also work with those suffering from chronic pain.

Some subspecialty areas of anesthesiology include critical care and sleep medicine. Other subspecialties include cardiothoracic and pediatric anesthesiology. Those in chronic pain management focus on diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of painful disorders.

Tools and Technology

Some of the tools Anesthesiologists use include monitoring equipment, such as an electrocardiograph, pulse oximeter, and stethoscope. They may also use ventilators and gas anesthesia devices. Anesthesiologists also work with medical, word processing, e-mail, and calendar and scheduling software.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Examine patient, obtain medical history, and use diagnostic tests to determine risk during surgical, obstetrical, and other medical procedures.Active Listening
Order laboratory tests, x-rays, and other diagnostic procedures.Inductive Reasoning
Confer with other medical professionals to determine type and method of anesthetic or sedation to render patient insensible to pain.Oral Comprehension
Coordinate and direct work of nurses, medical technicians, and other health care providers.Management of Personnel Resources
Position patient on operating table to maximize patient comfort and surgical accessibility.Customer and Personal Service
Coordinate administration of anesthetics with surgeons during operation.Coordination
Record type and amount of anesthesia and patient condition throughout procedure.Writing
Administer anesthetic or sedation during medical procedures, using local, intravenous, spinal, or caudal methods.Near Vision
Provide and maintain life support and airway management and help prepare patients for emergency surgery.Operation Monitoring
Decide when patients have recovered or stabilized enough to be sent to another room or ward or to be sent home following outpatient surgery.Critical Thinking
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Anesthesiologists usually work in well-lit, sterile environments. Most work in hospitals or in surgical outpatient centers. Many Anesthesiologists have a regular work schedule, which can include some on call shifts. Yet, some work long, hectic, and irregular hours, particularly during their residency. Some have a four-day workweek. While some work part time, Anesthesiologists are needed around-the-clock in certain areas such as critical care.

Anesthesiologists often stand for long periods. To avoid exposure to infections and diseases, they may wear protective clothing. This type of work can be stressful as Anesthesiologists must make quick, life-or-death decisions. To alleviate stress, Anesthesiologists may follow personal stress relief plans.

Anesthesiologists are generally not unionized.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Anesthesiologist may appeal to those who like working with ideas and doing an extensive amount of thinking. Those who like searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally tend to be a good fit for this job. Yet, it is very helpful to be warm and caring towards patients. It is also important for Anesthesiologists to be mentally capable of quickly handling life-threatening situations. Since this occupation requires many years of training, it is valuable to be willing to spend much time studying.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Anesthesiologists are among the best paid physician specialists. Wages vary due to a variety of factors, such as the number of patients they see and where they work. Earnings for geographical areas within the state are not available; however, the average annual wage for Anesthesiologists statewide is $224,882. The average hourly wage is $108.12 for Anesthesiologists across the state.

Typical benefits include health and life insurance, vacation, and retirement plans. Some employers offer the opportunity to become a partner in the medical group. Employers may offer educational loan repayment, paid time off for educational purposes, or paid malpractice insurance.

What is the Job Outlook?

As the population ages, demand for medical services is expected to increase, which will frequently require the administration of anesthetics. As medical technology improves, conditions previously untreatable will be able to be treated. Anesthesiologists will play an important role in enabling patients to undergo such treatment that would otherwise be too painful to endure.

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Formal education and training requirements for physicians are among the most demanding of any occupation. Most Anesthesiologists start with earning a bachelor's degree and many earn an advanced degree. Then, they go on to four years of medical school approved by the Medical Board of California (MBC). There, they either earn a degree as a medical doctor (M.D.) or a doctor of osteopathy (D.O.). It is highly competitive to get into medical school, requiring good grades and other criteria, such as extracurricular activities. A good test score on the national Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) plays a significant role in entrance to a medical school.

Following medical school, Anesthesiologists enter four to eight years of internships and residencies. Most D.O.s serve a 12-month rotating internship after graduation and before entering a residency, which may last two to six years. After residency, Anesthesiologists can then pursue one to two years of residency in a specific area of anesthesiology, such as pain medicine.


Training to become a doctor includes practical experience through internships and residencies. By the time Anesthesiologists finish their training, they have had many hours of supervised experience performing the tasks of a doctor, and then, an anesthesiologist.

Early Career Planning

Those planning to become Anesthesiologists should take college preparatory classes in high school. These include science, physics, biology, and math. Additional classes include English, chemistry, psychology, and computer skills. Some students volunteer at local hospitals or clinics to gain exposure in the health care profession. A few Regional Occupation Programs (ROP) offer introductory courses for the medical field. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Work-Study Programs

Anesthesiologists, like all medical doctors, must practice their craft while in training. After completing medical school, graduates apply for residency. The first year of residency is known as an internship. This is paid on-the-job training, usually in a hospital. The specialty training in anesthesiology is called a residency.

Continuing Education

All medical doctors must keep up with medical breakthroughs. The MBC is one agency that issues the license to practice medicine. The MBC requires 50 hours of approved continuing education for every 2-year renewal cycle. The other agency issuing a license to practice medicine is the Osteopathic Medical Board of California (OMBC). This Board requires 150 hours of continuing education every 3 years. Specialty and subspecialty certifications in anesthesiology through the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) must be renewed by earning 350 continuing education hours every 10 years.

The Dental Board of California requires 24 units of approved courses related to general anesthesia be acquired every 2 years to renew the anesthesia permit.

Licensing and Certification

A license is required to practice medicine. The MBC offers licenses to qualified physicians. Osteopathic physicians and surgeons obtain their licenses through the OMBC. Both agencies require passing an exam. Physicians must graduate from an accredited medical school to be eligible to take either exam. They must also pass a background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice. For specific information, contact the appropriate agency.

Once Anesthesiologists obtain their medical license, they must apply to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for a DEA number to prescribe drugs. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

The ABA certifies in anesthesiology. Certification demonstrates expertise in anesthesiology and is voluntary. Those trained in anesthesiology may pursue board certification in several subspecialties. They include critical care, pain, sleep, and pediatric anesthesiology. Applicants for the various certifications must meet training requirements, pass an exam, and pass a professional peer evaluation.

Anesthesiologists must pass an exam within 10-year periods to maintain certification by The American Board of Anesthesiology. They must also maintain their license to practice medicine and obtain continuing education credits among other criteria.

Certification is a requirement to obtain a general anesthesia two-year permit to practice in dental offices. The permit is obtained from the Dental Board of California. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Anesthesiologists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Offices of Physicians85.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains an effective job search method. Professional associations provide career links or job boards. Medical recruiters and healthcare staffing agencies also place physicians. In addition, Anesthesiologists can find work through their residency training. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Anesthesiologists.

  • Ambulatory
  • Anesthesia
  • Hospitals
  • Pain Management
  • Surgery Centers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Anesthesiologists may advance to supervisory positions. They may also establish their own practice or join a group practice.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Anesthesiologists with links to more information.

Dentists, GeneralGuide
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsGuide
Nuclear Medicine TechnologistsGuide
Pediatricians, GeneralProfile
Physician AssistantsGuide
Respiratory TherapistsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-1061
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ISR