Anesthesiologist Assistant Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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The median annual wage for anesthesiologist assistants is about $93,000. Is it worth the training and requirements? Read real job descriptions and salary information to see if this career is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of Being an Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA)

An anesthesiologist assistant is a specialized type of physician assistant. Read more to learn about a career as an anesthesiologist assistant.

Pros of Being an AA
Favorable job growth (38% for 2012-2022)*
Good job opportunities*
Variety of places to work (hospitals, pain clinics, medical centers, etc.)*
Can help physicians by doing routine work*

Cons of Being an AA
Discomfort may occur from standing for long periods of time*
AAs working in hospitals may have to be on call or work irregular hours*
Training and education beyond a bachelor's degree is required**
Only 7 AA programs located in the country***

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **American Medical Association (AMA), ***American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA).

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Anesthesiologist assistants work with a team comprised of anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists. They may examine patients and record their medical histories. Under the supervision of a qualified anesthesiologist, they may give induction agents and maintain the anesthesia level within a patient. They also can perform diagnostic tests by drawing blood from patients. After an operation, AAs examine patients and record their progress.

Career Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS expected that physician assistants would enjoy 38% employment growth for 2012-2022. Keep in mind that this projection encompasses all PAs, not just AAs. Medical centers, hospitals and clinics need to optimize performance at work, which may contribute to the employment growth. Because underserved rural areas and inner cities do not have a lot of physicians, AAs may find good job opportunities there. In May 2013, the BLS stated that all physician assistants made a median annual salary of about $93,000.

What Are the Requirements?

AAs need to have an undergraduate degree that can prepare them for the medical field. You can major in biology, physics or chemistry. However, any major is acceptable, as long as you fulfill the prerequisites for anesthesiology programs. According to the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants, you need to meet the prerequisites of advanced math, physics, chemistry and biology.

These graduate programs can last from 24 to 28 months. You also want to make sure that you are going to an AA program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). You must take either the Graduate Records Admission Test (GRE) or the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) before applying. The courses in these programs include airway management, pharmacology, anesthesia practice and monitoring/instrumentation.

Certification

After completing the graduate program, you need to become licensed by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA). You need to take the certifying examination for AAs and maintain your licensed status through continuing education. The examination includes 16 categories in topics like regional anesthesia, metabolism, instrumentation and more.

Useful Skills:

If you're planning to be an AA, you should possess these following qualities:

  • Motivated
  • Like to help others
  • Good bedside manner
  • Willing to learn all your life (to maintain certification)

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers usually ask for the minimum educational requirements in their postings, but they may also ask applicants to complete background checks and drug testing. Here are some job postings from CareerBuilder.com and organizational websites for March 2012:

  • A medical center in Ohio seeks an anesthesia assistant who has graduated from a CAHEA-AMA/CAAHEP training program. They must be licensed from the state as an AA, and they must also be certified by the NCCAA.
  • A medical center in Texas requests an AA who has certification from the NCCAA and a bachelor's degree. They also must have completed an accredited AA program.
  • A healthcare services organization in Chicago, IL, needs a physician assistant to assist anesthesiologists by examining patients, analyzing lab tests and taking down patient histories. The applicants must have graduated from an accredited PA program and received board certification by the National Commission for the Certification of Physician Assistants.

How Can I Stand Out?

Beyond receiving the AA educational requirements and certifications, you can stand out by being proficient in basic computer programs and typing. Some employers asked for AAs who had experience in hospital/inpatient/surgical settings, though AA programs have clinical rotations that may count as experience.

The most important aspects of this job are written and oral communication skills. You need to be able to break down complicated medical procedures to patients, and you also need to understand the instructions of supervising anesthesiologists or physicians. While not necessary, undergraduate or continuing education courses in speech or English can help you develop some of these skills.

Alternative Careers

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists share many of the same duties of AAs. Beyond undergraduate work, they are required to have a master's degree and a nursing license. Salary.com states that these workers made a median annual salary of about $157,000 for March 2012. The BLS expected that employment for registered nurses would grow 26% for 2010-2020.

Anesthesiologist

If you are looking for a more challenging career, then you may become a licensed anesthesiologist. These workers need to undergo considerable education and training requirements. They have to go to college and medical school. They would also have to be licensed and receive training in residency/fellowship programs.

However, physicians and surgeons make very high salaries and face good job prospects. According to Salary.com, these workers made the median annual salary of about $335,000. The BLS expected that these workers' employment would grow 24% for 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

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    1. George Mason University

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      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
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    2. Kaplan University

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      • MS in Nursing
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    3. American University

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      • Master of Science in Healthcare Management
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    4. Saint Joseph's University

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      • MS in Health Administration
  • Campus Locations:
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    7. Brightwood College

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    Associate's
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    8. Northcentral University

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      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration
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    9. Herzing University

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      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Healthcare Management - MBA (Master's)

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

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Kaplan University

  • MS in Nursing
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Medical Assisting Certificate

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American University

  • Master of Science in Healthcare Management

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

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Virginia College

  • Associate: Medical Assistant
  • Certification - Medical Assistant
  • Diploma Program - Pharmacy Technician

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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Brightwood College

  • Medical Assistant - AS
  • Medical Assistant - Certificate
  • Medical Assistant - Diploma

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Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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