How to Become an Anesthesiologist Assistant

How to Become an Anesthesiologist Assistant

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

The first step to becoming an Anesthesiologist Assistant is to earn a bachelor's degree in an undergraduate pre-med program.

Common areas of study include:

  • Advanced Mathematics
  • General & Organic Chemistry
  • Advanced Biology
  • Physics

Most medical fields are highly competitive and Anesthesiologist Assistant is no exception. Aim to achieve a minimum of a 3.0 in undergrad, with a 3.5 or higher being ideal to getting accepted into a master's program.

Undergraduate pre-med programs vary from school to school, so the preparation timeline below outlines general suggested courses:

Grade Level Example Courses
  • General Biology I & Lab
  • General Biology II & Lab
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • Calculus II
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab
  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

Although anesthesiologist assistants do not have to complete medical school, they do still have to pass the MCAT and it's advisable to start as early as possible.

Typically the best time to begin studying is in your late sophomore and early junior years of undergraduate.

2. Take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam)

To be admitted into an anesthesiologist assistant's program, candidates must first pass the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or the GRE (Graduate Requisite Exam).

Depending on the university or school, programs may require one or the other. You will have to check with the institutions you're interested in to find out which.

The MCAT is a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to asses the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

The GRE is a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

Section Section Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics
Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 52 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tess reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the MCAT website. If you are unsatisfied with your score on any of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

The GRE is broken down into six main sections

Section Section Breakdown
1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas.
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • 20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data.
2 Verbal Reasoning Sections
  • 20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections

You can find study materials, GRE registration, and test scores on the GRE website.

If you are unsatisfied with your score on either of the aforementioned exams, you are free to retake them. Depending on the school, some will average your scores and others will simply take your most recent.

3. Complete a Master's Degree (2 Years)

After finishing an undergraduate pre-med degree and taking the MCAT or GRE, completion of a master's level anesthesiologist assistant program is necessary. These post-baccalaureate programs generally focus on:

  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry

Within those four areas, different systems of the body are emphasized, including cardiovascular, renal, and the nervous systems.

4. Compete Anesthesia Training

Becoming an AA requires special training in anesthesia as well. However, students who have already chosen anesthesia as their specialty can choose a focused anesthesiology assistant training program to be completed alongside a master's.

These students can typically enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. Training programs generally include 600 hours of classroom and laboratory coursework, including 2,000 hours of clinical training and a minimum of 63 didactic hours.

The clinical portion of the training will require the students to administer up to 600 different anesthetics for a variety of surgical procedures. Clinical training is designed to prepare students for monitoring of patients, operation of anesthesia delivery system, operation of life support systems and accurate patient assessment.

Programs include extensive clinical instruction in patient monitoring, maintaining life support systems, accurate use of anesthesia delivery systems, extensive patient assessment and education in the skills needed to provide quality and compassionate care.

Training programs should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and work closely with a medical school. Students should work under board-certified anesthesiology physicians.

5. Obtain Licensing & Certification

In order to practice, Anesthesiologist Assistants must have completed their certification. The process is overseen by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) and requires the passage of a 6-hour exam administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Apply for the Exam

Successful completion of 6-hour National Commission for the Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) certification exam.

6. Maintain Ongoing Education

Anesthesiologist assistants must also complete 40 hours of continuing education every 2 years and they must retake the exam every 6 years.