Career Advising

Specialty Choice: Anesthesiology

anesthesiologyPhysician anesthesiologists are primarily responsible for the safety and well-being of patients before, during and after surgery. This may include placing them in the state of controlled unconsciousness called “general anesthesia,” the provision of “regional anesthetics” where only a portion of the body is made numb or administering sedation when indicated for the relief of pain or anxiety. These anesthetics provide continuous pain relief and sustain patients’ critical life functions as they are affected throughout surgical, obstetrical or other medical procedures. (Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists)

Associated Societies

Quick Facts

The following information comes from the National Resident Matching Program’s Charting Outcomes in the Match 2014 (PDF) based on matched applicants in the United States.

Advice for MS1 and MS2 Students

Q: What particular activities should first and second year students get involved with who are interested in pursuing this specialty?

Try to do a 2-week anesthesia elective between first and second year.

Q: Are research experiences important in your specialty?

Depends on the institution, but optimum to get started between first and second year

Q: If so, do these need to be specialty specific research experiences?


Q: Does class rank matter?

Yes, preferably in top quintile.

Advice for MS2 and MS3 Students

Q: When should I ask for letters of recommendation (LORs)?

Ideally you should ask for letters in May but absolutely no later than July, allowing your letter writers adequate time to upload your letter prior to the ERAS application submission date of September 15. Your personal statement and CV should be ready as well as many letter writers will request this in order to write you a strong letter.

Q: How many LORs do you need?

Three or four.

Q: Is a letter from a chair required?

No, but optimum.

Q: Do all letters need to be written by members of this specialty?

No, but at least two should be from Anesthesia and the rest from Internal Medicine (ICU will be especially helpful) or Surgery.

Q: Does your Step 2CK score matter?


Q: What electives would you recommend for someone who is interested in pursuing this specialty?

Cardiology, Pulmonary, Pain Medicine, Critical Care, in addition to Anesthesia electives

Q: Should a student interested in this specialty do away rotations?

Yes, to get LORs

Q: If so, how many “aways” do you recommend and when should they be completed?

One or two are recommended to get LORs, so start early in fourth year. Get individualized advice on the risks and benefits of audition electives.

Q: Which month is recommended to take off to interview?

December- January

Similar Specialties to Consider

Residency Programs

Available Fellowships

Looking into the Future/Changes in Health Care

Many anesthesiologists are expanding their footprint outside the operating room and becoming more involved with patient care before and after surgery. Others are active in operating room and hospital leadership and are going back to school for M.B.A. or M.H.A. degrees. You may want to take a look at information about the expanding role of anesthesiologists in the perioperative surgical home initiative, led by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. (Sibert MD, 2015)

Additional Information

See the Career Essentials Pilot Page regarding specialty specific advice in Anesthesiology for more detailed information or resources.


Fellowship Opportunities. (2016) American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Should I become an anesthesiologist? Read this first before you decide. (2015) Sibert, K.S.

Updated Anesthesiology FAQ for Med Students & Residency Applicants (2008-2009). SDN Physician Features,

Last edited on 10/04/2016.