Anesthesiologist Assistant

Anesthesia Assistant, Anesthesia PA, Anesthesia Tech, Anesthesia Technician   More Names
Anesthesiologist Assistant, Anesthesiologist Assistant-Certified, Anesthesiologist Assistants, Anesthesiologists' Assistant, Cardiothoracic Anesthesia Technician, Certified Anesthesia Technician and Technologist, Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant, Mid-Level Anesthesia Provider, Operating Room Technician, Oral Surgery Assistant, Oral Surgery Assistant-Clinical Coordinator

Deliver anesthesia to patients in a variety of surgical and other settings under direction of a licensed anesthesiologist. Perform pre-operation evaluations, administer anesthetic drugs, secure the airway by intubating or other means, anticipate surgical events and manage them, make physiological diagnoses and treat them, order lab tests, and wake up patients before sending them to the recovery unit.

Anesthesiologist assistants (AAs) are non-physician anesthesia providers and members of the Anesthesia Care Team (ACT), all of whom work under the direction of an anesthesiologist. AAs deliver anesthesia to patients in a variety of surgical settings to induce loss of sensation or consciousness during surgeries, childbirths, or other medical and dental procedures. Anesthesia specialties include pediatrics, cardiac, thoracic, obstetric, neurosurgery, and more.

Anesthesiologist assistants are able to deliver regional anesthesia, which includes spinal and epidural anesthesia. They can also perform femoral blocks, interscalene blocks, brachial plexus blocks, and more. In the course of anesthetic care, the anesthesiologist assistant may place invasive monitors and establish access points like IV lines, arterial lines, central venous catheters, pulmonary artery catheters, and more. During the course of the procedure, the AA will analyze these monitors along with non-invasive monitors to keep the patient safely anesthetized. Non-invasive monitors include, but are not limited to, ECGs, blood-pressure cuffs, pulse oximeters, BIS monitors, and temperature probes.

Anesthesiologist assistants practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered: traditional hospital surgical units, intensive care units and recovery rooms, childbirth delivery units, ambulatory surgical centers, and other settings. They also work in the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons, pain management specialists, and for various government agencies, such as the U.S. military, U.S. Public Health Service, and Department of Veterans Affairs.

The responsibilities and duties of an anesthesiologist assistant in clinical practice are the same as those of a nurse anesthetist. Among the principal differences between these two occupations is that anesthesiologist assistants are part of a medical career pathway guided by State Boards of Medicine. In contrast, nurse anesthetists are part of a nursing career pathway guided by State Boards of Nursing. By following the medical career pathway, AAs are readily eligible to apply to medical school if they desire.

Anesthesiologist assistants are highly-skilled medical professionals who require very specialized advanced degree education and training. This training includes earning a master's degree as an anesthesiologist assistant with at least 600 anesthesia sessions required to be administered in all types of surgery settings. This career is at the advanced level of a medical career pathway that may begin by first working as a surgical technologist.

It should be noted that anesthesiologist assistants are NOT to be confused with anesthesia assistants (also known as anesthesia technicians). While anesthesiologist assistants work directly under anesthesiologists to help provide clinical care to patients, anesthesia assistants (anesthesia technicians) prepare, handle, and maintain anesthesia equipment and machines. While the accurate and efficient work of anesthesia assistants (anesthesia technicians) is important to the overall high quality provision of anesthesia services, the entry-level education for this occupation is typically a high school diploma or GED certificate. More information about entry-level medical field occupations that are similar to the anesthesia assistant (anesthesia technician) is available on this VCN website under "Medical Appliance Technician" and "Medical Equipment Preparer."

Credentials Needed: Anesthesiologist assistants are highly-skilled medical professionals who require very specialized advanced degree education and training. This training includes earning a master's degree that lasts 27 months on average and includes both classroom as well as significant amounts of clinical training in a wide variety of surgical settings and broad range patient demographics.

After completion of an educational program credentialed by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), all aspiring AAs must take a credentialing exam that is co-validated by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). Upon success, an anesthesiologist assistant receives a time-limited certification as a Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant (AA-C). To maintain certification as an AA-C, the AA must complete 40 hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) every two years and pass the Continued Demonstration of Qualifications (CDQ) exam every six years.

Legal requirements for anesthesiologist assistants to practice vary state by state. They are regulated by individual state medical boards and are subject to individual state statutes. AAs practice under both licensure and delegated authority. To inquire about a specific state, one can use the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) website or contact their state medical board. A list of the links to the 50 State Boards of Medicine and for the District of Columbia is available from the American Medical Association at AMA State Medical Boards.

As of mid-2012, the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants (AAAA) reported that in 11 states and the District of Columbia anesthesiologist assistants must meet license, regulation, or certification requirements in order to practice. In six other states, they are granted practice privileges through "physician delegation" (meaning an anesthesiologist may delegate specific anesthesia tasks to an anesthesiologist assistant). In those states which license or regulate this profession, requirements typically include verifying anesthesiologist assistant education and training credentials and any professional certifications, checking for a criminal record background, and paying an application fee. In the remaining 33 states, a licensed anesthesiologist, hospital administration, or other medical care services provider should consult with their State Board of Medicine concerning the legal implications of having an anesthesiologist assistant practice in a medical setting within their state.

Some Key Things to Remember: Anesthesiologist assistants administer anesthesia under the direction of a licensed anesthesiologist to patients to induce total or partial loss of sensation or consciousness during surgeries, childbirths, or other medical and dental procedures. Completing an accredited postsecondary education and training program resulting in a master's degree is among the key requirements. The need for a license or other requirements to practice as an anesthesiologist assistant varies from state to state.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
30% - Much faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $86,130 - $121,420    Hourly: $41 - $58
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specific physical requirements are associated with this career. However, it is important to be able to work well with your hands in order to intubate the patient, help move the patient, place IVs, administer spinal anesthesia, and perform various other manual tasks.

Legal Requirements

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Master's and Above (High School + 6 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

30% - Much faster than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $86,130 - $121,420

Hourly: $41 - $58