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Anesthesiology Assistant FAQ

written by: Robyn Broyles•edited by: DaniellaNicole•updated: 4/13/2009

Anesthesiology assistants have exciting careers with outstanding pay and benefits. Learn the answers to frequently asked questions about anesthesiology assistants, including job duties, training requirements, and career outlook.

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    What is an anesthesiology assistant?

    These medical professionals are specialized physician's assistants who work as part of an anesthesiology team for patients undergoing surgery or other procedures requiring anesthesia. They have a master's level education.

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    What does an anesthesiology assistant do?

    Working under the supervision of an anesthesiologist (a medical doctor specializing in administering anesthesia), teir specific duties vary from location to location, but may include any of the following:

    • Taking patient history and conducting a preliminary physical exam before surgery for the anesthesiologist.
    • Taking diagnostic samples such as venous blood for testing.
    • Administering anesthesia during surgery and continuing anesthetic care during the recovery period.
    • Using advanced monitoring and life support techniques.
    • Performing emergency resuscitation techniques such as CPR when necessary.
    • Assisting as appropriate in ICUs, pain clinics, labor and delivery units, etc.
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    What is the difference between an anesthesiology assistant and a nurse anesthetist?

    The scope of duties is similar to that of nurse anesthetists, but anesthesiology assistants generally do not hold a nursing degree. Nurse anesthetists may be qualified to perform anesthesiology duties independently, while anesthesiology assistants always work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. Salary and benefits are comparable for both positions.

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    What education and training is necessary?

    As a prerequisite to entering an anesthesiology assistant training program, applicants must first possess a bachelor's degree with an emphasis on courses appropriate to a premed curriculum. They must take the MCAT or GRE. They must then enter an accredited Master's-level program of 24 to 28 months; upon completion of the program, they they will earn a Master's level degree.

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    What are the licensing requirements for practice?

    Licensing requirements depend on the state. Some states require anesthesiology assistants to obtain their own licenses, while others provide for them to practice under the delegated authority of a licensed anesthesiologist. In either case they work under the state board of medicine.

    In addition they are certified by the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiology Assistants.

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    Can they work wherever they want?

    No. Anesthesiology assistants work under either licensure or delegation in only 17 states and the District of Columbia. Those states are Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The federal government also uses anesthesiology assistants.

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    What professional organizations represent them?

    The American Academy of Anesthesiology Assistants (AAAA), based in Richmond, Virginia.

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    What are the potential earnings and job outlook?

    The job outlook for anesthesiology assistants is very good, with employment expected to grow much faster than average. Starting salary is from $95,000 to $120,000 annually.

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    • "Facts About AAs." American Academy of Anesthesiology Assistants. Available at
    • "Anesthesiologist Assistant: Career Profile, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements." Degree Directory. Available at