Anesthesiology is the highest-paid profession in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re thinking about entering the medical field, you’d be wise to consider a career as an anesthesiologist.
In this article, we’ll go over the average anesthesiologist salary. We’ll also give detailed information about where, and in which industries, anesthesiologists earn the highest salaries.
Average Anesthesiologist Salary
The average anesthesiologist salary is $267,020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This wage averages out to about $128 per hour.
Other resources—including job boards like Glassdoor and survey sites like PayScale—list higher average anesthesiologist salaries. They range from $291,773 (PayScale) to $371,527 (Glassdoor). But the BLS salary is more inclusive, and it uses official employment data rather than job listings.
Starting Anesthesiologist Salary
As in any other career, you’ll earn less as a beginning anesthesiologist than you will later in your career. But, as an anesthesiologist, you can rest assured that even your starting wage will be higher than most.
The lowest-paid 10% of anesthesiologists earn an annual wage of $133,080, or about $64 per hour. As a starting anesthesiologist at the beginning of your career, you might fall into this category. But as you build up your skills and experience, you’ll have opportunities to earn more.
Average Anesthesiologist Salary by Industry
The industry in which you work as an anesthesiologist affects how much you can earn. But the specific industry you choose is less likely to affect your salary in anesthesiology than in other medical careers.
For example, as a nurse anesthetist (or CRNA), the type of employer you choose can affect your salary as much as $90,000 per year. For anesthesiologists, the range of salaries depending on your industry is much smaller.
But it’s still important to understand which industry pays the most, and which pays the least. The BLS lists these common industries for anesthesiologists, from highest-paying to lowest-paying:
- Specialty Hospitals: $280,400
- Offices of Physicians: $276,990
- Outpatient Care Centers: $273,080
- Offices of Dentists: $254,850
- Home Health Care Services: $250,950
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $209,260
- Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $195,350
Average Anesthesiologist Salary by State and City
The state and city or rural area where you live and work is another significant factor that affects your salary as an anesthesiologist. As a rule of thumb, working in a location with a higher cost-of-living will generally result in higher pay.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t show exact average anesthesiologist salaries by location. But it does list the states, cities, and rural areas that offer the highest average anesthesiologist salary in the U.S.
The Top-Paying States for Anesthesiologists
The five states with the highest average anesthesiologist salary are:
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
Top-Paying Cities for Anesthesiologists
The five cities with the highest average anesthesiologist salary are:
- Providence, RI
- Wichita, KS
- Honolulu, HI
- Springfield, IL
- Spartanburg, SC
Top-Paying Rural Areas for Anesthesiologists
The five non-metropolitan areas with the highest average anesthesiologist salary are:
- West Central-Southwest New Hampshire
- North Missouri
- Southwest Maine
- Central Kentucky
- Southeast Coastal North Carolina
Career Outlook for Anesthesiologists
According to the Bureau, the outlook for anesthesiologists is bright. All careers under the category “Physicians and Surgeons” are expected to grow by 7% between 2018 and 2028. This percentage is faster than the average growth projection for jobs in the U.S.
Careers in medicine, in general, are on the rise. The nation’s elderly population is increasing rapidly. As it does, so does the need for advanced healthcare. As an anesthesiologist, you can expect your job opportunities to increase.
Locum Tenens Salaries for Anesthesiologists
Another option to consider if you’re going into anesthesiology is locum tenens. Before you choose a full-time employer or settle into one city or industry, you might work locum tenens short-term. Some anesthesiologists work locum tenens more long-term if they like the freedom it provides.
What is Locum Tenens?
Locum tenens roughly translates from Latin as “to hold the place.” It’s essentially temping for medical professionals (the term is also used for members of the clergy). You can work in one hospital one week and another the next. You might work with hospitals and care centers directly, but more often, you’ll work with a locum tenens recruiter or agency.
What is the Average Anesthesiologist Salary for Locum Tenens?
With locum tenens work, you usually earn a higher hourly rate. According to Staff Care—a medical staffing agency that works with locum tenens providers—the average locum tenens anesthesiologist earns about $168 to $215 per hour.
With locum tenens, however, you’re an independent contractor, so you don’t receive the regular benefits of a full-time job. You also have to file your taxes differently, and will usually end up paying more.
If you choose locum tenens work, make sure you earn enough to make up for the benefits you’ll be giving up. Those include medical insurance, retirement contributions, and paid time off.
Anesthesiologist Salary vs. Other Medical Careers
The average anesthesiologist salary is higher than any other medical wage. Anesthesiologists get paid, on average, even more than surgeons. Why do anesthesiologists earn such a high salary?
Anesthesiologists have to be accurate and precise within a very small margin of error. They face more risks than many other medical practitioners, including an increased risk of malpractice suits.
Each patient you treat as an anesthesiologist requires a different dosage and adjustments. These precise measurements often mean the difference between a successful recovery and an unsuccessful one. This makes the career high-stress, and the pressure won’t be a good fit for everyone.
Here are a few of the highest salaries for medical professionals, after anesthesiologists:
- Surgeon: $255,110
- Ob/Gyn: $238,320
- Orthodontist: $225,760
- Psychiatrist: $220,380
- General Practitioner: $211,780
Visit this article to learn more about the Top 15 Highest Paying Medical Jobs.
Average Anesthesiologist Salary vs. Nurse Anesthesiologist Salary
If you’re passionate about anesthesiology, you have two options: becoming an anesthesiologist or becoming a nurse anesthetist (CRNA).
CRNAs are amongst the highest-paid advanced-practice nurses. They perform many of the same tasks as anesthesiologists. They can prescribe medication and order tests. In some states, they’re required to work with a supervising physician. But in many, CRNAs can work independently.
Small clinics and medical offices are more likely to employ nurse anesthetists. Larger healthcare centers and hospitals usually employ both CRNAs and anesthesiologists. Both types of care providers work in urban areas, but most rural anesthesia work is done by CRNAs.
Multiple studies have concluded that there’s little to no difference between the care provided by a nurse anesthetist and the care provided by an anesthesiologist. That means the primary differences between the two are pay, work-life balance, and education.
The most notable difference is between the two careers’ salaries:
Average nurse anesthetist salary: $174,790
Average anesthesiologist salary: $267,020
But becoming a CRNA has its benefits too. The BLS reports that nurse anesthetists generally have better work-life balance than anesthesiologists. Nurse anesthetists typically go into less debt than anesthesiologists. They also benefit from starting their careers sooner.
Ultimately, the decision between nurse anesthetist and anesthesiologist comes down to two things:
- The type of education you want; and
- How you weigh work-life balance against income.
How to Become an Anesthesiologist
Becoming an anesthesiologist requires more years in college than becoming a nurse anesthetist. To become an anesthesiologist, you’ll need to achieve the following:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree. Any degree will do, but you should have a strong background in natural sciences, math, and chemistry. A B.S. in one of these fields, or in a specific pre-med program, will help you get into medical school.
- Prepare for the medical school application process. To get into medical school, you’ll have to show excellent academic performance. Most candidates who get into medical school have a GPA from 3.5 to 4.0. You can also increase your chances by gaining clinical experience through paid work or volunteer work.
- Pass the MCAT. The MCAT exam assesses medical school candidates’ knowledge in physics, biology, chemistry, writing, math, and more. The four sections of the MCAT include biological sciences, verbal reasoning, social sciences, and physical sciences. You need to pass the MCAT to gain admission to medical school.
- Complete medical school. Anesthesiologists must complete four years of medical school. You’ll also prepare for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).
- Pass the USMLE. You have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. You can take part of the USMLE during med school, but you must take the final exam after you receive your M.D. degree.
- Complete your residency. Anesthesiologists spend another four years in training after earning an M.D. degree. The first year will consist of various hospital rotations; the next three years will focus on anesthesia training.
- Earn state licensing. After your residency, you’ll have to apply for licensing with your state medical board.
- Earn board certification (optional). You don’t have to earn board certification from the American Board of Anesthesiology or the American Board of Physician Specialists, but doing so will offer additional career opportunities.
All in all, anesthesiologists spend approximately ten years in college and residency training.
Anesthesiologist Medical School Debt
All that time spent in undergrad, medical school, and residency can add up fast. To get through school, most med students rely on a combination of grants and scholarships, federal loans, and private loans.
In 2017, the average medical school debt in the United States was more than $200,000. And while you’ll earn a salary during your residency, it won’t be a full anesthesiologist salary. You might find it challenging to start repaying your med school debt during residency.
A survey published in Anesthesia and Analgesia found that many anesthesiology students moonlight during residency. They take other jobs outside of their residency hours to help pay off student loan debt. The study found that the amount of debt students had correlated to how likely they were to take on extra work.
The researchers recommend pursuing moonlighting opportunities that don’t impact your current work hours, as well as searching for employers with debt repayment programs.
How to Reduce Student Loan Payments While in Residency
Anesthesiologists who are still in residency can balance the burden of debt repayment by enrolling in a federal income-driven repayment plan. One of these plans will allow you to pay only as much as you’re able to pay, based on your income. That means that, during residency, you’ll have a smaller monthly payment due on your federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
But private loans may be another story. You might still be able to reduce your monthly payments while in residency if you’re willing to pay more interest down the line. You can do so via refinancing and consolidating your private student loans, or by discussing payment options with your lender.
Average Anesthesiologist Salary Bottom Line
The average anesthesiologist salary is the highest annual wage in the United States. Anesthesiologists earn this high pay because of the delicate and precise nature of their work, the risk of malpractice lawsuits, and the often-unpredictable work hours. They also earn a high salary because of the many years of school it takes to become an anesthesiologist.
Anesthesiology is an Investment
If you’re considering the career of anesthesiology, keep in mind the significant investment required. You may be able to make student loan payments each month once you’re earning an anesthesiologist’s salary. But make sure you’re prepared for the financial and emotional burden of debt before you reach that point.
Most importantly, it’s best to make sure medicine is the right career path for you before you invest. You may be able to switch your specialty during residency if you decide against anesthesiology, but you’ll be well into the medical field by then.
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