Anesthesiologists don't major in their chosen field; instead, they complete an undergraduate degree and general medical school requirements before pursuing a residency at a hospital or medical practice. The residency hones anesthesiologists' skills, preparing them to work independently with patients. Both your college and medical school choices can affect your ability to gain access to anesthesiology residencies.
Choosing a School
You actually have to choose at least two schools to become an anesthesiologist -- your undergraduate college or university and a medical school. Undergraduate schools don't offer any specific preparation for anesthesiology, but you need to meet certain prerequisites for medical school admission. These prerequisites usually include a year each of biology, physics and English, plus two years of chemistry through organic chemistry. As long as your school offers these courses and you take them, you have a good chance of getting into medical school. When you consider medical schools, weigh whether the school offers a competitive anesthesiology program or access to a hospital with a strong anesthesiology department. National rankings provide helpful information about the best anesthesiology schools.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 51 percent of 2012 medical students majored in a biology-based discipline such as pre-medicine. Your major matters much less than the school you choose and the grades you receive, and a competitive college can increase your odds of gaining admission to medical school. According to "U.S. News and World Report," the best overall universities in 2013 are Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Stanford universities. These schools offer challenging coursework, prestigious faculty, strong academic research and strong name recognition. Medical college admissions boards quickly recognize the names of these prestigious schools.
Medical School Choices
Although you can't major in anesthesiology, some schools have stronger anesthesiology departments than others. According to Resident Physician, a site that helps medical school graduates choose residencies, the five best anesthesiology schools are at the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Washington, the University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University and Medical College of Wisconsin. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, anesthesiologists must be skilled at a variety of specialties, including internal medicine, obstetrics, emergency medicine and pain management. Each of these schools offers a strong program in these specialties, according to "U.S. News and World Report."
You have to complete a year-long internship and a three-year residency before you can become licensed as an anesthesiologist. Establishing strong relationships with your professors may help you gain a recommendation to a residency program. Prospective anesthesiologists typically complete their residency at a hospital, and a competitive hospital associated with the school you attend can be an excellent residency option. Johns Hopkins University Hospital, for example, offers a joint anesthesiology and critical care program for resident physicians. The University of Pittsburgh's anesthesiology receives a large amount of funding every year from the National Institute of Health because of its cutting-edge research, making it a good choice for future anesthesiologists interested in both the practice of medicine and research.