Anesthesiology is among the most lucrative fields in medicine, with anesthesiologists typically earning an average salary well over six figures. The cost of earning the degrees necessary to become an anesthesiologist all but makes this salary mandatory. Many doctors emerge from the several degree programs needed to become an anesthesiologist with an amount of education debt that looks more like a home loan than a college experience.
Undergraduate Degree Costs
All anesthesiologists are required to complete a four-year degree from an accredited university or college in the United States. The degree program chosen by the student generally takes four years to complete and usually involves a science-focused major like chemistry or biology. The cost of attaining an undergraduate degree varies by institution. Yearly tuition for some state colleges can be as low as $5,000 while private institutions can have yearly tuition costs in the $50,000 range, as of 2010.
After successful completion of your undergraduate degree program your next step is to head off to medical school. Before that can happen you are required to take the Medical College Admission Test more commonly referred to as the MCAT. Your score on this exam can determine which tier of medical school you'll be able to get into — if you'll be able to get in at all. As of December 2010, the cost to register for this exam is $210.
Medical school is perhaps the most costly portion of your education journey to becoming an anesthesiologist. The process of earning your doctor of medicine degree takes about four years to complete. According to the website for the American Medical Association, the average cost of all four years of medical school for the graduating class of 2009 was $156,456. This cost can vary depending on the tier of medical school you attend. For example, the cost of attending Harvard Medical School is higher than the cost of attending the University of Pittsburgh's Medical School.
Residency Program and Specific Training
After graduating from medical school you are required to enter an accredited medical residency program taught through a medical school attached to a hospital or other medical facility. There, you learn the specifics of anesthesiology through direct contact with patients and through interning with established anesthesiologists. This experience is as much a job as it is an educational opportunity since residents are expected to work long hours at the hospital and do not earn the high salaries of attending physicians. The average tuition of a residency program varies by institution but is on par with the cost of medical school. An anesthesiologist can expect to emerge from this four-year program with at least $100,000 in education debt.