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Anaesthetists provide anaesthetics to patients before, during and after surgery.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £26,350 to £102,500 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 48 per week

1. Entry requirements

To become a doctor specialising in anaesthetics you'll need to complete:

  • a 5-year degree in medicine, recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC)
  • a 2-year foundation programme of general training
  • a 7- or 8- year training programme of specialist training
If you don't have qualifications in science, you may be able to join a 6-year degree course in medicine. This includes a one-year pre-medical or foundation year.

If you already have a degree in a science subject (minimum 2:1) you could take a 4-year graduate entry programme into medicine. 

When you apply for a course in medicine, you may be asked to take the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT). This is used to check your suitability for a career in medicine by testing your mental abilities and behavioural characteristics, rather than your academic achievements.

You may be able to get NHS funding to pay for your course fees and help with your living expenses.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has more information about becoming an anaesthetist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • excellent communication skills and the ability to explain choices to patients
  • the ability to work under pressure and make quick, accurate decisions
  • practical skills for examining patients and performing clinical procedures
  • excellent hand-eye co-ordination
  • the ability to put people at their ease and inspire trust and confidence
  • leadership and management skills

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • preparing patients for surgery by explaining any risks or side effects
  • giving anaesthetics to patients
  • observing and monitoring patients during surgery
  • resuscitating and stabilising patients in the emergency department
  • relieving pain during childbirth
  • easing pain after an operation
  • managing acute and chronic pain
  • helping psychiatric patients receiving electric shock therapy
You'll also give anaesthetics to patients having operations outside the operating theatre, like radiology and radiotherapy, and dental surgery.

4. Salary

Starter: £26,350 to £45,750 (doctors in training)

Experienced: £37,500 to £70,000 (specialty doctors)

Highly Experienced: £76,000 to £102,500 (consultants)

Consultants working in the private sector may be paid more.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll work long hours including nights and weekends, and you'll be part of an out-of-hours rota system.

You'll work in consulting rooms, wards, operating theatres and special units like accident and emergency.

6. Career path and progression

As a consultant anaesthetist in the NHS, you may also find opportunities to work in the private sector. With experience you might lead or manage departments.

With experience and entry on the General Medical Council (GMC) Specialist Register, you could apply for senior (or consultant) roles. 

You could also teach medical students, postgraduate doctors in training, nurses, midwives and paramedics.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018