Like any physician, anesthesiologists must complete four years of undergraduate studies before moving on to four years of medical school. From there, the next step is an anesthesiology residency, which takes three years, on average. So, you’re looking at an 11-year commitment as far as training goes. But the years are often well spent, as anesthesiologists typically earn six-figure salaries.
As of 2012, anesthesiologists earned an average of $232,830 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey by Medscape, a physician's resource, provides even higher figures, showing that male anesthesiologists earned an average of $324,000, while female anesthesiologists averaged $260,000 -- a wide gap of 25 percent. But none of these figures account for location, which has some bearing on earnings. Those working in Virginia fared better than the national average for the occupation, bringing home a mean salary of $237,000 annually. In West Virginia, however, anesthesiologists didn’t earn as much, coming in at an average of $221,510 a year.
While regional information is somewhat limited, anesthesiologists working in the southwestern area of Virginia can usually expect to earn an average of $203,970 a year. Not only is this less than the average for the state, but also for the northwestern region of Virginia, where salaries came in at $221,250 annually. In West Virginia, southern-based anesthesiologists earned closer to $241,690 a year. The disparity in pay has a lot to do with cost of living, as employers must offer higher wages to attract qualified candidates.
Many hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities staff nurse anesthetists, due largely to a shortage of physicians, particularly anesthesiologists. Like anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia prior to and during surgical, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. On average, these advanced practice nurses earned $154,390 a year, according to the BLS. Those in Virginia averaged $141,680, while those in West Virginia earned $173,990. In southwestern Virginia, salaries came in at $173,830, and earnings in southern West Virginia averaged at $181,380.
The BLS expects employment for anesthesiologists to grow by as much as 24 percent from 2010 to 2020. A similar job growth can be expected for nurse anesthetists, at an average of 26 percent during this same period of time. By comparison, both growth rates are much faster than the national average for all U.S. occupations, a projected 14 percent. For either occupation, expect the best prospects to develop in rural regions of the country where the populations are medically under served, generally speaking.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Physicians and Surgeons
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Anesthesiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Registered Nurses
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists
- The New York Times: Debate Over Who Should Be Allowed to Administer Anesthesia Moves to Courts
- Mayo Clinic: Anesthesiology Clinical Training
- Medscape: Anesthesiologist Compensation Report 2012
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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