top of page

An Obscure Master’s Degree in a Health Sciences Field with an Extremely High-Paying Career

Updated: Aug 16, 2023


You may have heard the phrase that if you want to wake up happy, sleep with an anesthesiologist. This phrase may or may not be accurate. But one thing is sure, becoming an anesthesiologist is a lucrative and rewarding career with a high-paying job. To become an anesthesiologist, you need to be a medical doctor, complete your residency in anesthesiology, licensure, and certification. Earning a fellowship and additional license can help increase your earning potential. Becoming an anesthesiologist requires years of schooling and arduous work to get into medical school and find the right residency program. What if I suggest that you do not need to spend all these years in school and do not even need to be a medical doctor to work as an anesthesiologist? You may not believe this at first. But there are two tracks available that allow you to do similar work that anesthesiologists do with just a master’s degree and licensing exam. The two tracks are Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant (CAA) and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). This blog will focus only on Certified Anesthesiologist Assistants (CAA).

What does a Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant (CAA) Do?

CAA helps ensure that patients undergoing surgery or procedure are adequately sedated. The CAA’s job is to support the anesthesiologists, a particular type of doctor, to sedate patients during surgical procedures. During surgical procedures, anesthesia can be applied locally near the surgery site or to a patient’s entire body to make them completely unconscious. CAA monitors the patient’s vitals and other statistics as patients undergo the procedure to help determine the appropriate amount of anesthetic. CAA works as part of the anesthesia team, led by the anesthesiologist, including anesthesia technicians or nurse anesthetists.

What must you do to become a Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant (CAA)?

CAA requires significant education and training before they can begin working. However, this is less education than needed for an anesthesiologist – not competing to get into and going through medical school. CAA schooling can still last 6 to 7 years after high school. Here are the steps to pursue a CAA career:

· Earn an Undergraduate Degree: Like any professional degree track, you must first earn your undergraduate degree before being eligible to pursue your master’s or professional degree. For CAA, you can achieve any undergraduate degree in any field as long as you complete the admission requirements to enter the program. It is much easier to pursue CAA if your undergraduate major is in a science field such as biological sciences. Most schools, if not all, require specific prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. It is a much easier, cost-effective, and time-saving option if your undergraduate degree is in sciences, as you would be completing these courses based on your undergraduate requirement. Your science degree will help you prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) or Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Most schools require you to submit these scores as part of the application process even though you are not applying for medical school.

· Apply for a Master’s Degree in Anesthesiologist Assistant Program: As your undergraduate degree is finishing, you can search for graduate schools that offer a master’s degree in an anesthesiologist assistant. You will find that only a handful of schools offer this program. Here is a list of all the schools that offer the program:

o Bluefield University at VCOM

o Case Western Reserve University

o Emory University

o Indiana University – Purdue University

o Medical College of Wisconsin

o Northeast Ohio Medical University

o Nova Southeastern University

o Ohio Dominican University

o South University

o University of Colorado School of Medicine

o University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Medicine

While very few schools offer this program, all colleges are part of the Centralized Application Service for Anesthesiologist Assistant (CASAA), which allows you to create your application portal. Using the CASAA portal, you can decide which school(s) you want to submit your application to. Please make sure to check each school submission requirement individually. For instance, some schools may require you to submit both MCAT and GRE test scores, while others may prefer one. Some schools may require additional prerequisite courses for application consideration. While pursuing your undergraduate degree, remember to participate in extracurricular activities and volunteer work relevant to the CAA profession.

· Earn Your Masters of Anesthesiologist Assistant Degree: Your master’s program will run from two to two-and-a-half years, depending on your school. Your coursework will include classes in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, anesthesia, airway management, and instrumentation and monitoring. The second year of your program will consist of clinical coursework allowing you to learn in hospital, clinical, or medical facilities. This experience will help you develop essential real-life skills and knowledge for when you begin your career as CAA. Stay the course for these two years; you will earn this degree, and it will be worth the effort you put into your classes.

· State Licensure to Practice Medicine: Now that you have obtained your master's degree, you can apply for a license to practice medicine in your state. Your state may require you to get a certification as an anesthesiologist assistant before applying for a license. Please check your state's law governing the licensure of medical personnel or anesthesiologist assistant in your state. In some states, an anesthesiologist assistant must operate under the license of the anesthesiologist who leads the team. Consult the laws in your state.

· Obtain Certification as Anesthesiologist Assistant: Your state may not require anesthesiologist assistant certification to practice, but anesthesiologist assistant certification is highly essential to practice. It gives you additional proof of your accomplishment and status as a professional in your field. Certification for anesthesiologist assistants is done through the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants (NCCAA), resulting in the credential Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant, or CAA. To sit in the NCCAA exam, you must be at least 21 years old, have completed an accredited education program, and be a licensed professional or a student who will be graduating within 180 days of the examination. Once you pass the NCCAA exam, you will become certified as an Anesthesiologist Assistant and receive your CAA credential. To keep their credentials, the certified anesthesiologist assistant must complete 40 hours of continuing medical education (CME) every two years. Additionally, CAA must take a Continuing Demonstration of Qualification (CDQ) exam to recertify every six years.


What is the Expected Salary and Job Growth for CAA?

According to Payscale.com, the median annual salary of CAA is $144,590, and the upper range is $167,00. Per Salary.com, the average wage of CAA is $172,418 as of June 26, 2023, and the salary range falls between $140,447 and $212,769.The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data on anesthesiologist assistants. BLS compares the CAA profession to physician assistants (PA) and predicts 31% job growth between 2020-2030. Thirty-one percent growth is substantial compared to the national average of other professions. This job growth in CAA results from the aging population and the healthcare industry trying to reduce costs by hiring more CAA over hiring an anesthesiologist.

The Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant is an excellent career option for students looking for an extremely high-paying career and income potential with a master's degree than an anesthesiologist with a doctoral degree. This degree puts you in a professional field working with other health professionals. As I stated earlier, CAA and CRNA are two routes of working as anesthesiologists with a master's degree. We will investigate the differences between these two masters in greater detail in a later article.




Comments

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page