What Is an Anaesthesia Associate? And How to Become One

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Read this guide to discover more about anaesthesia associates’ schooling requirements and necessary qualifications. Additionally, learn about the role, typical tasks, salary information, and how to become one.

[Featured Image] A nurse anesthetist cares for a patient.

Elsewhere in the world, nurse anaesthetists play a pivotal role in the operating theatre. In the United Kingdom, anaesthesia associates administer anaesthesia to patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. 

Anaesthesia associates are part of a multidisciplinary theatre team in various health care environments, such as NHS hospitals, private hospitals, and clinics. In addition to working under a supervising consultant anaesthetist, you can expect to work alongside nurses, surgeons, and physicians to ensure their patients receive the best care possible.

To succeed in this position, you must remain calm under pressure and empathise with the patients you’ll work with. Explore what anaesthesia associates do, how much they earn, and their job outlook in the coming years. 

Anaesthesia associates explained

Anaesthesia associates administer anaesthesia to patients, monitor their vital signs, and help them manage pain and post-surgery recovery. With advanced training in administering anaesthesia, anaesthesia associates must possess a postgraduate degree such as the MSc in Anaesthesia and Perioperative Science or the Anaesthesia Associate Postgraduate Diploma, a two-year program followed by three months of supervised practice. As a result, anaesthesia associates are highly-skilled medical professionals with many important responsibilities in high demand within the medical field. 

What does an anaesthesia associate do?

An anaesthesia associate performs their duties in three stages: preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative. Before surgery, you'll need to assess the patient's medical history and current condition to determine if any factors may pose complications with the anaesthesia. Throughout the surgical process and after, you’ll also be responsible for:

  • Undertaking a physical assessment

  • Taking part in preoperative teaching

  • Choosing the correct type of anaesthesia for each patient

  • Determining the proper amount of anaesthesia 

  • Monitoring the patient's vital signs and adjusting the amount of anaesthesia as necessary

  • Delivering anaesthesia via gas and intravenously to keep the patient pain-free 

  • Maintaining anaesthesia intraoperatively

  • Administering medications that help block pain 

  • Preparing for anaesthetic management

  • Responding appropriately if complications arise

  • Supervising recovery from anaesthesia

  • Proving post-surgical pain management to help ensure a controlled recovery

Anaesthesia associate skills

As an anaesthesia associate, you must be professional, think critically, communicate well, and possess technical nursing skills. During your schooling and career, you’ll develop an advanced skill set to use specialised equipment and make complex decisions that critically impact a patient's health. Here are some of the core competencies you'll need as an anaesthesia associate:

Critical thinking: You need to be able to make quick decisions based on patient observations and test results.

Attention to detail: You need to interpret data, such as a patient's vital signs, and adjust accordingly. You also need good technical knowledge when administering precise doses of anaesthesia and other medicines.

Interpersonal skills: You must work well with others on the health care team, including doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.

Communication skills: You need to be able to explain what you're doing as you administer anaesthesia and provide updates about your patient's condition after surgery.

Clinical skills: To offer safe, high-quality care as an anaesthesia associate, you must have excellent clinical skills, including physical assessment skills. You also need to keep up-to-date with best practices in anaesthesia and new developments in pain management.

How much does an anaesthesia associate make?

NHS compensation uses a banding system. Anaesthesia associates are nationally banded at band 7, but roughly half get paid at band 8a. Higher payment comes with experience and increased responsibilities [1]. That means you can expect to earn between £28,407 and £30,639 when you’re starting but can eventually earn up to £99,891 as you progress in your career [2].

Anaesthesia associate job outlook

Anaesthesia associates are in high demand. The UK anticipates that by 2040, it will have a tremendous shortage of anaesthesia professionals as many are set to retire, with less training than is needed to fill the gap. Experts predict a shortage of 11,000 anaesthesia professionals by 2040, which could prevent eight million or more surgeries from taking place [3].

Health Education England recently announced efforts to support anaesthesia associate workforce expansion. These efforts include establishing additional training programs, funding 120 students annually, and an apprenticeship training route [4]. 

Is being an anaesthesia associate a good career choice?

Some benefits of being an anaesthesia associate include higher compensation within the nursing field, a positive job outlook, and both personal and professional satisfaction. While many professionals within the health field dedicate themselves to helping patients get better, you’ll have the opportunity to help them feel better as they face some of their most trying health scares. 

Your job as an anaesthesia associate is to ensure that patients do not feel pain throughout the surgical care cycle. While this may seem simple enough, it can be quite complicated because each person feels pain differently and has different drug tolerances. You must also know how to handle problems if they arise before, during, or after surgery.

When deciding if being an anaesthesia associate is the right career choice, remember that it entails working in high-stress environments with critically ill people who require life-saving care. You’ll be able to make a difference in people’s lives every day.

Some of the benefits of becoming an anaesthesia associate include the following:

  • Collaboration: As an anaesthesia associate, you’ll practice in collaboration with other health care team members.

  • Compensation: In a band 7 role, anaesthesia associates earn more than many nursing professionals.

  • Demand: The demand for anaesthesia associates is rising, and efforts are underway to expand the workforce.

  • Intellectually challenging: Your work as an anaesthesia associate requires considerable insight and critical thinking.

  • Professional satisfaction: As an anaesthesia associate, you can typically get great professional satisfaction from providing quality care to patients in pain.

Depending on your work type and environment, you may work nights, weekends, and holidays, especially in a facility that provides around-the-clock emergency treatment. 

How to become an anaesthesia associate

To become an anaesthesia associate, you must have experience in acute medical or theatre settings, earn the right qualifications, become licensed, and maintain your licence with continuing education and revalidating efforts. Here's what you can expect to do on the path to joining this critical profession: 

1. Obtain the right credentials.

To become an anaesthesia associate, you need to complete a postgraduate degree. To be admitted into an anaesthesia associate program, you must have an undergraduate degree in biomedical science or a related field or three years of theatre practice as a clinical NHS staff member. 

The University of Birmingham and University College London offer postgraduate degrees, and additional programmes were launched in March 2023. Most of your coursework will be in a clinical environment, giving you the hands-on experience to prepare for your career.

2. Join the Anaesthesia Associates Register.

After graduation, you will receive an invitation to join the Anaesthesia Associates Register and become an affiliate of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (RCoA). The RCoA offers opportunities for continued learning, professional development, and access to advisors and tutors.

3. Register with the General Medical Council.

All anaesthesia associates must be registered with the General Medical Council and maintain good standing through revalidation. Revalidation involves continuing professional development, quality improvement activities, and reviewing your patient feedback, compliments, and complaints.

Getting started 

Becoming an anaesthesia associate involves years of education and clinical training. Rather than put off the process, consider exploring critical concepts related to the field by taking a cost-effective online course through Coursera today. 

To deepen your understanding of how vital signs and pain correlate within the body, consider taking the University of Pennsylvania's Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us course. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan's Anatomy Specialisation will introduce you to the major organ systems, their functions, and how they relate to one another within the body.

Article sources


Association of Anaesthesia Associates. “FAQs, https://anaesthesiaassociates.org/general-info/faqs/.” Accessed May 22, 2024.

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