Becoming an Anesthesia Technologist - Education & Certifications

Surgery requires an entire team of professionals to be performed safely and effectively. Surgical assistants, nurses, and other professionals work with an array of equipment to ensure procedures are followed and that the surgery is successful. While most patients interact primarily with their surgeon, it is the anesthesiologist and their technologist who makes sure the procedure happens pain-free.

Anesthesia technologists provide direct support to anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists. These surgical technologists are required to attend a minimum of two years of school to acquire an associate degree. Further, they are required to complete their associate in anesthesia technology or receive a certificate of completion from an accredited or approved program. Upon completion of the program, students may be eligible to sit for the national certification exam through the American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT).

Medical careers aren’t just for nurses and physicians. In fact, careers in surgical technology, a general term for all occupations who assist in surgical operations, can be accessed with a postsecondary nondegree award or two-year associate’s degree.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), surgical technologist jobs are expected to grow 9 percent nationally between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the projected national average for all careers during the same decade (5 percent).

Please note that while ASATT formerly offered certification for a related career, anesthesia technicians, it is no longer available. However, certification remains for anesthesia technologists. As of July 2020, anesthesia technicians holding current certification are still validated by ASATT.

Daily duties for anesthesia technologists will vary based on the type of center they work in. Diagnostic radiology centers, dental clinics, emergency rooms, and surgical centers all employ anesthesia technologists to assist with procedures.

Tasks performed often include preparing and stocking surgery suites, assisting with IVs, preparing anesthesia drugs under the direction of the anesthesiologist, testing equipment before surgery, and transferring patients to post-op care. Technologists need to have excellent attention to detail as they often perform their work in sterile environments. A good bedside manner and strong communication skills are also required for this role.

Below are the steps necessary to pursue a degree as an anesthesia technologist, including details on courses of study, what the official exam entails, and career opportunities.

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming an ASATT-Certified Anesthesia Tech

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Take the GED (Four Years)

Students who wish to pursue a career as an ASATT certified anesthesia technologist will first need to complete high school or earn a passing score on the GED. High school students can prepare for this career by taking courses in math, biology, anatomy, and psychology. Advanced Placement (AP) classes and tests can often provide students with college credit before graduation.

Step 2: Complete an Approved Associate Degree Program (Two Years)

ASATT requires students to complete a program at one of their accredited or approved programs, many of which have been recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Several programs are available at community, city, and technical colleges across the country.

Upon successful completion of requirements, students receive an associate of science (AS) or an associate of applied science (AAS) degree. Many programs also offer a certificate upon graduation. All of the accredited or approved programs guarantee graduating students are board eligible. New institutions are being added and students should take care to ensure that the program conforms to CAAHEP standards.

Anesthesia technologist programs take roughly two years to complete. Some programs have prerequisites such as anatomy, medical terminology, advanced math, and biochemistry. Core courses taught in these programs include pharmacology, anesthesia technology, and medical ethics. Courses are available on campus or online depending on the institution. All programs have a clinical component where students get hands-on experience working directly with patients.

Step 3: Apply for ASATT’s Cer.A.T.T. Certification Examination (Timeline Varies)

Once a student has completed an approved ASATT-approved associate degree, they can then apply to sit for the Certified Anesthesia Technologist (Cer.A.T.T.) exam.

First, students will need to submit a paper application found in the national certification examination handbook, along with the appropriate fee. The fee for eligibility can range from $325 to $550, depending on the membership status with the ASATT and whether or not the student is in the United States.

Once the application is received, ASATT will determine if the student is eligible for the test. If they determine the student is eligible, they will send a confirmation letter. This letter is valid for 90 days and a student must schedule and complete the test within that timeframe or they forfeit their application and fee. If more than 90 days have elapsed, a new application and fee will have to be submitted.

The letter will contain a toll-free number for the student to use to contact Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc. (AMP), who administer the test at one of their 170 nationwide test sites. There is no deadline to apply to take the test so students may apply at any time.

When a student calls to schedule the test they should be prepared to confirm a time and date during that call. Written notices about the test date and time will not be mailed so it is imperative that the student take notes during the call. Walk-in appointments are not accepted. If special accommodations are needed, they must be submitted in writing 45 days prior to the desired test date.

Step 4: Pass the Anesthesia Technologist Examination

Students should arrive at least 15 minutes early to the examination center and bring government-issued photo identification. Student IDs and other temporary identification will not be accepted.

A careful review of all materials covered for the certification and associate degree is highly recommended before taking the exam. There are eight reference books recommended by the ASATT prepare for the test. The exams comprise six sections. They are:

  • Equipment, Instrumentation, and Technology
  • Basic Sciences
  • Pharmacology
  • Basic Principles of Anesthesia
  • Advanced Principles
  • Professional Aspects

On the examination day, prior to taking the test, students are allowed to take a practice test on the computer. The time taken on the practice test will not affect the time they will receive on the official exam. Students will have a total of three hours to complete 125 questions. There is no penalty for wrong answers, so if a student doesn’t know an answer, guessing won’t harm the overall score.

Six to eight weeks after the test, students will receive a score report with either a pass or fail. Once a student receives a passing score report, they can use the Certified Anesthesia Technologist (Cer.A.T.T.) designation.

Step 5: Obtain an Entry-Level Anesthesia Technologist Position

People who hold the CerATT designation can look for work in radiology centers, emergency rooms, dental suites, and ambulatory surgery centers. Healthcare-centric job boards such as Health eCareers and the ASATT career center are a great first place to begin an anesthesia technologist job search. General job sites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Monster also have numerous listings for jobs in this field.

Step 6: Maintain Asatt Certification with Continuing Education Credits (Every Two Years)

Once a certification has been obtained, an anesthesia technologist must begin earning continuing education credits. Certification is valid for two years and during that time period technologists are required to complete 30 continuing education credits. Recertification is required every two years and happens by mail.

Anesthesia Technologist Certification – Cer.A.T.T.

As discussed in detail above, ASATT offers the Certified Anesthesia Technologist (Cer.A.T.T.) certification for anesthesia technologists. To be eligible for this certification, applicants must complete the following steps:

  • Graduate from a CAAHEP-accredited or CoA-ATE approved program
  • Submit an application for certification
  • Pay a fee ranging from $325 to $550 (depending on ASATT status and country of residence)
  • Wait to receive a letter of confirmation
  • Schedule the examination
  • Study for the test
  • Recertify every two years

Recertification & Continuing Education Requirements

Professionals with Cer.A.T.T. certification need to recertify every two years. To stay current in this ever-evolving field, anesthesia technologists have to earn 30 units of continuing education (CE) credits during their two-year certification period. CE credits have to be earned within a two year certification period. For example, if an applicant gets certified in June 2017, their certification expires in December 2019. Therefore, CEs must be earned in 2018 and 2019 to count towards recertification.

Continuing education credits can be calculated as one credit earned per 50- to 60-minute lecture. Content that counts towards CE credit includes operating room tasks, infection control techniques, basic anatomy and physiology, airway management equipment, and stress management. Professional activities such as presenting a 50- to 60-minute lecture on an anesthesia-relevant topic or serving on a committee or board related to anesthesiology. Detailed information about recertification and continuing education can be found on ASATT’s website.

Helpful Resources For Anesthesia Technologists

Charting a course to obtain ASATT certification as an anesthesia technologist can be daunting. Here is a list of additional resources on where to go to school, how to obtain certification, pursue continuing education credits, and seek employment.

Rachel Drummond
Rachel Drummond Writer

Rachel Drummond is a freelance writer, educator, and yogini from Oregon. She’s taught English to international university students in the United States and Japan for more than a decade and has a master’s degree in education from the University of Oregon. A dedicated Ashtanga yoga practitioner, Rachel is interested in exploring the nuanced philosophical aspects of contemplative physical practices and how they apply in daily life. She writes about this topic among others on her blog (Instagram: @oregon_yogini).