How Much does an Anesthesiologist Make a Year? How the Average Salary Breaks Down in Canada

Kristen Campbell
March 31, 2021

 If you’re an anesthesiologist working in Canada, you’ll have no shortage of options for your medical career. Providing an essential service to surgeons, emergency rooms, and obstetricians, anesthesiologists are some of the most sought-after physicians. They’re also one of the oldest medical specialties: beginning with the use of opium poppies and evolving into the first use of surgical anesthetic in the 1800s, anesthesiologists have always been a highly in-demand and essential part of the profession – and this shows in the amount they earn, which is one of the highest among medical specialists in Canada.

While anaesthesiologists might be some of the better-paid doctors, few of them are salaried and almost all of them earn income through the fee-for-service model (submitting claims to the ministry and being reimbursed for them). The amount anaesthesiologists in Canada earn as salary depends on several factors – where you work, what kind of procedures you perform, and how much of your time you spend consulting with patients vs being in surgery. The average gross anesthesiologist salary in Canada is $437,000, but how that salary will break down for you will depend on a few areas:

1. Types of Consultations and Surgical Procedures

Most anesthesiologist salary in Canada comes from a mix of consultations and surgeries – consultations cover a range of pre-operative services, including hospital and office visits, and assessments for chronic pain. However, the bulk of anesthesia billing is done in a surgical setting, and there are considerable differences in what you can bill based on the complexity of the procedure, the circumstances involved, and the condition of the patient. Factors such as the patient’s age, diagnosis, the risks of the procedure and the amount of post-op pain management required will all impact how much you can earn as an anesthesiologist for each component of your time.

Working in a specific setting such as a long-term care home, a specialized surgical practice, or in a delivery room can give you a better idea of how much you can expect to make. Research into the billing patterns of anesthesiologists shows that they work consistently until the age of 65, so if you’re billing for similar procedures daily – like epidurals or dentistry – you likely have some idea of what you can expect to earn. If you work in a busy surgery or emergency setting you might not have much control over the kinds of patients you will see and the amounts you can bill for each one. However, you can take advantage of certain billing premiums and incentives for taking on emergency patients or for coming into the hospital at odd hours or from other locations that can allow you to earn more, which could potentially increase your earnings.  

2. Days Worked

Some of the differences anaesthesiologists in Canada see in salary come from the number of days doctors work – Ontario leads the pack among anaesthesiologists for the highest number of days while BC anesthesiologists come in among the lowest. With an overall heavy – and steady – workload, anesthesiologists are more likely than other specialists to feel dissatisfied with their work-life balance, but they are some of the most professionally satisfied doctors in the industry – and that is a good thing!

Research into anaesthesiology practise shows doctors who are highly in-demand (and even in short supply) across the country. Although most anesthesiologists seem to take advantage of this consistency by working steady hours (an average of 50.3 per week, according to the CMA) so much demand for your services means that there are options available for working locum positions, taking on contracts, or working at more than one location. More than many other medical specialties, anesthesiologists are likely to earn almost all of their income through fee for services billing, which gives them more flexibility to decide what they’ll earn and how to do it. 

3. Location

Whether you’re in Alberta, Ontario, or BC, anesthesiologists are highly sought-after medical professionals – and your services are needed all over the country. Although there are some differences in income across provinces, the amount you can earn will depend a lot on where you work.

Taking on a role in a rural district might help you to earn contract premiums for your time, as will travelling to northern or remote areas on a fly-in/fly-out basis (which could also help with work/life balance)! Working in rural locations is a good idea not just for your wallet, but also for patients – some research suggests that while 18% of the Canadian population lives in a rural area, they are served by only 8% of the physician population as a whole. And since surgical, emergency, and obstetrics services involving anesthesia are often essential, there are a lot of incentives to get willing doctors to help out where they are needed the most. 

One of these programs is the Northern Health incentives offered in British Columbia, which give doctors an additional $15,000-20,000 bonus on top of their salary (and covers their moving expenses) if they agree to fill an existing role. Similar initiatives exist in Ontario, where grants from 80-117k are offered to doctors willing to fill out a four-year term with an area in need. Programs like these are not only good options for physicians who want to increase their earnings or work-life balance, they can also allow you to take on more responsibility – which can help your career later on – and improve the healthcare field as a whole. 

4. Clinical Setting 

Due to the highly specialized and cooperative nature of their work, anaesthesiologists tend to work almost exclusively in a hospital setting, with almost half of them operating out of an academic health sciences centre. Very few anesthesiologists work in academic or private practice – this is unique to the specialty, and also presents some different aspects of the anesthesiologist salary in Canada. At 13%, anesthesiologists have some of the lowest overhead of all doctors, which means you get to keep more of what you earn! It also means that how much you earn will depend heavily on the complexity of the procedures you perform and the types of patients you see. 

Certain clinical environments are more likely to involve highly complex patients (such as those with advanced diseases or chronic pain), ageing populations, children, or patients in emergency situations. These scenarios are more likely to earn you additional premiums on top of your regular billings and could increase your salary overall. Around 80% of anesthesiologists have some on-call time each month, and in some provinces (like Ontario) you can take advantage of incentives such as special visit premiums, which will compensate you an additional amount for any time you need to come into the hospital from another location.

 

Whether you’re providing anesthesia services in a busy ER, helping in the delivery room,  or working regular hours in a dental clinic, anaesthesiology is an essential and in-demand part of the medical profession. Anesthesiologist salary in Canada is steady and consistent and there are no shortage of positions available for you to offer your services – which is likely why anaesthesiologists are some of the most professionally satisfied doctors in the medical profession!