Surgical technicians are medical professionals who assist surgeons during an operation. Students interested in becoming a surgical tech need to complete an educational program that offers both coursework and clinical experience. Such programs lead to the award of a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. Although states do not require surgical technologists to be certified, those professionals who are credentialed may have greater job opportunities.
Educational Requirements for a Surgical Tech
Prospective surgical technicians need to complete a diploma, certificate or associate's degree program to work in the field. Diploma and certificate programs may be completed in under a year and an associate's degree program in two years. Coursework includes surgical procedures, pharmacology, medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology. Students in associate's degree programs must also complete general education and science requirements.
Many programs offer clinical experiences that allow students to observe certified surgical technicians. As students advance through a program, they are allowed to operate equipment in emergency room settings. The curricula may include rotations in surgical specialties, such as dental, vascular or orthopedic.
Students may want to consider programs that have earned accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). While graduating from an approved program may not be a requirement, it may lead to eligibility for important professional certifications.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many employers prefer to hire surgical technicians who are certified (www.bls.gov). The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential. To become a CST, individuals must graduate from a CAAHEP-approved program and pass the certifying exam. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) also offers a recognized certification.
These certifications have continuing education requirements that surgical technicians must meet. The CST credential gives individuals the option of earning 60 credits or retaking the certifying exam over four years. The NCCT has similar recertifying standards.
The BLS predicted that employment for surgical technologists is expected to increase 15% for the years 2014-2024. This projected job growth is due to the need to take care of the aging population.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary for surgical technologists was $44,330 in 2015, and the highest earners took home more than $63,410 annually. Salary may vary by experience, hospital size or industry.