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Operating Room Assistant Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an operating room assistant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Acquiring a diploma, certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology is a good first step in pursuing a career as an operating room assistant. Although some employers may provide on-the-job training, already having some form of voluntary certification can prove beneficial when seeking employment in the field.

Essential Information

Operating room assistants, also known as surgical technologists, are part of surgical teams in hospitals, clinics and medical offices. They help nurses, doctors and surgeons during complicated surgical procedures. Most surgical technologists complete certificate or associate's degree programs, and seek voluntary certification, which can help expand employment opportunities.

Required Education Diploma, certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology
Certification Voluntary through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) and the National Center for Competency Testing
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 15% for surgical technologists*
Median Salary (2015) $44,330 for surgical technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for Operating Room Assistants

Although some operating room assistants receive their training on the job, employers may prefer to hire candidates that have a certificate, diploma or an associate's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Degree programs in surgical technology are available from community colleges, medical schools and the military. Most programs range from a few months to two years and lead to a diploma, certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology.

Curriculum Requirements

Surgical technology programs typically include core studies in biology, mathematics and chemistry. Additionally, curricula often include courses specific to the field, such as surgical procedures, pharmacology, medical terminology, psychology and medical ethics. Programs also often allow for students to partake in supervised clinical exercises. Surgical technology programs usually terminate with a surgical technology exit assessment test.

Certification Requirements

Surgical technologists may increase their employability by earning certification from organizations such as the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing. Requirements for each type of certification differ, but generally interested parties must possess certain education and experiential requirements, as well as pass an examination administered by the certifying body. Both organizations require certified surgical technologists to participate in continuing education and recertification.

Continuing Education

Due to technological advances and more affordable operating equipment, complicated surgical procedures are becoming more commonplace in private clinics and doctors' offices. That contributes to a significant rise in the demand for specialized operating room assistants. Operating room assistants can advance in their position by specializing to assist during complicated procedures such as open-heart surgery, neurosurgery or transplants. Professionals may also pursue additional training and advance to the position of a surgical assistant or circulator.

Some of the courses commonly included in a surgical technologist program are biology, chemistry and mathematics. Knowing what to expect in terms of post-secondary coursework is a good way to prepare for a career as an operating room assistant.

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