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Surgery Tech: Education Requirements and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a surgical technician or technologist. Get a quick view of degree programs, as well as details about job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Becoming a surgical tech requires education ranging from a few months to two years. This career path requires in-class and hands-on clinical education. Further certification by testing is usually required by employers.

Essential Information

Surgery techs are trained to prepare an operating room before procedures, prep patients for surgery and assist doctors and nurses during procedures. They also clean surgical areas following operations. Becoming a surgery tech usually requires completion of an undergraduate program in surgical technology. Certification is not required; however, it might be preferred by employers.

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

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) has approved more than 400 surgical technologist training programs (www.caahep.org). These programs can take from 9-24 months to complete and lead to a diploma, certificate or associate's degree. A high school education or GED is a basic prerequisite for the majority of accredited surgery tech training programs.

Most surgery tech training programs are a combination of classroom study and clinical practice. Coursework typically includes anatomy, microbiology, pharmacology, physiology, ethics and medical terminology.

During the supervised clinical phase of their training, students gain hands-on experience in different surgical practices. They learn procedures in a variety of areas, including infection control, sterilization techniques and proper handling of contaminated substances or supplies.

Career Information

Professional certification, which is preferred by many employers, can be gained through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Candidates earn this credential by graduating from a CAAHEP-approved program and passing a national certification exam (www.nbstsa.org). Certification can also be obtained from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Techs who have not graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited program can earn NCCT credentials by attending a hospital training program or through on-the-job experience (www.ncctinc.com).

Employment opportunities for surgery techs were expected to increase by 15% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The increase was projected in part due to general population aging and advances in surgical technology (www.bls.gov). Certified techs were expected to find the greatest number of job opportunities.

In 2015, the median annual salary for surgery techs was $44,330. The BLS reported that techs working for home health care services earned the highest salaries, averaging $58,960. Techs employed by physicians and surgeons tended to earn more than those who worked for hospitals or surgical clinics.

Surgical technologists assist in surgeries and need detailed knowledge of surgical tools and instruments, along with the stamina to stand and assist surgeons for hours at a time. Surgical techs may be on call during weekends and holidays and may work shifts lasting more than 8 hours. They require training through diploma, certificate or associate's degree programs and may seek professional certification as well.

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