Two-year surgical technology associate degree programs prepare students to become members of operating room teams that also include surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses by teaching them how to assist surgeons in multiple tasks, such as sterilizing equipment and preparing an operating room. Regardless of whether students pursue an Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Occupational Science, the requirements and courses are similar in all programs, including clinical rotations, lab work and hands-on training.
Applicants are required to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Associate's Degree in Surgical Technology
The curriculum of associate degree programs in surgical technology includes didactic studies, skills labs and clinical education. Students are usually required to complete a designated number of hours in the skills lab and the clinical rotations. These programs teach students how to prepare operating rooms, identify surgical equipment, communicate with patients prior to surgery and assist surgeons during procedures. Course topics might include:
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Body structure
- Legal aspects to healthcare management
- Surgical specialties
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of surgical technologists from 2018 to 2028 is expected to rise by 9% (www.bls.gov). This change may be attributed to an aging population, as well as advances in surgical technology, which have made surgery an option in a wider variety of scenarios. In 2018, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for surgical technologists at that time was $47,300.
Continuing Education and Certification Info
Surgical technologists who have completed associate's degree programs may seek work immediately after graduation, where they can seek advancement by specializing in specific types of surgery or continue to train to become first assistants or circulators. Candidates may also further their careers by pursuing bachelor's degrees in surgical technology and obtaining professional certification, which is commonly preferred by most employers.
The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offer the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential to individuals who pass a written examination. Additionally, candidates who meet the work experience and education requirements can take the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) exam for the Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C, NCCT) credential. Certifications can be maintained by completing continuing education.
Individuals who enroll in an associate degree program in surgical technology can gain the knowledge and hands-on experience needed to become a successful surgical technologist and enter a field with a projected job growth rate surpassing the national average for other fields.