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General Surgery Technologist: Job Outlook and Career Requirements

A career in general surgery technology offers the opportunity to work in a hospital, physician's clinic, delivery room or outpatient treatment center in a fraction of the time required for medical school. Also known as surgery technicians or 'scrubs,' general surgery technologists assist surgeons and nurses before, during and after surgeries.

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How to Become a General Surgery Technologist

Surgical technologists work alongside physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers. They prepare operating rooms before surgery begins, sterilizing equipment and ensuring adequate supplies are available for the other members of the team. They prep patients before their operation, wash and disinfect incision sites, and help keep the environment sterile. They also pass instruments and other sterile supplies to surgeons during the procedure.

Required Education Completion of a 9 to 24-month degree program accredited by CAAHEP or ABHES, followed by certification
Job Duties Prepping patients and operating rooms before surgery, sterilizing equipment and passing instruments during surgery
Median Salary (2015)* $44,330
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 15% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Required

To be considered for most positions, general surgery technologists must be certified by either the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assistants (NBSTSA), which administer the Tech in Surgery - Certified (TS - C) and Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designations, respectively. To qualify for either certification exam, students must complete a 9- to 24-month degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Alternatively, TS - C candidates may complete a 2-year hospital training program or earn seven years of experience in the General Surgery Technology field, according to All Allied Health Schools, (www.allalliedhealthschools.com). Both certifications must be renewed every 4-5 years.

Skills Required

Besides the proper certification, general surgery technologists must possess an ability to work well in an intense environment and have a high level of comfort with blood and medical procedures. Other desirable qualities include an aptitude for responding quickly to high-pressure situations, manual dexterity and a solid grasp of operating procedures, says the High-Tech Institute, (www.surgicaltech.org). People with a high tolerance for stress and an interest in medicine and the human body can be very successful in the field of general surgery technology.

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, (www.bls.gov), predicts a faster than average rate of 15%, for growth in surgery technology jobs between 2014 and 2024, with more employment opportunities as the Baby Boomer generation ages and requires more surgical procedures. The average annual earnings of surgery technologists were $44,330 as of May 2015, with those working in health practitioners' offices and individual and family services earning the most, per the BLS. A general surgery technology career has many opportunities for growth; some general surgery technologists choose to specialize in a particular type of surgery, while others advance to become circulating technologists or first surgical assistants.

Alternate Career Options

Individuals interested in assisting medical professionals in alternative settings may consider the following positions:

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist and Technician

The technologists normally have bachelor's degrees, while the technicians have earned 2-year degrees or certificates; licensing is required in some states. They both perform tests on body fluids and tissue samples, with the technologists being responsible for the more complicated procedures and tests. During the 2014-2024 decade, employment growth projected by the BLS was above average, at 14%, for technologists and much faster than the average, at 18%, for technicians. In 2015, the BLS reported annual median salaries of $60,520 for technologists and $38,970 for technicians.

Dental Assistant

Some states have no formal training requirements, while others require completion of an accredited program with a state exam. Those entering the profession with just a high school education should have backgrounds in chemistry, biology and anatomy and will learn the rest of the skills on the job. Dental assistants often perform x-rays, keep records, schedule appointments and provide patient care. A much faster than average expansion of positions was forecast by the BLS, from 2014-2024, with 18% growth expected. The BLS also reported median earnings of $35,980, per year, in 2015.

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