Surgical Tech: Educational Requirements for Being a Surgical Technician

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 a clinical experience.

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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.

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.

Job Outlook

The BLS predicted that employment for surgical technologists is expected to increase 19% for the years 2010-2020. This projected job growth is due to the need to take care of the aging population.

Salary Information

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for surgical technologists was $41,790 in 2012, and the highest earners took home more than $60,240 annually. Salary may vary with experience, size of the hospital or the industry they work in.

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