Surgical Assistant Degree and Certificate Program Information
Surgical assistants, also known as surgical technologists, are responsible for a number of functions, such as preparing the operating room and helping to prepare patients for surgery. Undergraduate certificate and associate degree programs can qualify students for such roles, and individuals already holding bachelor's degrees in biology or health science may pursue graduate certificate options for specialization or to change career paths.
Associate's Degree for Surgical Assistants
Along with undergraduate certificate programs in surgical assisting, associate's degree programs can trains students to assist surgeons in the operating room before, during and after a surgical procedure. Graduates will typically be familiar with surgical tools and instruments, and will be able to assess surgical complications. These programs can be completed in two years.
Associate's degree programs typically require applicants to have high school diplomas or GEDs for admission. They may also need to have completed high school chemistry and biology courses.
Students commonly learn through a curriculum that combines courses, lab studies, seminars and clinical rotations. Typical topics of study include:
- Health care
- Surgical specialties capstone
- Mathematics for the health profession
- Pathogenic microbiology
- Treatment of disease, illness and injury
- Surgical specialties
Popular Career Option
Upon completion of surgical assistant programs, graduates are qualified for positions in several medical settings. Popular career titles include:
- Surgical technologist
- Operating room technician
- Surgical assistant
- Certified surgical technologist
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Graduates of certificate programs may seek immediate employment as surgical assistants or may pursue further education in this field. They may wish to earn bachelor's degrees in surgical technology to improve their employment opportunities. Professional certifications may also improve job prospects. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA),the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) and the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA) all offer voluntary certification for surgical assistants or technologists.
Surgical Assistant Graduate Certificate
These graduate certificate programs are typically designed to offer the opportunity to switch career paths to individuals who have already earned an a bachelor's degree in a relevant subject. Such programs are meant to qualify graduates for positions as surgical technologists and for voluntary industry certifications. Programs typically last two semesters.
Applicants must typically have earned bachelor's degrees in allied health, exercise science, nursing, biology or a related field for admission. Candidates must typically be certified in CPR and life support, and all vaccinations must be up to date. Although this may vary by school, experience working in the operating room may be preferred. Courses in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology and general biology must typically have been completed within the previous ten years.
The curriculum includes both didactic courses and supervised clinical training to obtain experience working in the operating room. Students may also attend seminars and complete independent study projects. Courses may include:
- Surgical assisting procedures
- Medical terminology for surgical assistants
- Surgical pathophysiology
- Medical-legal practice issues
- Surgical specialties
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment of surgical technologists was expected to grow 25% between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, the best paying jobs for this profession are found at outpatient care centers, physician offices and the surgical supply industry, although hospitals are still the primary employers for surgical assistants. The BLS also reported that surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of $39,920 as of May 2010.
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