Becoming a Surgical Technician

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Becoming a Surgical Technician – An exciting and dramatic career as a surgical technologist awaits those who want to work in the allied health industry, are very organized, have a calm personality, and enjoy work that presents new challenges every day. If this sounds like you, there are many employment opportunities just waiting for you to enter the job market. If you like it, you can become a certified surgical technologist.  The first step in how to become a surgical tech is getting the education and developing the necessary skills. Once you do get ready to start a career in surgical technology your career will grow along with your skills and experience!

Becoming a Surgical Technician

Looking Ahead to Employment Growth

The U.S. Department of Labor reported there were 89,600 surgical technologists employed in May 2008. You can compare this to 86,000 employed two years before that in 2006. But even more important is the fact that employment opportunities for surgical technicians are expected to increase at a faster rate than the rate of total employment of all positions.

The National Employment Matrix, an elaborate sounding name for projections of employment numbers by title or trade, predicts there will be a whopping 24 percent increase in surgical technology positions between 2006 and 2016.  As of May 2008, the 4 percent growth already experienced in 2 years just goes to prove that the predictions are on target.

Why are these jobs becoming available?  There are several reasons.

  • Increase in the number of surgeries in the U.S. as the population ages
  • Increase in job locations such as growing numbers of freestanding facilities with operating rooms
  • Expansion in the number of surgical procedures using new technologies
  • Increase in the need for specialized surgical assistants
  • Increase in the need for surgical technicians in physician’s offices where outpatient procedures are performed

Cost containment issues in health care have led to increased employment opportunities. That is excellent news for you if you’re considering a career as a surgical technician.

In general, careers in surgical technology are expected to grow faster than other health-related jobs. The demand for surgical technologists is going to keep on growing at least through 2018. With the new push for expanded health care coverage in the U.S., the projections for future employment could actually be under-estimated.

How About Your Surgical Technician Salary?

How about that salary?!  Surgical technologists earn excellent money. Here’s what the numbers show: someone who has worked less than one year in the field earned a median salary of $32,700 this year according to a recent survey.

  • Bottom 10% earned $27,500
  • 11% to 25% earned $32,500
  • 26% to 50% earned $38,700
  • 51% to 75% earned $46,900
  • 76% to 90% earned $54,300

Naturally, your salary will depend on a number of factors that include the state and city where you work, your years of experience, the type of degree you have, the type of certifications you have earned, and the type of facility you choose to work in. A person just starting out can expect to be paid anywhere from $13 to $18 an hour. The industry that hires the most number of surgical technologists is the one made up of general medical and surgical hospitals. The industry that pays the most is made up of the offices of health practitioners such as physician offices. By the way, most surgical technician positions also get paid benefits including holidays, paid sick leave, and of course, health insurance!

What Education is Absolutely Necessary to Get the Best Surgical Tech Jobs

If you’ve read this far then you’re probably getting serious about researching the field of surgical technology. Since it’s a technical position that requires accepting a lot of responsibility in the operating room, you must attend surgical tech education programs.

What is particularly interesting about this particular healthcare job is that it is the highest paid job in the healthcare industry that doesn’t require a 4-year degree. When you review the information about becoming a surgical technician there are actually a number of different types of certifications and degrees you can pursue.

There are minimum qualification descriptions for surgical technologist positions available that are posted on the internet.  The first one requires the person to be a graduate of one of a surgical technologist program and have 2 years experience. The second one requires the person to have a high school diploma or GED and graduate from an accredited surgical technician school along with 2 years experience.

The person with 2 years experience and a certificate can earn $24 an hour which would place you in the 75% to 90% annual wage percentile. This gives you a good idea of the high salary opportunities waiting for you in this career choice after attending accredited surgical technician schools.

Surgical Technician Education Choices

You have three choices in terms of education.

  • Earn a certificate
  • Earn a diploma
  • Earn an associate degree

A surgical technologist program requires a high school diploma or a GED before you can start your advanced education.

Where to Attend

There are many different kinds of great surgical technologist certification schools.

  • Community colleges
  • Vocational schools
  • Colleges and universities
  • Hospitals
  • Military programs
  • Specialized healthcare schools

It is highly recommended you attend only accredited programs. For example, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs has 450 accredited surgical technology programs throughout the country.

Most programs last from 9 to 24 months. You will earn a certificate in a 9-month program and a degree in a 24-month program. Programs include both classroom instruction and clinical hands-on experience in the kind of setting in which you will be seeking employment.

Choosing the right program for yourself will require consideration of several things. You need to consider what accredited schools are accessible to you and whether the classes are offered during timings you can attend.  There is also the cost of various programs to consider. The time you have to invest in your education is the third factor. You also want to choose programs that include both classroom and clinical experience.

Surgical Technologist Certification

Surgical technologists earn various certifications that document abilities or enable them to specialize in a particular area such as neurology. Once again there are schools available that offer special programs that will let you earn a specialized certification.  The certification is not earned until after you graduate a surgical technology program.

After graduation, as a minimum, you will want to earn one of two certifications.

  • National Board for Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA): must work one year before sitting for an exam; earn the title Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)
  • National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT): can sit for the  exam within 30 days of graduation from a surgical tech school; earn the title Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C)

Specialty certification programs involve attending more classes and perhaps getting additional clinical experience in a field, also called a specialty. These specialties include heart surgery, Cesarean surgery, neurosurgery, and many others.

The NBSTA also offers certification as a first assistant surgical technologist.

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