Surgical technicians, also called surgical technologists and operating room technicians, assist doctors in operating theaters. They are usually responsible for collecting, cleaning, and assembling equipment and assisting during the actual operation procedure.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgical technicians do everything from preparing the operating room for a surgical procedure to helping patients after the surgery is completed.
How Do I Become A Surgical Technician?
Surgical technicians usually have an associate’s degree or a certification from a two-year vocational program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many junior colleges and vocational school offer surgical technician programs, although competition may be stiff for admission to these programs in some locations. You should always choose a program that is certified through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or CAAHEP. Only a certified program will prepare you adequately for your new job as a surgical technician. In some states, surgical technicians are required to be certified; if you are required to take a state examination, your best chance to be prepared for this test is to have the solid foundation that a certified training program provides.
How Much Do Surgical Technicians Earn?*
In May 2010, surgical technicians earned a median yearly salary of $39,920, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries for this job ranged from a low of $28,100 to a high of $57,330. How much you earn will be dependent on several factors, including your years of experience, your level of education, and the location in which you work.
Surgical technicians who work in outpatient care centers earned the highest salaries, with a median yearly income of $41,210 in May, 2010, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Surgical technicians who worked in doctor’s offices during the same period earned around $41,030 per year. Median annual earnings for surgical technicians who work in hospital operating rooms in hospitals were $39,600, and for dental office surgical technicians the median was $36,480 per year in May 2010.
Almost 70 percent of all surgical technicians work in hospitals. Another 20 percent work in doctor’s offices and outpatient clinics, while only four percent work in dentist’s offices.
What Is The Job Outlook For Surgical Technicians?*
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for surgical technicians will increase by about 19 percent in the next ten years. The largest growth will be in hospitals, although private and outpatient clinics may account for some of the job growth.
What Should I Look For In A Certification Program for Surgical Technicians?
Two organizations exist that allow surgical technicians to become certified: the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, which confers the title of “Certified Surgical Technologist,” and the National Center for Competency Testing which gives successful candidates the title of “Technician in Surgery-Certified.”
For those who are already working in the field, the National Healthcare Association or NHA offers a post-graduate certification called the Certified Operating Room and Surgical Technician or CORST certification. Candidates must re-certify every few years by completing continuing education courses.
Most states do not require certification for surgical technicians, but even in states where it is not required, choosing to complete a certification program can increase your chances of finding a good job. Some healthcare systems will not hire non-certified personnel even if the state in which the hospital operates does not require certification.
Any certification program will require a candidate to pass a written exam, and some require practical experience verification, as well. Your training program will prepare you for taking the certification examination if you choose a program that is accredited and focuses on the correct objectives and curriculum.
Can I Move Up As A Surgical Technician?
If you choose to continue your education, you can complete a four-year program to become a surgical assistant. Some surgical technicians study for and acquire a degree as a registered nurse or as a physician’s assistant. A registered nursing degree requires a bachelor’s in science in nursing. To become a physician’s assistant, you must get a four-year degree and then gain acceptance to an accredited physician’s assistant program; training will usually take two years after your bachelor’s to complete.
Surgical technicians can also get better jobs by acquiring more training through continuing education. Continuing education classes are held at many locations and through various private organizations; they may focus on the latest in surgical techniques, interpersonal skills in dealing with patients, or new ways of improving sterilization of instruments. Continuing education helps surgical technicians learn the most up-to-date techniques and skills and makes them more marketable for the very best jobs.
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm#tab-1)