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Surgical Technician

What A Surgical Tech Does

There’s common confusion between the difference between a surgical technician and surgical technologist. But actually, there isn’t a difference; they are the same thing. Surgical techs are part of a medical team. You mainly:

  • Prepare the operating room by creating a sterile environment.
  • Set up the tools and equipment.
  • Help the doctors and nurses change into their operating garments.
  • Handle equipment, watch the monitors, and position the patient during active surgery.
  • Maintain a sterile environment necessary for surgeries.
  • Clean the operating room and replace the equipment used, store the equipment, and shut down the operating room, leaving it ready to go for the next operation.
  • Bandage the patient post surgery.

You’ll work alongside the anesthesiologist, circulation nurse, registered nurses, and the surgeon. But basically, the surgeon will be your boss, unless otherwise stated either through state or hospital regulations.

How To Become A Surgical Tech

If you’re in high school right now, and you’re thinking about becoming a surgical technologist, then you can get a head start by taking loads of science classes, computer technology, and basic math like algebra and geometry. These types of courses will leave you prepared for the college or trade school curriculum you’ll be doing. Find a surgical technology school.

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have your high school diploma or GED.
  • Have a 2.5 high school grade point average, which is the minimum most surgical tech programs accept.
  • Get your certificate or diploma from your accredited surgical technology program.
  • Diploma programs take about one year to complete, full time. You’ll need 37-49 course credits to graduate.
  • Associate degree programs take two years if you’re attending full time. There are 32 gen-ed credits and 60 core credits.
  • Programs should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
  • An accredited program may not be a prerequisite to getting a job as a surgical technologist, but going through one is necessary to get certifications.
  • Certifications are available, and optional. However, it’s only going to help you find a job. Certifications are available from the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
  • Continuing education is needed to maintain your certifications.
  • CPR and Basic Life Support certifications are necessary.

You can advance your career by becoming a registered nurse. Or, you can choose to teach health services in a trade school or community college.

Salary And Job Outlook

The average wage for surgical technicians in 2021 was $57,500, and the top 10 percent earned $78,560 annually (bls.gov).

You’ll find that the highest paying industries are outpatient centers, doctors' offices, and hospitals, which pay a bit above or right around that median salary. If you’re working in a hospital, expect irregular hours with nights, weekends, and holidays on the schedule. Also, some of your shifts will be more than eight hours.

Between now and 2031, the employment growth for surgical technicians is projected at 6%, which is as fast as the national average for all occupations (bls.gov). As long as the program you’ve completed is accredited, and you earn the required certifications, you should be on track to a fulfilling career as a surgical technician.