You aspire to be a Surgical Tech and wish to become an indispensable part of the surgical team but are probably wondering how to become one. Don’t worry, we are here to help you.
You know a Surgical Tech assists the surgeon and the team during, before, and after the surgical procedures.
But what you don’t is the unique skills that you bring to the operating room, which contribute to patient safety, the success of surgical procedures, and the overall efficiency of the healthcare system.
In this article, we’ll be discussing about – the surgical techs, what they do, their salary, the program cost, how long the program takes, why should you become one, importantly, how can you become one; and much more.
So, stay tuned –
What is a Surgical Tech?
With an aging population, the healthcare professions like Surgical Techs are on the rise. They often are referred to as OR Tech or CST (Certified Surgical Techs).
They are a crucial member of the surgical team who assist surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals in the operating room (OR) during surgical procedures.
They play a vital role in ensuring that surgical procedures are conducted safely and efficiently. They possess a strong understanding of surgical techniques, instruments, and procedures, as well as excellent communication and teamwork skills.
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What does a Surgical Technologist do?
As a Surgical Tech, you hold a pivotal role in the operating room, where precision and your commitment to patient safety are paramount.
Your roles and responsibilities, from preparing the environment to assisting during surgery and maintaining sterility, all contribute to the success of surgical procedures.
Your dedication to these responsibilities not only enhances patient outcomes but also ensures the integrity and efficiency of the surgical team.
Here’s what Surgical Tech does –
- Before Surgical Procedures, they meticulously prepare the Operating Room by sterilizing surfaces, arranging surgical instruments, and ensuring all necessary equipment and supplies are readily available.
- During Surgery, they play a vital role in assisting the surgeon by passing instruments, holding tissues, and anticipating the surgeon’s needs to maintain a smooth workflow.
- Post-surgery they ensure a sterile environment by following strict infection control protocols and monitoring the integrity of the sterile field. And, they also assist in patient care by positioning and prepping the patient, ensuring their comfort, and maintaining their safety throughout the procedure.
- They are also responsible for the proper handling of surgical instruments, passing them to the surgeon, and keeping an accurate count of instruments used to prevent leaving any objects inside the patient.
- In emergencies or unexpected complications during surgery, they assist in responding quickly and effectively to stabilize the situation. This may include providing additional instruments or assisting with life-saving measures.
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How Much Does It Cost to Become a Surgical Tech?
The cost of a Surgical Tech program depends on the program you opt for with each having a respective cost bracket.
To enroll in a Surgical Tech program, you have just 3 options – Associate Degree, Certificate Program, and Online Surgical Tech Program.
Let’s discuss the cost of each program –
An Associate Degree in Surgical Technology is an undergraduate program typically offered by community colleges and technical schools. It takes about 2 years to complete.
The program costs of an associate degree depend on your choice of college or university, but most of the programs would cost you between $5,000 to $40,000.
This could be more expensive due to the additional educational expenses and other associated expenses with it, like accommodation, fuel, traveling, and such.
A certificate course in Surgical Technology is a short-term, specialized program that provides students with the essential knowledge and skills required to work as Surgical Techs. This takes about 1 year to finish.
The program costs of a certificate program depend on your choice of college or programs, but most of the programs would cost you between $5,000 to $15,000.
However, these programs are less flexible and follow strict schedules. Also, employers may prefer candidates with more extensive education, such as traditional associate degrees or online programs.
An online program in Surgical Technology allows you to study the principles and skills necessary for a career as a Surgical Technologist. However, you must research program accreditation, clinical requirements, and state-specific licensing regulations.
You could get your surgical tech online program in around 6 to 8 months. The programs cost you between $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the program of your choice.
But the flexibility, affordability, and accessibility it provides is unmatchable. So, we only recommend you to go after the online Surgical Tech programs. Because we all are aware of the virtues of an online training program.
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How long to Become a Surgical Tech?
To enroll in a Surgical Tech program, all you need is a High School completion certificate. The traditional programs are often offered through on-campus mode by community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, or universities.
But you know, we only recommend you to go after the online Surgical Tech programs.
To acquire a surgical tech program, you need to invest around 2 years if you opt for an Associate degree, and almost 1 year, if you choose a certificate or diploma program. But if you opt for online programs it would only take you around 6 months.
Also, you need to ensure that you go for the certification as well. Certified Surgical Techs, CSTs, hold more value and are sought after by employers as well.
Overall, if you have chosen the online route, then it would hardly take you around 1 year to become a surgical tech.
How to Become a Surgical Tech?
Becoming a Surgical Tech offers a fast entry into a rewarding healthcare career where you’ll be an integral part of surgical teams.
If you thrive in a fast-paced environment, value teamwork, and want to make a meaningful impact on patient care, this career might be the perfect fit for you.
So, if you believe it is, then let’s proceed ahead to know how exactly you can become one.
Here is the step-by-step guide –
Step 1 – Get your High School Diploma
This is the basic requisite for this career. If you still don’t have it, you should go back to your school and acquire it ASAP.
Possessing a high school certificate would only make you eligible to go ahead with the other process, starting with enrolling in the surgical tech program.
Step 2 – Enroll in a Formal Surgical Tech Education
You know by now that to enroll in a Surgical Tech program, you have just 3 options – Associate Degree, Certificate Program, and Online Surgical Tech Program.
You also know why we recommend an online program. Just ensure the programs are accredited. So, considering you have also opted for the online programs, let’s move ahead.
*This step-by-step guide is the same irrespective of the program you choose.
Step 3 – Finish the Coursework
So post-enrollment, now it’s time to learn. You’ll be dealing with topics like – Surgical Procedures, Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, Sterilization Techniques, Patient Care, and so on.
After you finish these and clear the exams, you’ll receive a university certificate that will help you a lot in your career.
Step 4 – Getting Certified as a Surgical Tech
You need to get certified because it enhances your career prospects. It is also beneficial for patients, as they want to be treated with certified professionals alone. Also, it sends a positive vibe to the employer to hire you.
After completing the program, you are eligible to sit for the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam, which is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).
Or, you can also choose a certification like – Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist (NCST) which is offered through the American Allied Health (AAH).
Step 5 – Acquire Clinical Experience Through an Externship
While choosing your online programs, ensure that they provide you with externship opportunities, as well. This way you would have no worries about finding or seeking help for externships.
The clinical training in healthcare is a crucial part. During this phase, you’ll gain hands-on experience in a real healthcare setting, often in an operating room.
You’ll work alongside experienced Surgical Technologists and healthcare professionals to apply your knowledge and skills.
This would again help you to get job opportunities as well. So, going through externships is a win-win for aspirants.
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Step 6 – Explore Career Opportunities
Once you’ve completed your education, training, and certification, you can begin your job search. Surgical Techs work in hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and other healthcare settings.
Consider joining professional organizations, such as the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST), to stay updated and network within the field.
Also, try to stay updated in the field, re-certify periodically, and aim to pursue advanced certifications or additional training to enhance your skills and career prospects.
* It is to be noted that – for Surgical Techs there are no such requirements in education or certification but employers often prefer it. So, you should aim to acquire the education and certifications. Just to be on the safer side.
Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) Salary
You need to get certified because it enhances your career prospects. It is also beneficial for patients, as they want to be treated with certified professionals alone.
So, a Surgical Tech with a certification status, signifies that they have met established standards of education and competence, providing assurance to patients and employers of their qualifications and commitment to safe and effective surgical care.
As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of CSTs is $55,960, with an hourly rate of around $27.
Moreover, among the Surgical Techs, the highest 10% are earning upwards of $78,560 per year, and higher. This surge is due to several factors like experience, expertise, education, and such.
But, the lowest 10% of CSTs earn around $38,860 per year. So, when you are starting your career you can expect your salary to be ranging between $38,000 to $ $55,960.
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Top 7 Reasons to Become a Surgical Tech
If you’re wondering if it is the right choice for you, then you should know that you will play a crucial role in the operating room, ensuring surgeries run smoothly and patients receive the best care possible.
A career as a surgical technologist offers numerous advantages, including job security, job satisfaction, and a supportive team environment.
So, your choice for this profession should depend on your personal interests, resilience, and career goals.
Here are the 7 reasons to Become a Surgical Technologist –
They are in High Demand
With an aging population, and with growth in the number of surgeries, almost all the healthcare surgical professions including the Surgical Techs are on the rise.
As per the BLS, the projected employment growth rate for surgical assistants and technologists is projected to grow by 5% in this decade. This means that there would be around 8,600 fresh openings projected each year, over the decade.
But, in 2022 alone, the CSTs held about 109,200 positions with the largest employer being the Hospitals. This speaks volumes about the demand for these professionals.
You can expect Job Satisfaction and Job Security
With the aging boomer population and advancements in medical technology, the number of surgeries performed continues to rise. This translates to good job prospects and job security in the field.
If you’re someone who finds fulfillment in making a direct impact on patients’ lives, this career can be deeply rewarding. You can play a crucial role in assisting during surgeries, ensuring that procedures go smoothly, and contributing to positive patient outcomes.
You get a Quick Entry into the Workforce
Unlike many healthcare careers that require several years of education and training, you can enter the field of surgical technology relatively quickly, in just 1 to 2 years.
Some programs offer diplomas or certificates that can be completed in less than a year, while associate degree programs typically take about two years.
However, the online programs take almost 6 to 8 months to complete and are cost-effective as well. That’s why we recommend online programs for you.
You’ll get a Better Pay
As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of Surgical Technologists is $55,960, with an hourly rate of around $27.
Moreover, among the Surgical Techs, the highest 10% are earning upwards of $78,560 per year, and higher. This surge is due to several factors like – experience, expertise, education, and such.
There are a Variety of Specialties
Surgical technologists have the opportunity to work in a wide range of surgical specialties, from orthopedics and cardiovascular surgery to neurosurgery and obstetrics. This variety allows you to gain experience in different medical procedures and areas of expertise.
Specializations Full List –
- General Surgery
- Organ transplantation
- Pediatric surgery
- Plastic surgery
You work in a Team Environment
As a Surgical Tech, you’ll be an indispensable part of the surgical team. This involves being part of a close-knit surgical team of dedicated and specialized healthcare professionals.
You’ll collaborate closely with surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and other support staff, fostering a sense of friendship and teamwork.
Also, this means you require strong teamwork and communication skills, to work more efficiently in the Operating Room.
Be assured of a Fulfilling Career
You probably have heard this from many healthcare professionals – it is not just a job; it’s a calling. The same is the case with Surgical Tech.
You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your work directly contributes to improving patients’ lives. The sense of fulfillment that comes from making a difference in healthcare is unparalleled.
FAQs – How to Become a Surgical Tech?
Where can I work as a Surgical Tech?
As a surgical tech, your primary role is to assist surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals in the operating room (OR) during surgical procedures.
You can work in a variety of settings like –
- Hospitals; state, local, and private
- Outpatient Care Centers
- Offices of Physicians
- Administrative and Support Services
- Offices of Dentists
How much does a Surgical Tech make an Hour?
As per BLS salary data 2022, the annual average salary of CSTs is $55,960, with an hourly rate of around $27.
Moreover, among the Surgical Techs, the highest 10% are earning upwards of $78,560 per year, and higher. In this case, they earn an hourly rate of around $38.
How many hours do surgical techs work a week?
The number of hours that Surgical Technologists work in a week can vary based on several factors, including their specific job, employer, and work setting.
Many Surgical Technologists work full-time, which typically means 40 hours per week. They may work standard eight-hour shifts, Monday through Friday, or follow other schedules.
If some opt for part-time positions, then it depends on the employer, and the shifts would range between 4 to 12 hours, for the stipulated time or week. However, some employers require 20 hours per week of work from the part-timers.
Those who opt for part-time work might earn up to $2000 a week.
What are the other Job Titles of the Surgical Techs?
The Surgical Techs are also known by other titles like –
- CSTs or Certified Surgical Techs
- Surgical Technologist
- Surgical Technicians
- Operating Room Technicians or the OR Tech
- Surgical Tech
- Scrub or Scrub Tech
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