Surgical Technician: Job Duties, Employment Outlook, and Educational Requirements

A surgical technician is a member of the operating room team who assists the surgeon and performs various duties before, during and after a surgery. Read on for details on a surgical technician's responsibilities, career outlook, education and certification options. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Surgical Technician?

As a surgical technician, you'll work in an operating room along with other healthcare professionals, such as surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses. You'll assist during surgery and perform pre- and post-operative duties. Some of your duties may include setting up and keeping track of equipment, preparing patients for surgery, observing patients' vital signs, handing instruments to surgeons, applying dressings, transporting patients and cleaning operating rooms. You may also sterilize equipment and help other members of the surgical team put on their sterile attire.

Because of this the job can be physically demanding, requiring long periods of standing, lifting things, or moving patients. If you're considering this career, you should be ready and willing to work in a healthcare setting, where you'll potentially be exposed to communicable diseases or unpleasant sites or odors. Most surgical technicians work full time, and have a very hands-on role from start to finish of surgical procedures.

What Kind of Employment Outlook Is Predicted?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that during the 2014-2024 decade, employment of surgical technicians would grow 15% ( This increase was expected to be due to a growing aging population and an increased number of surgeries being performed. In addition, advanced surgical technologies, such as laser and fiber optics, were expected to provide more opportunities for surgical technicians. To experience the greatest job opportunities, consider earning certification and seeking employment in doctor's offices and outpatient care centers.

What Are the Education Requirements?

According to the BLS, training programs for surgical technicians vary in length from 9-24 months and result in a diploma, certificate or associate's degree. You'll receive both classroom and clinical training. Courses may include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, pathology, patient care, sterile techniques and surgical procedures. You'll gain supervised experience working in an operating room as well.

After graduating from your surgical technology program, you may opt to earn certification in order to enhance your job prospects. The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation is offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), while the Tech in Surgery - Certified (TS-C) designation is offered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). You'll need to meet education or experience requirements to qualify to take a certifying exam. You must periodically renew your certification, either through earning continuing education credits or taking another exam.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of careers in the field of healthcare that you could consider if working as a surgical technician doesn't sound quite right. A medical laboratory technician, for example, collects samples from patients and performs tests to analyze body fluids, tissue, and other substances. A licensed practical nurse, or LPN, works directly under physicians and registered nurses to provide basic care. To become an LPN, you need to complete a diploma or certificate program and earn a license.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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