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What Is the Employment Outlook for Surgical Assistant Careers?

Read on to find out more about the job prospects for surgical assistants and to learn how much you can expect to earn in this field. Find out what drives growth in this industry, and check the education and certification requirements for the career.

Expected Job Growth

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide job outlook information for surgical assistants specifically, it does give information about surgical technologists. In 2016, there were approximately 107,700 professionals in this field. The BLS expects job growth in the field to be very strong, at a rate of 12% from 2016 through 2026, which would result in a projected employment of 120,300 in 2026. The BLS noted that hospitals were the top employer for these professionals in 2018 (www.bls.gov).

Important Facts About Surgical Assistants

On-the-Job Training None
Licensure None
Key Skills Physical dexterity and stamina, attention to detail, stress management, and moral integrity
Similar Occupations Medical assistants, dental assistants, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians

Factors of Growth

The BLS expects the demand for surgical technologists to rise due to an increasing focus on medical procedures and health care for an aging population. Advances in medical technology allow hospitals and clinics to continuously perform new and innovative surgeries, keeping these workers in constant demand. In addition, elderly patients may want to stay active and desire procedures to help them do so. The BLS also notes that these professionals are paid less than registered nurses, so hospital operating rooms are more likely to employ them.

Salary Information

In June 2019, PayScale.com reported that surgical assistants typically earned a wage between $30,902 and $78,743. PayScale.com also showed that salaries varied by experience level. Entry-level surgical assistants earned an average of $44,494 annually as of May 2019, and those with 5-10 years of experience made an average salary of $48,343. With 10-20 years in the field, the median for surgical assistants rose to about $63,000 per year.

Education and Certification

Accredited surgical assisting programs usually award certificates, diplomas and associate's degrees. The Committee on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) provides a database of accredited programs and institutions. Those looking to become certified can find various certifications and examinations that are offered by the CAAHEP and The Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist. After completing a CAAHEP-accredited surgical assisting program, students can pursue certification to become a CSA or a CFA. The National Surgical Assistant Association also offers certification to become a CSA. Although additional certification is not required for most positions, surgical assistants and technicians with certification may have greater career and salary opportunities.