Surgical Tech Programs

prepping for surgery

Surgical technology is a fine option for those who want to earn their licensure quickly and have good job security.

As the demand for healthcare increases, so does the need for techs in hospitals and other care centers. Those interested in surgical technologist jobs can take classes in-person or online and become certified in a matter of months.

Education & Training

Online Classes

Local Schools

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How Long Does a Program in Surgical Tech Take?

Some programs may be as brief as 12 months for a certificate or take up to two years if you’re pursuing a combined associate degree with specialized training.

One fine example of a comprehensive program is offered by the McCann School of Business & Technology. Their program, focused on practical and theoretical knowledge, starts new sessions every 10 weeks due to their rolling admission policy.

Students can expect to complete their studies within 18 to 21 months, gaining valuable workforce-ready skills in the process.

How Much Do Surgical Tech Programs Cost on Average?

On average, students might anticipate spending approximately $12,000. However, this figure isn’t set in stone, as factors such as enrollment fees, lab fees, textbooks, and certification costs could cause it to increase or decrease.

Since the exact cost can vary quite a bit, a dependable approach is to contact the schools you’re considering. Request a detailed cost breakdown to get a clear picture of the financial commitment involved.

What Will You Study?

Enrolling in a high-quality surgical tech program paves the way for a promising career in this field. A comprehensive curriculum will equip you with the essential knowledge and skills to excel in your profession.

Here’s what you can expect to study:

  • Body Systems
  • Microbiology
  • Minor Surgical Procedures
  • Major Surgical Procedures
  • Critical Thinking
  • Pharmacology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Psychology
  • Surgical Techniques
  • Pathophysiology
  • Surgical Orientation
  • Surgical Technology Prep

By mastering these subjects, you’ll effectively prepare yourself to positively impact your patients’ lives and the healthcare industry as a whole.

Benefits of Taking a Surgical Tech Course

Choosing to pursue a surgical tech course is the first step towards a deeply rewarding and engaging career. Here are some of the top benefits associated with committing to this educational journey:

  • Quick Entry to Field: Many health careers often require several years of schooling, but this isn’t the case for surgical techs. Once enrolled, you could enter your professional field in less than two years.
  • Increasing Job Opportunities: The demand for surgical techs is growing, providing sustained job prospects in the coming years.
  • Geographic Flexibility: Hospitals are ubiquitous, providing job opportunities nationwide. So, whether you prefer the hustle of big cities or the tranquility of rural areas, options are aplenty.
  • Hands-On Work Environment: This isn’t an ‘all-day-at-the-desk’ job; expect daily action, varied challenges, and hands-on involvement.
  • Tangible Impact: As a surgical tech, you contribute to the betterment of patients’ health every day, making a noticeable difference in people’s lives.

Becoming a surgical tech opens the door to an exciting journey of enhancing patient care. It’s not merely about securing a job but about fulfilling a role that intersects hands-on, technical skill with human empathy and care.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for surgical technologists was $56,350, reflecting the appeal of this career in financial terms.  That’s slightly more than the median wage for other health technologists and technicians.

Below are some average salaries and hourly wages for each state.

State Hourly Annual
Alabama $22.14 $46,060.00
Alaska $35.31 $73,440.00
Arizona $31.26 $65,020.00
Arkansas $24.08 $50,080.00
California $36.62 $76,170.00
Colorado $31.50 $65,520.00
Connecticut $38.02 $79,080.00
Delaware $28.36 $58,990.00
District of Columbia $33.28 $69,230.00
Florida $27.28 $56,730.00
Georgia $28.66 $59,620.00
Hawaii $32.52 $67,650.00
Idaho $28.58 $59,450.00
Illinois $28.78 $59,860.00
Indiana $28.25 $58,760.00
Iowa $25.74 $53,540.00
Kansas $25.98 $54,040.00
Kentucky $25.21 $52,440.00
Louisiana $24.92 $51,830.00
Maine $28.37 $59,010.00
Maryland $30.31 $63,050.00
Massachusetts $34.02 $70,760.00
Michigan $27.85 $57,920.00
Minnesota $34.32 $71,380.00
Mississippi $22.65 $47,110.00
Missouri $29.23 $60,800.00
Montana $28.41 $59,090.00
Nebraska $28.98 $60,270.00
Nevada $35.48 $73,800.00
New Hampshire $31.82 $66,190.00
New Jersey $33.77 $70,240.00
New Mexico $25.61 $53,270.00
New York $35.17 $73,150.00
North Carolina $26.28 $54,660.00
North Dakota $27.72 $57,650.00
Ohio $27.47 $57,140.00
Oklahoma $26.17 $54,430.00
Oregon $34.43 $71,610.00
Pennsylvania $28.32 $58,900.00
Puerto Rico $12.33 $25,640.00
Rhode Island $30.56 $63,560.00
South Carolina $26.72 $55,570.00
South Dakota $24.58 $51,120.00
Tennessee $27.47 $57,130.00
Texas $28.88 $60,070.00
Utah $30.10 $62,600.00
Vermont $28.10 $58,440.00
Virginia $31.92 $66,380.00
Washington $35.38 $73,580.00
West Virginia $23.42 $48,720.00
Wisconsin $31.55 $65,620.00
Wyoming $27.53 $57,260.00

Occupation: Surgical Technologists (SOC Code292055)
source: data.bls.gov

Techs who work in outpatient care centers earn the highest median wage, followed by those employed by hospitals.

Career Overview

Who is a Surgical Tech?

A surgical tech, also known as a surgical technologist, is a key healthcare team member who primarily works in the operating room. Their crucial role is to assist surgeons and nurses during surgery by maintaining the sterile field, preparing and handling surgical equipment, and providing technical support during procedures.

This career could be right for you if you:

  • Handle pressure well
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Have an interest in medical procedures and anatomy
  • Can work well in a team and also independently
  • Can endure standing for lengthy periods
  • Are keen on making a significant impact in patient care

Is It a Good Career?

Yes. When deciding on a career path, you want to consider stability, compensation, advancement opportunities, and job satisfaction. A career as a surgical technologist offers all of these. Here’s why it stands out:

  • Stable Income: As of May 2022, the median annual wage for surgical technologists was $57,290, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reflecting the appeal of this career in financial terms.
  • Strong Job Market: The job market exhibits a consistent demand for surgical technologists, with approximately 8,600 job openings projected each year for the next decade. This robust employment outlook enhances the attractiveness of the surgical tech field.
  • Advancement Opportunities: A career in surgical technology isn’t static. It provides a launchpad for growth, allowing individuals to evolve into more specialized roles within the surgical tech field or broaden out into other healthcare domains.
  • Personal Growth: This profession isn’t simply about performing tasks; it’s a fertile ground for learning. The expertise you gain from surgical technology is multifaceted, developing robust surgical knowledge and skills that will prove indispensable in your career progression.

What Are A Surgical Technologist’s Job Duties?

Surgical technologists who do their jobs carefully and correctly are helpful aids to surgeons that also preserve the safety of patients. Their responsibilities can include:

  • Sterilizing equipment and gathering the necessary supplies for surgery
  • Preparing patients for their operation by dressing them in appropriate gowns, transporting them to the operating room and positioning them on the table
  • Aiding others during surgery by handing the doctors their equipment and keeping track of instruments to confirm that no foreign items remain in the patient’s body
  • Cleaning and bandaging the patient’s incision and transporting them to the recovery area when their surgery is over
  • Restocking and sterilizing the operating room after procedures

Do All Surgical Technologists Do the Same Thing?

Although most surgical technologists carry out similar tasks, their jobs can vary depending on the type of surgeries in which they assist. Each surgeon and their teams typically treat a specific kind of patient with individual health challenges. A tech who is enthusiastic about a particular field of medicine might seek out a job that suits their interests.

For example, a tech who works in the emergency room might deal with patients suffering from traumatic injuries that need treated immediately. Alternatively, one may take an interest in orthopedic procedures such as joint replacements. They can also assist during surgeries on major internal organs like the heart or lungs.

Where Can Surgical Technologists Work?

After completing their course and certification, surgical technologists can find their skills in high demand across various medical environments. They can be part of the dynamic teams in operating rooms or delivery rooms, assisting in transforming lives directly.

Beyond that, they can work in specialized diagnostic spaces like cardiac catheterization labs or outpatient surgery centers. Options also include central service roles, where they ensure sterilization protocols are maintained, or even working as a private scrub, dedicating their skills to a single surgeon.

What are the Hours Like?

Surgical technologist jobs are normally full-time positions. But their schedules may vary, especially if a tech works in emergency surgery. A hospital must have these staffers on-site all hours of the day. Techs may work nights, weekends and holidays. They might also have extended shifts that last longer than the typical eight hours.

Certification and Registration

As a surgical technologist, you have the green light to work in every state. However, earning a certification can give your career a strong boost. After all, it’s solid proof of your skills and dedication.

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) runs a great certification program that’s well-recognized. The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) is pushing for all states to hire certified graduates from approved programs.

Already, several states require you to have an education and certification. Other states might ask you to register or suggest it as a good idea.

Here are the states that need you to be certified:

  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • South Carolina
  • Massachusetts
  • Tennessee
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Oregon

Acquiring a certification gives you a competitive edge in the field of surgical technologists. This not only validates your skills and training but potentially opens more doors for career advancement.

Be it certification or further education, investing in your development as a surgical technologist is a big step toward achieving professional success.

Difference Between Surgical Tech and Surgical Assistant

Though surgical technologists and surgical assistants work closely in operating rooms, their roles are distinctively different:

  • Surgical Technologists: Often referred to as the backbone of the operating room, they are responsible for various tasks, including sterilizing equipment, preparing patients for surgery, and assisting surgeons by providing them with the necessary surgical tools during procedures.
  • Surgical Assistants: With a more hands-on role during surgery, surgical assistants directly support surgeons. Their duties expand to include tasks such as tissue retraction for better visibility, suturing incisions, and, in some cases, performing parts of the procedure under the surgeon’s supervision.

In short, while overlapping in their aim to facilitate successful surgeries, surgical technologists and surgical assistants differ in their degree of direct involvement in surgical procedures.

Other Careers for Surgical Technologists

There are lots of medical professions that use plenty of the same skills that surgical technologists do. Many of these positions demand additional schooling, but prior knowledge of the health sciences is helpful and applicable to all of them.

  • Medical laboratory technicians – These healthcare workers collect and test samples of bodily fluids and tissues. They examine the specimens for illnesses and abnormalities with advanced pieces of equipment.
  • Medical assistants – Someone who works in one of these positions can do various patient care and administrative tasks in a healthcare facility. They can measure a person’s vital signs, give injections, draw blood and provide assistance to doctors.
  • Dental assistants – These employees work with dentists and support them and others on the staff. They administer patient care, organize records, arrange appointments and take x-rays.

How to Keep Growing Your Career as Surgical Tech

Earning supplementary certifications can help a current surgical technologist progress in their career. Organizations like the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the National Center for Competency Testing require techs to pass an exam to become licensed. They must also regularly enroll in continued learning courses to maintain their certification.

With a bit of additional training, technologists can becom0e surgical assistants. These staffers have many of the same responsibilities, but play a more hands-on role during procedures. If a tech should want to further advance their career in healthcare, they could further continue their education and work as a registered nurse or in a similar position that requires a bachelor’s degree.

Interview with a Surgical Tech

An interview with Tom Kumke, a current surgical technician student at Southwest Florida College.

What campus are you attending?

The Port Charlotte campus.

What’s the nature of the program you’re attending?

I’m in the surgery tech program, it’s an Associates degree program, and I’m half way through.

What is your current career?

I’m in Retail.

Describe a typical day in school for you?
We are just half way, so I’m getting my early classes out of the way. I just started an anatomy and physiology class. Right now a typical day is 4 hours of class lectures, taking quizzes every week, and learning terminology and all the basics.

I’m working hard during the day at work and at school in the evenings. I’ll have some early afternoon classes next semester too.

Are you happy with the training that you received so far?

So far so good.

How long is the program?

It’s 2 years.

What are your favorite classes and why are they your favorite?

I do enjoy anatomy and physiology most. It’s the core of my degree and the teacher does a really good job.

Who is the teacher?

Dr. Intress.

How much did it cost for you to complete the program?

I don’t know exactly. I know they gave me the figure in the beginning, but it was so big I didn’t look at it again. I can say through Pell grants, financial aid, and my employer’s reimbursement, it’s definitely been affordable.

Did you receive any financial aid or scholarships? Which ones? Were these easy to obtain?

I do have financial aid in the form of Pell grants, but the school takes care of all that. They do the paperwork for me. That part has been really easy, however to get reimbursed through my employer at Lowes has been a little more difficult, but they’re really good about it. It’s an excellent program they have.

Do you go to school on a full-time or part-time basis?

Technically ¾, but I consider myself full time. I take an average of 9-12 credits per semester.

Were any of your classes online?

I took one online, career development. It’s an elective but it may be a required elective, they signed me up for it.

Did you consider other programs before going into the surgery tech program?

Not really, I saw some stuff about the program, did some research online, and thought that this sounded like something I wanted to do. Then my wife signed me up and told me I started on Monday.

Why did you choose the one you did?

At age 43, I decided I just thought this was something I might want to do you know, and then my wife decided I should.

What was the most difficult part of the program for you?

Just finding the time. Being a full-time parent and employee, and at the same time just getting used to going back to school. It’s been 25 years of not going back to school. It took a long time before my brain started getting used to listening and remembering things.

Do they offer help for students like you who have been out of school for a long time?

They got a lot of things there that I haven’t taken advantage of.

They have special instruction which is like tutoring, and they have mentoring. I haven’t taken advantage of that because I just think if I can’t get myself to do it, you know, my problem was just getting myself in the right frame of mind. I’ve been a drone employee for the past 25 years. They do have help though.

About how many other students are in your classes?

About 14 to 15 students. It is nice because the teacher has time to do individual interaction. You’re not overwhelmed, and you get to ask questions.

For your particular program, are there any special licenses or certifications that you need to receive before getting a job? If so, what are they and what do they entail?

There is a certification from what I understand. I have to do the test, but they do prepare you for that. From what I understand I should be prepared, and I will hold them to that.

If there were online classes, how was the experience of online versus a classroom setting?

I hate it. I’d much rather be in a classroom where I can interact with the teacher and ask questions, but you know some people love it, the relaxed atmosphere of it.

For me, I prefer to be scheduled. I need that structure to make sure I allot the time so I can treat it like a job and do the work. The other thing of not being able to talk to the instructors is a big thing for me.

Did you feel that you were able to learn as well as you would have in the classroom setting, and would you take one again?

I would take them occasionally depending on the class. I would rather take it online than drive to Fort Myers if they didn’t offer it on my campus, but the more important the instructor is, like with my anatomy class, the more I want to take it in a classroom setting.

I had some bad experiences but I did fine in the end. Overall, I just didn’t care for it and the way it was run.

Would you recommend this school to someone else? Why or why not?

Absolutely. Actually I’ve already recommended it to some of the people I work with. I did it because the programs that they offer are good, if it’s what they’re interested in. The school is well run, and the instructors are very knowledgeable. It’s not just get your degree and get out. They will work with you to find a job and make sure you get all the right certifications, and make sure you stay on track. This is what they told me when I started and then I found it to be true since I’ve been there.

Local Resources

Becoming a Surgical Tech in FL

Becoming a Surgical Tech in LA

Becoming a Surgical Tech in PA

Becoming a Surgical Tech in TN

Becoming a Surgical Tech in TX

Becoming a Surgical Tech in VA