In the modern healthcare sector, surgical technicians form a vital part of the medical team that provides effective care to the patient. Whether it is for minor cosmetic procedures or a major surgery, a surgical tech provides the support the surgeons and nurses need in order to safely treat the patient. Those considering this career can expect to receive a competitive salary and professional respect from their peers.
The Duties of the Surgical Technician
A surgical technician assists the surgeon, nurses and all other personnel in performing the tasks required to ensure a successful surgical procedure. Depending on the nature of the surgery, the surgical tech may work alone or with other technicians. In some cases, a surgical tech may supervise other technicians as part of his or her duties. The most common tasks of a surgical tech include the following:
- Preparing the operating room for use and ensuring that all equipment is in proper condition.
- The surgical technician is in charge of sterilizing equipment and dressings before the operation, in order to prevent the chance of a postoperative infection.
- Transporting the patient to the operating room and then positioning the patient at the direction of the surgeon.
- After the operation, the surgical technician will clean and prepare the operating room for the next surgery.
Where do Surgical Technicians Work?
Surgical technicians work in a variety of institutions, ranging from major hospitals to small practices. With the growing number of elective surgeries that take place in the doctor’s office and outpatient clinics, surgical technicians are finding themselves in increasing demand outside of the traditional hospital setting.
Among the most common facilities where surgical techs may find employment are the following:
- Hospital emergency rooms and trauma care centers.
- Urgent care clinics.
- Dental clinics that perform cosmetic or reconstructive dental surgery.
- Clinics offering elective cosmetic or weight control surgeries.
- Some private physicians will perform minor surgeries in their offices and require the assistance of a surgical tech.
The Current Career Prospects for Surgical Techs
Currently the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected strong growth for this profession. In 2010, over 93,000 surgical technicians were employed in the United States and by 2020, the BLS expects that at least 111,000 will be employed in various capacities. The continuing growth of the number of elderly Americans makes it extremely likely that the need for surgical technicians will continue to grow well past 2020.
Furthermore, the continued growth in the healthcare industry and the retirement of older surgical technologists makes it likely that this field will continue to have a number of vacancies that will have to be filled by newly graduated surgical technicians. This steady and continued demand for surgical techs will ensure that they continue to receive competitive salaries.
How Much Do Surgical Techs Make?
Surgical technicians are well compensated compared to other professions with equivalent duties and educational requirements. The BLS states that the median surgical tech salary is over $39,000 in 2010. However, it is possible for surgical techs to make considerably more, depending on their specific duties, experience and education.
Currently, the surgical technicians that have the highest salaries are employed in outpatient care centers and the offices of physicians. In both cases, their median yearly wage is over $40,000. The highest paid surgical technicians can receive a salary as high as $57,000. In most cases, the highest paid surgical technicians are those with the greatest amount of experience in their field.
Educational Requirements for Surgical Technicians
Becoming a surgical technician requires that the individual complete a surgical technology program. These programs can range in length from several months to two years, depending on the student’s needs and schedule. These programs are offered by a variety of institutions, ranging from community colleges to vocational training centers.
It is very important that the student ensure that his or her program is accredited. Since 2010, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) has provided accreditation to surgical technology programs. In order for the CAAHEP to accredit a program, it must demonstrate the highest educational standards. For this reason, many employers will require proof that a potential employee has graduated from an accredited program.
Certificated Surgical Techs and Salaries
One of the most effective methods a surgical tech can use to obtain the best possible salary is to become a certified surgical tech. While not required in all states, a certified surgical tech will enjoy better career prospects and will often be able to command a higher salary. Some organizations may require that surgical techs be certified in order to be eligible for employment.
Becoming a certified surgical technologist requires that the individual have passed an accredited surgical technology program, after which he or she must also take and pass a comprehensive exam that tests the individual’s academic and practical knowledge. Certification is offered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT), National Board of Surgical Technology (NBST), or the National Healthcare Association (NHA). Surgical technicians intending on pursuing this course should consult with their program or employer in order to determine the correct agency to use for their certification needs.
When asking how much do surgical techs make, it is important to consider their level of education, primary job duties, and whether or not they are certified. In order to have the best possible surgical tech salary, an individual should have graduated from an accredited school, in addition to having become a certified tech. By doing so, a surgical technologist can be assured of a secure, respected and well compensated career.