Training programs last 9 to 24 months and lead to a certificate, diploma, or
associate's degree. Professional certification can help in getting jobs and
Education and training. Surgical
technologists receive their training in formal programs offered by community and
junior colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals, and the military.
In 2008, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
recognized more than 450 accredited training programs. Programs last from 9 to
24 months and lead to a certificate, diploma, or associate's degree. High school
graduation normally is required for admission. Recommended high school courses
include health, biology, chemistry, and mathematics.
Programs provide classroom education and supervised clinical experience.
Students take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology,
professional ethics, and medical terminology. Other topics covered include the
care and safety of patients during surgery, sterile techniques, and surgical
procedures. Students also learn to sterilize instruments; prevent and control
infection; and handle special drugs, solutions, supplies, and equipment.
Certification and other qualifications.
Most employers prefer to hire certified technologists. Technologists may obtain
voluntary professional certification from the Liaison Council on Certification
for the Surgical Technologist by graduating from a CAAHEP-accredited program and
passing a national certification examination. They may then use the Certified
Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. In order to maintain certification,
certified surgical technologists must earn 60 hours of approved continuing
education over a 4-year period or retake and pass the certifying exam at the end
of the 4-year period.
Certification also may be obtained from the National Center for Competency
Testing (NCCT). To qualify to take the exam, candidates follow one of three
paths: complete an accredited training program, undergo a 2-year hospital
on-the-job training program, or acquire 7 years of experience working in the
field. After passing the exam, individuals may use the designation Tech in
Surgery-Certified, TS-C (NCCT). This certification must be renewed every 5 years
through either continuing education or reexamination.
Surgical technologists need manual dexterity to handle instruments quickly.
They also must be conscientious, orderly, and emotionally stable to handle the
demands of the operating room environment. Technologists must respond quickly
and must be familiar with operating procedures in order to have instruments
ready for surgeons without having to be told to do so. They are expected to keep
abreast of new developments in the field.
Advancement. Technologists advance by
specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open-heart
surgery. They also may work as circulating technologists. With additional
training, some technologists advance to first assistant. Some surgical
technologists manage central supply departments in hospitals or take positions
with insurance companies, sterile supply services, and operating equipment
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook
Handbook, 2010-11 Edition