The first step towards getting started with a career as a surgical tech is to attend one of the many surgical tech schools in your area. As with any rewarding and well-paying medical job, only those who graduate from an accredited program will be able to easily find top-paying jobs and secure them for a successful long-term career.
In order to ensure that you are able to do this, read on to uncover important considerations and preparations when researching, finding, and ultimately choosing a program that best fits your goals.
Before Attending Surgical Technologist Schools
The first thing you’re going to want to do prior to applying is figure out if these accredited surgical tech programs are right for you. Here is some criteria you should meet in order to excel as a surgical scrub:
- Strong notions of basic math and science skills
- Interest in biology, physiology and anatomy
- Have a desire to help people
- The ability to work in a high pressured environment and excel
- Possess a fine attention to detail
Surgical Tech Schools: What You Need to Apply
There are a few things you will need to have or have accomplished before applying to surgical technology schools:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Be legally able to work in the United States
- Have a high school diploma, GED or equivalent
- Have a clean criminal record
- Some schools may have prerequisite courses that can be taken at any local community college
Since most of the things you will be learning in surgical tech schools will be hands-on and intensive learning, you do NOT need a four-year undergraduate degree, B.A. or B.S. Of course, if you do possess a degree already, this will only serve to help you.
Finding the Best Surgical Technologist Schools
Finding the right surgical tech programs can seem a little frustrating at times, especially when having to take into consideration the location, the price, the best training and a fitting environment, but searching all of your options should prevent you from making a bad decision. With the sheer number of surgical technologists’ schools and programs out there, finding one can sometimes seem overwhelming.
Prior to application, be sure you are clear on the time and monetary commitment you are going to make and stick to it. Be realistic with your goals and fit the school into your lifestyle, not the other way around (unless you are absolutely sure you are able to make the 100% commitment).
The best tip for finding the top surgical tech schools is to look for a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). If a school, program or institution is not accredited by the CAAHEP, do not even bother applying. You will only waste your time and money.
Surgical Technician Degrees to Consider
Because each state individually regulates the certification of surgical techs, surgical tech schools vary in the types of degrees they offer. Typically, surgical tech programs consist of an Associate Degree program or some sort of surgical technician certification program. Here are the three different types of surgical technician training programs that exist:
- Surgical Technician Certificate: Some surgical tech schools offer surgical technician diplomas and/or certificate programs which provide students with the core base of knowledge and skill sets they would need in order to find entry-level work in a hospital or other surgical facility. Normally spanning nine months for accelerated courses and two years at most major institutes, surgical tech students are taught how to prep patients for surgery, how to monitor vitals, about the sterilization of equipment and basic medical terminology to facilitate communication with surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and doctors.
- Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology: Other surgical tech schools offer this Associate Degree which requires the completion of general education courses along with courses in the specific major of surgical technology. These courses are offered both on-campus and online depending on the institution and consist of medical terminology, pharmacology, medical/surgical equipment knowledge, anatomy and much, much more. To earn an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology, students typically attend courses for 18 months to two years.
- Associate of Science in Allied Health or Medical Assisting: Alternatively to the Applied Science Associate Degree, a student at one of the surgery tech schools can earn an Associate Degree in Allied Health or Medical Assisting as well. Lasting the same amount of time (18 months to two years), and requiring the same core components as the Surgical Tech Associate’s, the major difference here is that earning a degree in Allied Health or Medical Assisting allows students the chance to specialize in areas such as anesthesiology or pediatrics (among other fields). Many surgical tech schools in California focus on Associate degree programs. This specialization can often lead to increased job opportunities and higher pay.
How Long Does It Take to Graduate?
Traditionally, surgical tech programs have taken students two years to complete. But due to the high demand of surgical technicians, there are now streamlined, accredited programs and surgical tech schools which offer the same degrees as standard two-year programs but at a much faster rate.
Although it typically takes longer to complete a surgical tech program, the salary for technologists is higher than that of LVNs. In fact, the current LVN salary is almost 10% lower than the average surgical tech salary!
There is much debate as to the reliability of such programs so you should scrutinize and compare the two different types of schools.
In the end, the choice is up to you; whether you choose a 9, 12 or 18 month or a two year program, take into consideration the tuition differences, geographical locations, time requirements and any other striking variances.
The bottom line is that either way, if you complete an accredited program for surgical technicians, you will be handed the tools necessary in order for you to become a skilled surgical tech that can land a job in any operating room. Becoming a surgical tech is challenging, but well worth it!
Surgical Tech Programs in Utah
Salt Lake Community College offers an associate’s degree or certificate program for surgical technology. These days there has been a significant increase in surgical procedures, which is why there is extensive job growth for this position.
Techs will work under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse and they will be responsible for the care and condition of the tools used in an operating room and the handing out of those instruments during a procedure. The certificate program will qualify graduates to work in surgical centers, operating rooms, labor and delivery rooms, emergency rooms and physician’s offices.
A student will be introduced to the fundamentals of this position, with three practicum courses provided in order to give students real experience in the field. The comprehensive surgical tech course will provide a review for the students as they come to the end of the program. The program also prepares the student to take and pass the assessment exam, in addition to the certification exam.
Dixie State College offers the certificate program for surgical technology, and the school has an affiliation with the local hospital where students that are enrolled in this program will work as interns for a period of eight weeks. The prerequisite courses for this program will include math, medical terminology, English, physiology, anatomy and surgical technology need to be completed prior to applying for the program.
Technology labs and clinics will provide the student with both real world and academic experience. Advanced courses in surgical technology will be used as a refresher course as well as an opportunity for the students to prepare for the certification exam.
Surgical Tech Programs in Ohio
The University of Akron offers a surgical technician certificate program that can be completed in three semesters in addition to a three month internship at a local medical facility. Program enrollment requirements will involve having a high school diploma or GED. This university also offers an associate’s degree program in surgical technology and consists of 67 credits, featuring surgical tech labs and internships at a local medical facility. The length for the internship is six months and is taken during the final year of the program. Refresher courses and exam prep classes are also offered during the remaining months of the degree program.
Surgical Tech Schools: Accreditation Matters
Just to reiterate: no matter which path you choose, the importance of attending an accredited surgical tech program cannot be stressed enough. Unless your school is accredited by the CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or the ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools), you will not be able to participate in the national surgical technologist’s certification exam. This is similar to graduating from law school and not being able to take the Bar Exam. Be sure you set your future up correctly and attend an accredited top surgical technician school.
Starting Your Career As a Surgical Tech
For more information on how to become a surgical technologist, head over to our section on the surgical tech overview.