You’ve decided you’re done dodging questions from family and friends about your dead-end job. You’re ready for something greater, something to launch your career and impress your friends. You’re interested in making a name for yourself in the healthcare industry by becoming a surgical tech.
Surgical techs go by many titles—operating room technician, scrub tech, surgical assistant—but no matter what you call them, they all play an integral role in the operating room. What else do surgical techs do and what does it take to become one? And more importantly, is it worth it? Keep reading to find out.
Surgical technologist career overview
What exactly does a surgical tech do? Just as the jobs titles vary, a surgical tech’s responsibilities also cover a wide range of duties. A surgical tech plays an essential role in surgical settings. About 70 percent of surgical techs work in hospitals alongside registered nurses, physicians, surgeons and other healthcare personnel, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
It is typically the surgical tech's job to prepare both the patient and the operating room for surgeries. Surgical techs sterilize equipment and tools, which they pass to surgeons during surgery. At the bedside, they may assist the surgical team by holding organs in place or using retractors during the surgery. Once the procedure is completed, they may help dress the wound and transfer patients to recovery rooms.
Becoming a surgical tech typically requires an associate degree from an accredited institution or certification from a specialized program. It usually takes a year or two to complete the required education, which includes many science courses, such as anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.
Now that you have a better understanding of the job duties and educational requirements of becoming a surgical tech, you’re ready to get to the good stuff: What’s in it for you?
4 Reasons you should become a surgical tech
1. Hands-on internships
Let’s face it: there’s so much you’ll learn in your surgical tech courses, but there’s a big difference between reading textbooks and getting hands-on experience. That’s where your internship comes in. Many surgical tech programs feature a clinical internship in the curriculum. But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill, errand-running, job-shadowing type of internship. Taking what you learned in class and applying it in a real-life setting is a great way to gain practical experience in the medical field.
Rasmussen College surgical tech graduate Nicole Gumke experienced the rush of clinicals firsthand. While the training and education were rigorous, in the end, she felt it was her clinical experience that really prepared her for life as a surgical tech.
“I was prepared in terms of anatomy but I wasn’t really prepared for the things I would experience,” Gumke said. “That’s why you do clinicals. I feel like that’s where I learned the most.”
2. Demand is skyrocketing
Fleeting job opportunities is something you won’t have to worry about with a surgical technologist career. The BLS projects a 15 percent increase in demand through 2024—that’s more than double the average rate for all other occupations!
But what’s the reason behind the growth?
Surgical procedures are being performed more frequently than ever as a result of the advancements in surgical technology. The BLS also attributes this growth to the aging baby boomer generation. This population is expected to require more attention from healthcare professionals in coming years, resulting in an uptick in surgical procedures.
3. Exciting earning potential
Those studying to become surgical technologists not only get to look forward to optimistic job growth but also to an exciting earning potential. The BLS reports the median annual salary for surgical techs in 2015 as $44,330, which sits comfortably above the average for all occupations: $36,200.*
4. You’re making a difference every day
Earning a decent paycheck is important, but you also want to make a difference when you clock into work each day. Lucky for you, a surgical tech career comes with a high level of satisfaction and higher meaning. What better motivation can you have than knowing you’re helping save lives, making a difference and improving your patients’ quality of life during every shift?
“Becoming a surgical tech is a good career choice. When you leave work every day, you know you have made a difference in someone's life,” says Nicole Rescorla, surgical technologist at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Now you know . . .
Becoming a surgical tech is worth it if you’re ready to finally leave behind your job to pursue a career you love. With growing demand, excellent hands-on training and exciting earning potential, becoming a surgical tech opens up a lot of possibilities for your future.
Still interested in becoming a surgical technologist and want to see if you’re cut out for the career? Find out if you have what it takes to succeed in the operating room in our article: 5 Unique Surgical Tech Skills You Need to Succeed.
*Salary ranges represent national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and include workers at all levels of education and experience. Ranges do not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in September 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2015.