You’ve decided you’re done dodging questions from family and friends about your dead-end job. You’re ready for something better; something to launch your career and allow you to make a difference. You’re interested in making a name for yourself in the healthcare industry by becoming a surgical technologist.
Surgical technologists go by many titles: Surgical tech, operating room technician, scrub tech or surgical assistant. But regardless of what you call them, they all play an integral role on the operating room team.
But what exactly do these healthcare professionals do? And more importantly, is becoming a surgical tech worth your time? Keep reading to learn some facts that may help you answer your question.
What do surgical technologists do?
You have a vague understanding of what a surgical tech position involves, but let’s take a closer look at the details. Just as the jobs titles vary, a surgical tech’s responsibilities cover a wide range of duties. Their duties include tasks to prep for surgery, tasks during the surgery and post-surgery tasks.
It is typically the surgical tech's job to prepare both the patient and the operating room for surgeries. This includes sterilizing the equipment and ensuring there are adequate supplies in the operating room before the surgeon begins. They also help prep the patients by cleansing and disinfecting any incision areas.
During the surgery, surgical techs assist the surgeons by handing them instruments at their request. They may help by holding organs in place or using retractors during the surgery. Once the procedure is completed, they are responsible for helping dress the wound and transferring patients into recovery rooms.
About 70 percent of surgical techs worked in hospitals in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Other possible work environments include outpatient centers or the offices of physicians who perform outpatient surgery.
Now that you have a better understanding of the typical roles and responsibilities of surgical techs, you’re ready to get to the good stuff: What’s in it for you?
6 Reasons you should become a surgical tech
1. You can enter the field quickly
Many healthcare careers require several years of schooling before you’re qualified to start working. Fortunately, this isn’t the case for surgical techs. Most employers require a postsecondary Certificate or Associate’s degree to work in this position.
Surgical tech programs vary in length, but most have their students trained and graduated in less than two years.1 This means you could be scrubbing in for your first surgery in just a couple of years.
2. Demand is skyrocketing
Fleeting job opportunities is something you won’t have to worry about with a surgical technologist career. The BLS projects jobs in this field to grow at the faster-than-average of 12 percent through 2026.
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. Above-average earning potential
Less time in school generally equates to less money spent on courses. This is an obvious advantage for aspiring surgical techs, but the financial benefits don’t end there.
Once employed in the field, you can expect to earn a healthy compensation for your work. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for surgical techs in 2016 was $45,160.2 This number sits comfortably above the average for all occupations, which was $37,040.
4. You can work anywhere
As mentioned above, most surgical techs are employed in hospitals. Hospitals are located in every area across the country; and every hospital has surgeons who perform surgical procedures. What does this mean for surgical techs? There are jobs available country-wide.
This means you won’t have to relocate to a specific region just to find a job. Whether you want to work in a big city or a rural area, you can find employment as a surgical tech. This is definitely a perk, because you never know when life circumstances will require you to move.
5. You won’t get bored
If you’re the type of person who gets jaded sitting at a desk and performing the same tasks day after day, you’ll be relieved to hear that is a far cry from reality for a surgical tech. This position will keep you on-the-move all day long.
No two days are the same for a surgical tech, either. Even for those who specialize in assisting for the same type of surgery, each patient and procedure will vary from the next. Surgeries do not always go by the book, which means you’ll need to stay on your toes and be prepared for whatever happens. These high-pressure scenarios make for an exciting career.
6. You’ll make 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. How fulfilling is it to know you’re helping improve patients’ lives during each and every shift?
“Becoming a surgical tech is a great 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.
The decision is yours
So is becoming a surgical tech worth it? The choice is ultimately yours. But if you’re looking for an exciting and rewarding way to fill a gap in the healthcare field, this could be the career you’ve been seeking.
If you’re intrigued and want to know if you have what it takes to become a surgical tech, check out our article, 6 Signs You Should Consider Becoming a Surgical Technologist.
1Time to complete is dependent on accepted transfer credits and courses completed each quarter.
2Salary 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 2017. Insight from Nicole Rescorla remains from original article.