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What Schools Offer Surgical Tech Programs?

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Aug 10, 2012

Surgical technologists, or operating room and surgical technicians, assist in operations under the supervision of a surgical team member, such as a surgeon or nurse. Their role is to prepare operating rooms, patients, and the surgical team for medical operations. Duties include preparing and transporting patients for surgery, gathering and arranging surgical equipment and supplies, sterilizing equipment and the operating room, and assisting the surgical team during surgery.

Surgical technologists must be detail oriented and pay close attention to their work in order to ensure safe conditions in operating rooms for patients and surgical teams. Technologists must also manage and respond well to stress since they work in conditions that expose them to patients in distress, communicable diseases, disturbing sights, and strong odors. Surgical technologists must respond effectively to these challenging conditions without compromising a patient’s quality of care.

Educational Requirements

A post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree is typically required to embark on a career as a surgical technologist. Programs in surgical technology are offered by vocational schools, junior and community colleges, and universities, as well as online education providers. Typically, programs last between nine months and up to two years. Generally, admission to surgical technology programs requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Programs tend to focus on courses in anatomy, biology, medical terminology, and other related topics. Students also complete practical clinical components to obtain hands-on training as part of their formal education and training.

Salary Overview and Job Outlook

Surgical Tech Schools

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a surgical technologist earned a median wage of $19.69 per hour or $40,950 per year in 2011. The average wage for a technologist in 2011 was $20.41 per hour and $42,460 per year. A surgical technologist’s salary often depends on where they work and their specialization. For example, technologists employed in outpatient care centers earn more than those working at hospitals.

In recent years, demand for surgical technologists has remained at or above the national average for all occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is expected to grow between 10% and 19% from 2010 to 2020, which is close to the average for all occupations. As the American population ages the need for surgery increases, and demand for surgical technologists will remain high as hospitals and outpatient care centers continue to hire surgical technologists.

Online Surgical Technologist Education and Training

Online training leading to a certificate, diploma, or degree in surgical technology are very similar to programs offered on-site at vocation schools, community and junior colleges, and universities. Programs include similar coursework, including instruction in anatomy, biology, medical terminology, and other related medical topics. These programs help prepare students for entry-level positions as surgical technologists by providing instruction on patient care before, during, and after surgery. Programs also provide information on how to work in an operating room environment, including how to work with other surgical team members.

Courses offered through an online surgical technology program may include human anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology, medical and surgical terminology, surgical technology, surgical techniques, infection control, and surgical procedures. Coursework also provides introductions to the technology within an operating room, including computer systems, surgical instruments, and surgical robotics. Courses are also offered on medical law and ethics in the medical field.

Beyond coursework, students enrolled in an online surgical technology program are generally required to complete a practical component in a clinical setting. Placements typically are completed in a location where surgeries take place, such as a hospital, outpatient care center, or a physician’s office. These practical components are provided to ensure students receive hands-on technical training and experience. Trainee technologists are also given instruction in sterilization techniques, infection control, and how to care for patients through a combination of coursework and practical experience.

Upon completion of a surgical technology program, graduates will have the skills needed to be employed as second assistant surgical technologies. They will also be eligible to apply for certification. Graduates will have skills necessary to maintain a sterile field and to ensure an aseptic technique during surgery. Through a combination of coursework and practical experience, students also learn critical thinking skills within the context of surgical technology, as well as how to work professionally in an operating room.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Training

Online Surgical Education

One of the main advantages of online training is the ability to stay home and remain in at home and in your community while you complete your training. This is particularly useful for students who want to pursue a formal education but are living in a remote area, or who are unable to travel because of family commitments, employment, the cost of relocating and living on campus, or other reasons. Completing your education and training to become a surgical technologist from an online education provider gives you the flexibility to complete your education and training while meeting other commitments, such as caring for young children or family. Online training can also save you money since you will save on transportation and accommodation costs in comparison to physically attending a bricks and mortar school, college, or university.

A disadvantage of online and distance education is that you may not interact directly with instructors and other students. If you depend on the social side of learning and education, online instruction may not be right for you. However, increasingly the online learning experience is becoming more and more social and interactive thanks to the development of new web communication technology and tools. Many online programs now offer students the ability to interact with classmates and teachers, which enhances the online learning experience. Tools include web-based classrooms where you can ask questions in real-time and online study groups where students completing the same program can interact with each other with messaging and video conferencing technology.

Online and distance education can also be a challenge if you are learning from home, where distractions can affect your ability to focus and stay on track with course requirements. This can be mitigated by creating and sticking to a learning schedule, and looking for quiet places to study and complete your courses (for example, a library). Some distance education programs also provide students the option of enrolling in some courses at regional and satellite offices of colleges and universities, which gives you the ability to study and learn in a classroom close to home.

Choosing the Right Program

When choosing a surgical technology program, you should verify that the online program is accredited. You should also look for programs that offer a combination of coursework and practical components. For entry-level surgical technologist positions the Association of Surgical Technologists recommends that an associate’s degree be obtained to provide you with the best possible training and education.

In order to qualify for federal financial aid and surgical technology certification, you must attend an accredited educational institution. When choosing your online program in surgical technology, you should only consider accredited institutions in order to not compromise your employability. You should consult with the Association of Surgical Technologists, the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, or the Accreditation Review Committee on Education in Surgical Technology to determine whether schools are accredited.

You must also be a graduate of an accredited program to be certified as a surgical technologist. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting is the national certifying agency for surgical technologists and surgical assistants in the United States, while the Accreditation Review Committee on Education in Surgical Technology and Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs provide accreditation for surgical technology programs. Surgical technologists can also be certified through the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Healthcare Association.

An essential part of a surgical technology program is clinical or practical components. If an online program does not offer a practical component in a clinical setting, you should consider looking for an alternative program. Practical components offer valuable experience in working in a clinical setting, as well as hands-on training in sterilizing equipment and caring for patients. Completing a practical component leaves you better prepared and experienced when entering the workforce.

Useful Resources and Links

For more information about accreditation of education programs and how to become a surgical technologist, visit:

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