How to become a surgical technician

You’re looking for a fast-paced career in the medical field and came across surgical technician, a behind-the-scenes that is often overlooked despite the countless advantages. If you’ve ever considered a role in the medical field but aren’t too keen on the extensive schooling required, surgical technology may be just the profession for you.

A career as a surgical technician is sure to be fulfilling, engaging, and dynamic. You’ll play a critical role in the operating room and beyond, caring for patients of all types. We’ll go through what it takes to become a surgical tech, how long schooling is for a surgical tech, the average salary and job outlook, and surgical technician jobs at Children’s Minnesota.

What does it take to become a surgical tech?

Surgical technicians play a vital role in the healthcare space and are also known as scrub technicians or operating room technicians. Surgical technicians work closely with the entire surgical team, including doctors, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses, to ensure all surgeries run smoothly.

Before surgery, surgical technicians are responsible for preparing the operating room by sterilizing the room and all equipment, including counting and documenting all tools used for the surgery. Surgical technicians may also be in charge of transporting the patient to the operating room and assisting the surgery team in other tasks. During surgery, surgical technicians continue to keep a clean and organized environment and often pass tools to the surgeon throughout the procedure.

Surgeon leading child down hallway

The surgical technician’s job does not end when the surgery is over. They are often responsible for transporting the patient to the recovery room and helping care for them by applying dressings to the surgery site and ensuring they are comfortable. Again, the surgery instruments must be counted and documented, and other surgery materials like gauze are disposed of properly. Surgical technicians then restock medical supplies and prepare the operating room for the next procedure.

With continual advancements in medicine, surgical technicians increasingly work with robotic instruments and have the opportunity to specialize depending on their area of interest. As a result, some surgical technicians advance to the role of surgical first assistant, the lead assistant to the surgeon. Surgical first assistants work more directly with the surgery team by helping to select equipment, closing incisions, and stopping bleeding.

How to become a Certified Surgical Tech

While the exact steps may vary from state to state, becoming a surgical technologist is generally straightforward. Regardless of each state’s rules and regulations, most employers seek technicians that have completed a post-secondary program and received national certification. So let’s get into the steps to becoming a surgical tech.

Steps to become a Surgical Tech

Becoming a surgery tech involves a love of medicine and a commitment to improving the lives of your patients. Follow the steps below, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful career as a surgical technician.

  • Earn your high school diploma or GED: prerequisites may include science courses like Biology, Anatomy and Physiology.
  • Enroll and complete a Surgical Technician program: Check that a valid agency accredits the program.
  • Consider getting hands-on experience or other certifications: working at a hospital or getting CPR certification during your program will give you valuable experience and prepare you for the certification exam.
  • Pass the Surgical Technician exam: the most common certification is the CST (Certified Surgical Technologist) exam, offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

Apply for state licensure: some states require an individual state license to work as a surgical tech, which involves maintaining continuing education hours and renewing every couple of years.

How long does it take to become a Surgical Tech?

So, how long does it take to be a surgical tech? Surgical Technologist schooling varies by program but generally lasts between 12 and 24 months. The more extended surgical tech schooling options usually involve an associate’s degree plus specialized training. The shorter schooling for surgical tech options most likely does not include a degree.

You can receive your surgical tech education at several different institutions. They may include community and technical colleges, military medical programs, or online colleges. Before applying to a surgical technician training program, check that it’s accredited.

Is being a Surgical Tech a good path?

Due to the aging of the baby boomer population, the medical field continues to be one with a positive job outlook. For surgical technicians, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has predicted a nine percent growth rate from 2020 to 2030, which is close to the average for all occupations.

The BLS predicts that roughly 9,000 surgical technician jobs will be added over the next decade, primarily due to a retiring workforce.

  • Estimate of jobs available: 109,700
  • Rate of projected job growth: 9%

New jobs added in the next ten years: 95,000

How to become a Surgical Technician in Minnesota

What you need to become a surgical tech in Minnesota looks much like it does in the rest of the country. Like many states, Minnesota does not regulate surgical technology. However, most employers still look for the completion of an accredited program and certification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. Obtaining your surgical technician certification demonstrates your commitment to the field and expertise on the job.

Surgical Technician programs In MN:

  • St. Cloud Technical and Community College: offerings include a 49-credit diploma program or a 60-credit associates degree program
  • Rochester Community and Technical College: a 60-credit associates degree program offering hands-on work experience in prominent hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic
  • Anoka Technical College: students have the option of either an associates degree program or a certificate program

Surgical Technician requirements

Precisely what do you need to be a surgical tech? There are many paths to becoming a surgical technician, and not all require a degree. However, the general approach to entering the profession – and having a successful and lasting career – is outlined below.

  • High School Diploma or GED
  • Training Program or Hands-On Experience
  • Certification

Do you need a degree to be a Surgical Tech?

Let’s look at what schooling you need to be a surgical tech. The first requirement is to obtain your high school diploma or GED. Some surgical technician programs have specific prerequisites, so focusing on courses in the sciences will be very beneficial later on.

Another typical requirement is either hands-on experience or a surgical technician training program completion. You’ll need three years of experience or 12-24 months of a training program. If a college degree is a route you take, opt for a program that offers an associate’s degree instead of a certificate.

Finally, you are ready to take the certification exam after completing your training program or three years of work experience. The most common credential is the CST (degree or not), which requires completing a training program and passing the exam.

Surgical Tech prerequisites: skills and experience

Beyond the surgical technician education requirements, many skills are a must-have for anyone interested in joining the profession. As a surgical tech, your responsibilities will include maintaining a sterile operating room, following surgery protocols, and cleaning up before and after surgery – all while working alongside a team that includes nurses and surgeons.

Aside from not being squeamish at the sight of blood, the skills below are the foundation for a career as a surgical technician.

  • Attention to Detail
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Calmness under pressure

Do Surgical Techs need a license or certification?

The question of how you become a surgical tech and whether or not you need a license and certification will depend on the state you work in and the current laws in place. While the state you work in may not require a license or certification for surgical technicians, obtaining your certification is a clever way to position yourself well for the hiring process. The Association of Surgical Technologists has been advocating for legislation surrounding surgical technologists, and there are now twelve states that have passed laws related to the education and certification requirements.

Learn more about the benefits to working at Children’s Minnesota

Why become a Surgical Technician at Children’s Minnesota

Besides the positive job outlook and salary for surgical technicians, this career allows you to work alongside healthcare professionals. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Minnesota is one of the highest-paying states for surgical technicians. At Children’s Minnesota, we proudly offer our employees a comprehensive benefits package. Join us and see why we are continually recognized as a leader by patients and employees alike.

Children’s Minnesota, which serves more than 130,000 patients annually, is committed to providing everyone the care and attention they need to be successful in health and in life. We want all who engage with us — patients, families, employees, vendors and community partners — to feel valued, respected and supported.

We know that taking care of the most amazing people starts with taking care of ourselves. Children’s Minnesota offers comprehensive benefits for our employees and their families. Ready to join the team of kid experts?

Liz Burwell