A surgical tech career can be rewarding, but people who choose this path need to find the right degree program first. In order to help future professionals get the training they need, EduMed has created the Best in Class initiative, which spotlights the best surgical tech programs available. In order to create this list, we regularly research schools from around the country to find the programs that provide the best education to its students for the best value. The following is a sampling of some of the schools we feature on our current list.
Can You Take Surgical Tech Programs Online?
Although other health care related programs may allow students to complete their studies entirely online, those who enroll in a surgical technology program must participate in clinical training on campus or in a medical facility. However, these programs do allow students to take some of their coursework online, which is convenient for those who are not able to travel to campus on a regular basis because they are working full-time jobs or handling other responsibilities. The following is information on how these programs work.
Types of Online Surgical Tech Programs
In order to become a surgical technologist, professionals need to earn a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. In many states, people are not able to enter the field without an associate’s degree, but in other cases, prospective surgical techs are able to get a job with a certificate or diploma. The following describes these programs and what students can expect when they enroll.
What to Ask Before You Apply
Every student has different criteria that they look for when considering a surgical technology degree program. However, there are certain things that all students should look for no matter what their educational or career goals are. The following are some important qualities that surgical tech programs should have.
Core Surgical Tech Courses Online
Surgical tech students acquire a myriad of skills throughout their programs, some of which can be acquired through online courses, while others are learned during the hands-on training portion of the program. The following are examples of courses students can taking online and the skills these classes are designed to teach.
Once students have completed their online classes, they go on to the hands-on training where they can complete the following coursework:
Other courses that students may take in a surgical technology program include medical ethics, pathology, and surgical microbiology.
Funding Your Online Surgical Tech Program
Surgical tech students can find several options to help them pay for their education. In some cases, students may take out loans in order to pay their tuition and fees. In addition, they may be able to win grants and scholarships to help defray the cost of their studies. For example, some professional organizations, like the Foundation for Surgical Technology, offer scholarships in order to support the field and ensure that highly-skilled people enter the workforce. Also, specific schools may offer scholarships to the students in their surgical technology degree programs.
Surgical Tech Scholarships
Scholarships are a great way for students to fund their education without worrying about having to pay the money back after graduation. The following are some scholarships that are provided specifically to surgical tech students.
Accreditation & Certification for Surgical Techs
In order to find a job in the field, professionals are required to earn a Certified Surgical Tech (CST) or Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) credential. For the best opportunity to get the rigorous training needed to pass their licensing examinations, students should enroll in programs that have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. This section provides a close look at the credentials surgical technology graduates are able to earn, as well as the organizations that provide accreditation for surgical tech programs.
- Accreditations: Program Credentials
Accreditation is important because it ensures that schools are offering the high-quality education students need to provide patient care. During the accreditation process, schools have their curriculum, facilities, and faculty evaluated in order to determine if they are equipped to train students to meet the demands of the job. There are two organizations that provide accreditation to surgical tech programs: the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), which are discussed below.
- The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs: The CAAHEP accredits programs in unique areas of the health sciences discipline, such as surgical technology, art therapy, medical illustration, and advanced cardiovascular sonography. When considering schools for accreditation, the organization looks at its faculty, curriculum, facilities, and resources to ensure that the program prepares students to be successful in the field.
- The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools: The ABHES has been accrediting health programs, as well as colleges, since 1964. Recognized by the United States Secretary of Education, this organization has an accreditation process that includes reviewing applications from schools, visiting the campus multiple times, and providing required workshops for schools.
- Certifications: Certified Surgical Tech vs. Tech in Surgery-Certified
The work that students put into their classroom and hands-on training ultimately culminate in them receiving a certification needed in order to find employment. There are two types of certifications that surgical technologists can receive: Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) and Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C). The following are descriptions of each of these certifications.
- Certified Surgical Technologist (CST): To earn this credential, surgical tech graduates must pass the CST exam, which is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. This is a 75-question test that covers perioperative care topics, including preparation and procedures for the different stages of operations. In addition, the test also covers administrative duties and basic science. In order for professionals to keep their credentials current, they must complete 60 hours of continuing education classes every three years.
- Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C): The Tech in Surgery-Certified is provided to surgical techs after they have completed their degree programs and passed the exam administered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). This test contains 175 scored questions, as well as 25 unscored pretest questions, which cover topics related to pre-surgical care and preparation, post-operative care, intraoperative care, and equipment sterilization and maintenance.
Surgical Tech Salary & Career Advancements
For those who are considering a surgical tech career, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is a great time to start training. Between 2016 and 2026, the agency reports that there will be a 12 percent increase in jobs for these workers, which is faster than the national average of all professions. The reason for this growth is in part because older generations are more likely to need operations and seek treatment for their medical issues.
Other health care related professions are expected to see similar growth in the coming years. The following are examples of some of these growth rates:
- Dental assistants will have 19 percent job growth
- Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses will have 12 percent job growth
- Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians will have 13 percent job growth
- Medical assistants will have 29 percent job growth
There are a variety of places where surgical technologists can find employment, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, dentists’ offices, and outpatient care centers. People who are in these professions can expect to stand for long periods of time and have work hours that may be during evenings, weekends, and holidays.