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Careers in Surgical Technology with an Associate of Arts Degree

Career News January 26, 2014

An Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Surgical Technology can be obtained through a community college or vocational school. Some universities offer programs leading to an A.A. as well. A high school diploma or equivalent is usually required for admission. An Associate’s Degree program is typically two years in length. When choosing a school, it is important to ensure they are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Some states require that surgical technologists graduate from an accredited program.

Education and Training

The course work for an A.A. program includes general education as well as major requirements. You can expect to complete classes in math, English, computer applications and the humanities, in addition to science. Major courses most often include subjects such as anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology and surgical techniques. You’ll be instructed on proper procedures for sterilizing equipment and preventing infections. Most programs include clinical training where you will work under supervision to gain practical experience. Accredited programs require that you perform at least 120 surgical procedures prior to completing the program.


Certification from a national surgical technology organization may be required in some states. In those where it is not mandatory, certifications can broaden employment opportunities and assist in career advancement. Many employers prefer to hire those who are certified. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the National Center for Competency Testing offer examinations for certification. In addition to passing the exam, you must also have received education through an accredited program or military training to receive certification. Both organizations require continuing education to maintain certification.

Surgical Technologist Job Responsibilities

Surgical technologists ensure that the operating room is ready for surgery by sterilizing and arranging equipment. During the surgery, they assist the physician. As a surgical technologist, your responsibilities will include:

•Setting up the operating room
•Sterilizing equipment and providing items needed for surgery
•Preparing medications and solutions
•Pre-op patient care
•Assist during surgery; including suctioning incisions or suturing
•Ensure sufficient surgical supplies are stocked

Employment Outlook

Employment opportunities for surgical technologists are expected to increase by 30 percent between 2012 and 2022. A number of factors play a role in this increasing demand. Improvements in medical science have led to a greater number of health problems being treated with surgery. It has also contributed to safer procedures. An aging population is expected to increase the number of surgical procedures performed.

Salary Potential

The median salary for surgical technologists was $41,790 per year in 2012. The bottom 10 percent of wages were below $29,710 and the upper 10 percent was above $60,240. Many surgical technologists work extended hours including nights and weekends.

Career Paths

Most surgical technologists are employed in hospitals. There are also positions available in clinics, physician’s offices and outpatient surgery centers. You may decide to specialize in a specific area such as dental, vascular or orthopedic. Advancement opportunities exist for surgical technologists to become operating room managers. Some decide to progress into other medical careers such as an R.N.

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