Although becoming a surgical technician (also called a surgical tech or a scrub) isn’t difficult, formal surgical tech training is important in this field. This means enrolling in a reputable surgical tech school and undertaking coursework that focuses on anatomy, biology, medical terminology, and career-based skills. The best programs will offer a mix of in-class instruction and hands-on experience.
Exploring the course requirements of various programs will give you a better picture of the expectations of surgical tech students.
Surgical Tech Degrees vs. Certificates
One of the most appealing aspects of surgical tech training is that it can be completed in less than 2 years. A surgical tech degree takes a minimum of 18 months to complete and will include general education courses alongside surgical tech training. A certificate can be achieved in less than a year in some cases, but don’t be fooled by the quick time frame. Both a degree and a certificate will equip you with the skills you need to become a successful surgical tech.
Schools offering surgical tech courses usually require students to have a high school diploma or equivalent before admittance, but some may require more.
Recommended high school classes include:
- Any other life science-related courses
Always check with the admissions office for a clear picture of what you need to submit a successful application.
Personal character is also an important thing to consider when exploring a career as a surgical technician. Successful surgical techs possess both strong stomachs and cool heads. Though their duties include such mundane tasks as sterilization of instruments and operating diagnostic equipment, as a surgical tech you may be asked to suture wounds or handle tissue. Being squeamish and distracted are the biggest obstacles to success as a surgical tech. You might considering observing a surgical technician at work and becoming familiar with all aspects of the job before committing to any program.
Typical Surgical Tech Courses
As a surgical tech student, you will attend a multitude of surgical technician courses that will train you for a successful career. Depending on your past experience, you may be faced with unfamiliar subject matter. It can be difficult playing catch-up if you don’t know what to expect. Keep in mind that all course requirements for graduation will vary from program to program.
As in any medical discipline, both math and science skills will be important to complete the entry-level classes. Therefore it is advisable for all applicants to refresh their knowledge through local college classes if necessary before enrollment.
The typical core course load for a surgical tech student includes the following:
- Surgical Room Methods
- Aseptic Methods
- Patient Care
- Medical Ethics
- Medical Terminology
Some programs also offer general career management courses, such as instruction in hospital administration, which may help you in your job search.
The length of the program will impact the course requirements. If you’re unsure about what will be expected of you, speak to professors and students at any prospective school. They can give you first-hand information about the coursework requirements. Always look for a program that will teach you to think critically and keep cool under pressure – two crucial skills for a successful career as a surgical technician. You may also want to seek out on-the-job training in the operating room through an externship opportunity offered by your school.
Externships and Further Training
Participating in an externship (supervised work alongside a certified surgeon in the operating room) is a great opportunity for surgical tech students to gain hands-on experience before embarking on a job search. Many hospitals hire former externs as full-time surgical techs once the program has culminated, negating the need for a job search at all.
Completing an externship will give make you more competitive in the job market and may net you a letter of recommendation from a local hospital. Some schools and programs require that students complete an externship to be eligible for graduation. If an externship is something that interests you, explore the options offered by your school. They may not require an externship for graduation, but they can help you locate an appropriate hospital to train at while you complete your degree.