How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Alaska

If you are familiar with the surgery process, you know that it is very particular and requires intense levels of focus. Everything must be handled with care, to the point that only select individuals are allowed into the operating room. Included among these individuals are surgical technologists, who are key to the success of each procedure. Surgical technologists take special care in handing instruments to the lead surgeon, ensuring proper placement of all equipment and materials, and working as a member of the surgical team for the most precise outcome of each procedure. You may also be responsible for working directly with patients before and after surgery. [En Español]

Duties of Surgical Technicians and Technologists

No matter what area of the operating room you work in, you will need to be able to handle the basic duties that are common among all surgical technologists. These include:

• Preparing and sterilizing equipment for use

• Assisting with patient movement and pre-operative preparation

• Keeping track of supplies and instruments during the procedure

• Knowing and adhering to safety guidelines

• Assisting with wound closure and other post-operative procedures

• Cleaning and preparing the operating room for future use.

Difference between Surgical Technicians and Surgical Technologist

The main difference between a surgical technician and a surgical technologist is educational background. A surgical technician typically has an associate’s degree or certificate in the field, while a surgical technologist usually has a two-year or four-year college degree.

The minimum requirement for becoming a surgical technologist in Alaska is to complete either an associate’s degree program in surgical technology or a bachelor’s degree program in health sciences. In some cases, you may be able to find a job with only a high school diploma and proper on-the-job training.

You must also pass either the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam, administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or the Certified Operating Room Technician (CORT) exam, administered by the National Center for Competency Testing. Both exams are open to professionals who have completed an accredited program in surgical technology.

Additionally, you may be required to complete continuing education courses to stay current on safety protocols and any new equipment utilized in the operating room.

Once you have completed all the requirements, you can begin your new career as a surgical technologist in Alaska! With hard work and dedication, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an important part of the healthcare team.

Requirements for Becoming a Surgical Technologist in Alaska

There is a small number of states that require surgical technologists to follow certain regulations before becoming employed, but Alaska is not one of them. While this may make the process easier, you will still need some formal training or education to find a job as a surgical technologist. Enrolling in a school or program accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) will be your best choice. This is because these are two of the most trusted organizations that accredit medical schools throughout the U.S. Keep in mind that you will most likely need to provide at least a high school diploma or GED before being accepted into one of these accredited training programs, so be sure to have that documentation available.

While you are completing coursework in surgical technology, it is highly recommended that you seek an internship to gain real-world experience within your trade. This will further prepare you for a rewarding career and show employers that you are serious about progressing in this field. Additionally, this hands-on training will help prepare you for the voluntary national exam to become a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).

Alaska Surgical Technology Programs and Schools

Neither the CAAHEP nor the ABHES currently lists any accredited surgical technology programs in Alaska. Additionally, there is also no online accredited surgical tech programs entirely based online that is accredited by either organization. However, both organizations list accredited programs for medical assistants in the state, which is a degree or certification that can get you started on your path to becoming a surgical technologist.

  • The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers both a certificate and an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Assisting. The certificate can be completed in one year, while the AAS degree will take two years to complete.
  • The University of Alaska Southeast offers a certificate program in medical assisting. The program will take one year to complete. The school is located in Juneau, Alaska.
  • Charter College offers a certificate program in medical assisting which can be completed in less than one year. The program includes a 180-hour externship at a local clinic or physicians’ hospital to prepare you for professional work in the field.

Although the accredited schools in Alaska do not offer degrees in surgical technology specifically, their certificate and degree programs in medical assisting will still help you gain experience in the medical field and can build your familiarity with the surgical technology trade.

Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)

Once you have completed a program and are ready to start your career as a surgical technologist, you will need to pursue certification. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers the Certified Surgical Technologist exam. This voluntary national exam is accepted by almost all employers in Alaska and across the United States, so it is highly recommended that you seek certification by passing this exam.

National Certification for Surgical Technologists in Alaska

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) is the organization responsible for the examination and certification of surgical technologists. Individual employers will determine if this certification is necessary; however, taking the initiative to receive your certification before seeking employment should make your job hunt much easier.

To sit for this exam, you will need to provide documentation of your completion of an NBSTSA-recognized surgical technology program. Programs accredited by both the CAAHEP and the ABHES will be recognized by the NBSTSA. Since neither of these organizations has accredited surgical tech programs in Alaska, you may have to travel outside of the state to get the education needed to become a CST. Alternatively, you can provide proof that you’ve completed a military training program in surgical technology. The exam fee is $290, and you will need to recertify by either retaking the exam every four years or providing proof of continued education with at least 60 completed credit hours over the four years between exams.

You will still be able to work as a surgical tech without this certification. Many employers in Alaska are willing to accept experience in place of your national certification.

Surgical Tech Jobs Outlook and Salary Expectations

In 2021, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) showed that surgical technologists in Alaska were making an average salary of $29.46 per hour, or $61,270 annually. Entry-level positions earned $47,130 and the highest-paid surgical technologists in this state earned more than $78,460 in 2021.

Data from the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) show that 200 people were working as surgical technologists in Alaska in 2016. By 2026, that number is expected to jump to 250.

Working as a Surgical Technologist in Alaska

According to PMP data, surgical technologists in Alaska can look forward to a 23.8 percent increase in jobs in the 10 years from 2016 to 2026. You can likely expect to earn the highest pay in the cities of Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau. Employment will be available in hospitals, private practices, or outpatient clinics. With opportunities on the rise, now is as good a time as any to start your career in surgical technology.