How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Arizona
Surgical technologists are essential members of the surgical team, who assist during surgery. They are responsible for preparing both the patient and the operating room (OR) and making sure the OR and surgical equipment are clean and sterile and that all supplies and instruments needed for surgery are close by. They also hand instruments to the surgeon during procedures and oversee the instrument count. After surgery, surgical technologists transport the patient from the OR to recovery. They also re-stock the OR at the end of the day or shift, so it is ready for the next day’s surgeries. [En Español]
Surgical technology is not regulated in the state of Arizona. A license or national certification is not required to become a surgical tech in the state, but many employers prefer to hire those who are certified. Many employers require basic life support (BLS) and CPR certification. A high school diploma or GED is required to work as a surgical tech in Arizona, but many employers prefer to hire employees who have also completed a surgical technology certificate or degree program. Additionally, if you wish to become nationally certified, you are required to complete one of these programs at an accredited school.
Surgical Technology Programs in Arizona
You can apply to become a surgical technologist without taking a surgical technology program, but you may be more likely to be hired if you do complete one. Many employers require previous work experience, and some even require their employees to be certified surgical technologists (CST). Taking a formal education program will provide you with clinical experience that employers may count towards work experience. Furthermore, to sit for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) exam to obtain national certification, you are required to have completed an accredited surgical technology program. These programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Eighteen colleges in Arizona have surgical technology programs that are CAAHEP or ABHES accredited. Here are several of them:
- East Valley Institute of Technology. Located in Mesa, the East Valley Institute of Technology offers a surgical technologist certificate program as a part of its adult career training program. To be admitted into the program, students must pass a background check and have a high school diploma or GED, current immunization records, a valid Arizona driver’s license, and a current BLS and CPR certification card. This program lasts 12 months. Students must complete at least 1,080 classroom hours and 120 surgical cases. The first semester consists of classwork only. The second semester is a combination of classwork and an externship. Eighty of the surgical cases must be performed in the first scrub role. Twenty of these cases must be general surgery, and the remaining 60 cases should be distributed between at least five different surgical specialties.
- Gateway Community College. The Washington Campus of Gateway Community College in Phoenix offers both a certificate program and an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. The AAS degree consists of between 60-84.5 credit hours. Students must maintain a “C” average in all required courses. To be admitted into this program, students must complete an application, hold current CPR certification, and pass fingerprint clearance and a background check. There are also prerequisite general education and health courses that must be completed before you can begin taking the required program courses.
The certificate program consists of 49-73.5 credit hours. Students must make a “C” or higher in these classes and complete an application and pass a background check to be admitted into the certificate program. As with the AAS degree, general education and health courses are required before the program-specific courses can be taken.
- Mohave Community College. Mohave Community College in Lake Havasu City offers an AAS degree in surgical technology. The program is a total of 74 credit hours and can be completed in approximately two years. Students must complete 22 prerequisite English and science credit hours and nine general education credit hours before taking the 43 required program credit hours. Students must also make an 80 or higher average on the program courses to graduate the program.
Pima Community College. Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, gives students the option of completing a career training certificate. You can complete this program alone or continue your education by completing other certificate programs or working toward an associate degree in a health-related field. Students are selected for the program in September and will begin their training in January. This program consists of 1,326 clock hours, with 526 of those hours being completed through a surgical externship.
Certified Surgical Technologist in Arizona
Once you complete a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited surgical technology program in Arizona you will be eligible to take the NBSTSA to become a CST. If you are a member of the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST), the exam fee is $190. The fee for non-members is $290. A passing score on the exam is correctly answering 119 of the 200 questions.
Once you become certified, you must renew your certification every four years. You can renew your certification by taking 60 continued education credits over four years, or by retaking and passing the exam every four years. If you choose to retake the exam you will have to repay the exam fee in addition to a renewal fee. Testing centers for the exam in Arizona are in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tempe, and Tucson.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2020, 2,440 surgical technologists were working in Arizona. There is a predicted growth of 6 percent in the U.S. in this profession in the ten years to 2031. In 2021, the average hourly rate for surgical technologists in the state was $28.24. Most entry-level surgical techs start out making between $17.88
-$22.55 an hour, depending on their level of education and any certifications they may hold. Furthermore, surgical techs in Arizona make an average of $58,750 annually. More experienced CSTs may earn as much as $75,940.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Arizona
In Arizona, surgical technologists can find work in hospitals, surgical centers, outpatient clinics, and specialty clinics. Those working in hospitals will most likely work rotating shifts. As a surgical technologist, you will help in different areas of surgery. However, if you are interested in a specialty and work well with surgeons in that specialty, you may choose to focus on that. Some specialties include but are not limited to ENT, general surgery, neurology, orthopedic, plastics, and vascular.
Surgical techs in Arizona may find work in some of the larger cities like Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, Glendale, Scottsdale, and Yuma. You may choose to look for work in one of the larger hospitals in the area such as Arizona Heart Hospital, Arizona Regional Hospital, or St. Joseph’s Hospital. Or you may choose to work in a smaller hospital in a rural area.
If you are interested in a health-related profession that pays well but does not want to invest a lot of time and money in med school, a career as a surgical technologist may be a great option for you. If you complete a surgical technology training program and take and pass the NBSTSA exam, you will be ready to work almost anywhere in the state of Arizona as a CST in just a couple of years.