How to Become a Surgical Technologist in New Jersey
Surgical technology is a growing career field and an exciting option for young people and those looking for a job switch. It doesn’t take a four-year degree to be qualified to do the work, and the reward is being able to work hands-on in the healthcare industry, making a real difference in the lives of patients. In New Jersey, there are a few simple requirements to begin a career in surgical technology. [En Español]
Definition of Surgical Technologist in New Jersey
According to New Jersey state law, a surgical technologist is someone who prepares operating rooms for surgical procedures, ensures equipment is working properly and maintains sterile equipment and instruments. A surgical tech also works side-by-side with surgeons and other medical professionals in the operating room, anticipating what the surgeon will need and handing instruments and tools as needed. According to the law, an individual must be authorized to fill these roles.
Difference between Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
In New Jersey, individuals with qualifications to be surgical technologists must take an additional step to become surgical assistants. A surgical assistant is authorized to perform more complex duties in the operating room, such as suturing and wound closure, bone cutting, and tissue dissection.
Requirements to Work as a Surgical Tech in New Jersey
New Jersey is one of the few states that sets requirements for the surgical technology profession. The requirements are fairly simple, though, and if you want to work in this role in the state you only have to meet one of the following:
- Have successfully earned a certificate or degree in surgical technology from an accredited program
- Hold certification in surgical technology from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
- Have completed surgical technology training while serving in the armed forces
- Be a surgical technologist working for the federal government
If you meet one of these qualifications and begin working as a surgical tech in New Jersey, you will be required to take 15 credits of continuing education courses every year. Employers are responsible for verifying that you meet requirements and have completed these courses.
Certified Surgical Technologist in New Jersey
Once you fulfill the requirements to work as a surgical tech in New Jersey, it may be beneficial for your career prospects to become certified by the NBSTSA. This certification is voluntary, but employers may prefer that you have it if you are applying for jobs. To become certified you will need to pass an exam and have proof of completing continuing education courses.
National Certification for Surgical Technology
One of the most common options for becoming a surgical technologist is to become certified through the NBSTSA. This national organization certifies individuals who pass the exam. To qualify to take the exam you must complete a surgical technology certificate or associate degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). Certification must be renewed every four years, and renewal requires 15 continuing education credits per year.
Surgical Technology Programs in New Jersey
Completing an accredited program in surgical technology will qualify you to work in this role in New Jersey. You may choose to become certified after completing a degree or certificate, but it is not required. There are a few schools in the state offering accredited programs.
- Bergen Community College, Paramus. Students who complete the Bergen certificate program in surgical technology pass the NBSTSA certification exam at a rate of 94 percent. Students in the program learn in a classroom setting and also do hands-on practical work in clinical settings, completing 120 or more surgical cases before graduating.
- Berkeley College, Woodland Park. The Berkeley program is an associate degree program that takes about two years to complete. With a passing rate that is higher than average for certification, students who graduate are prepared to achieve national certification. Coursework includes an operating room clinical practicum.
- Sussex County Community College, Newton. The two-semester surgical technology program at Sussex offers students a one-year path to being ready to work in the field and get certified. The program is competitive and not everyone who applies is admitted. Classroom learning is supplemented with clinical rotations at several nearby medical centers and hospitals.
Allied Health Education Programs in New Jersey
New Jersey is home to many allied healthcare education programs, including those in surgical technology. Most of these offer degrees or certificates and are accredited by either CAAHEP or ABHES. Graduates of these programs meet the requirements for working as a surgical tech in New Jersey and can also be eligible to seek certification through the NBSTSA.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
The outlook for careers in surgical technology in New Jersey is positive. It is a growing field with more demand for qualified workers every year. In 2020 in New Jersey there were 2,240 working surgical technologists, and by 2030 there are projected to be 2,470. This represents nearly 10 percent growth in the industry and hundreds of new jobs for those training right now.
The salary expectations are also positive for prospective surgical technologists. Those working in New Jersey in 2021 enjoyed an average annual income of $59,380. This is considerably higher than the national average salary of $48,530. With more experience and certification, and depending on your employer, you can expect to earn more.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in New Jersey
More than 70 percent of surgical technologists work in hospitals. Some work in all types of surgery, while others specialize and work with specialist surgeons and physicians. In addition to hospitals, surgical techs may be employed by physician offices, dental offices, and ambulatory surgery centers. The most opportunities for employment in the state are in large population centers outside of New York City and in and around Newark and Jersey City.
With just a year or two of training and by passing a certification exam, you can be prepared to work in the exciting field of surgical technology in New Jersey, while also enjoying job security and a great salary.