How to Become a Surgical Technologist in Pennsylvania
As a surgical technologist, it is important to have skills that will help you maintain positive and healthy relationships with other members of the surgical team and with patients. You’ll also need a strong stomach to succeed in this career—being easily upset by the sight of blood or organs won’t make you a good fit for surgical technology. Some surgeries are more intense than others and will require a great deal of stamina, focus, and attentiveness.
You may be responsible for sterilizing operating rooms before and after surgeries, handing important medical instruments to the lead surgeon during surgery, and transporting patients onto surgical tables before an operation begins. It is also likely that you’ll play a vital role in the post-operation process, assisting patients with recovery after a surgical procedure is complete. [En Español]
Requirements for Becoming a Surgical Technologist in Pennsylvania
There is currently a small number of states with laws in place regulating surgical technology, and this number is expanding slowly over time. In Pennsylvania, there are currently no laws in place to govern this practice; however, there is a bill pending, which, if passed, would require surgical techs to do the following before finding employment:
- Graduate from an accredited surgical technology program
- Earn and maintain the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).
According to this bill, those who are already working as surgical technologists on or before a specific date will be allowed to continue working without meeting the above requirements. This date will be determined if/when the bill is passed. This bill would also require all surgical technologists to complete at least 15 hours of continuing education each year to work in this state. Those who maintain the CST credential will already have these hours covered as part of maintaining their CST license.
Lists of accredited surgical technology training programs can be found via the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). These organizations help ensure that medical students receive an education that will set them up for a successful, long-lasting career in this field.
Completing an internship while you are enrolled in a training program is optional but highly recommended, especially if your training program does not provide hands-on training as part of its curriculum. An internship will develop your skills before you find employment, ensuring you can do your job effectively. You can find an opportunity to do job shadowing at a local hospital or private medical practice, or by networking with peers and healthcare professionals at your school. This additional experience could also lead to an increase in salary when you begin receiving job offers.
Surgical Technology Programs in Pennsylvania
The ABHES currently lists no accredited schools for surgical technologists in Pennsylvania, but the CAAHEP lists several. Some of their options are included below:
- Great Lakes Institute of Technology offers an Associate of Specialized Technology degree in surgical technology, which can be completed in just 17 months. The program’s curriculum includes an externship at a hospital or ambulatory center. Tuition for off-campus students totals $15,200, and books and supplies will cost an additional $3,415.
- Lackawanna College offers an associate degree in surgical technology, which will take about two years to complete. The curriculum includes day, evening, and Saturday courses, as well as clinical lab hours and summer classes. Tuition is currently about $35,000 for the entire program.
- Montgomery County Community College allows students to complete their associate degree program in surgical technology in 16 months. The program is year-round and admits just 12 students per year. Tuition is about $9,000 per year.
Allied Health Education Programs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania also offers several other allied health education programs, including medical assistant and dental assistant training. In addition to these options, students can find programs in medical billing and coding as well as pharmaceutical sciences. It’s important to research each of your potential career paths thoroughly to ensure you are getting the best possible education for the career you choose.
National Certification for Surgical Technologists
Although there are currently no laws governing the practice of surgical technology in Pennsylvania, if the pending bill is passed there will be regulations in place. Either way, it is a great idea for you to become a CST through the exam offered by the NBSTSA. This certification will put you ahead of the game as it shows your existing skillset and expertise within the profession. Even in states where this certification is not required, many employers will choose to only hire surgical techs who are certified.
This exam requires a $290 exam fee and proof that you’ve completed a surgical technology training program accredited by either the CAAHEP or the ABHES. If your training program was completed in the military, you will also be eligible to sit for this exam.
To maintain your status as a CST, you will need to recertify every four years. Recertification will require you to either retake the exam or provide proof that you’ve completed at least 60 credit hours of coursework in surgical technology over the four years between exams.
Job Outlook and Salary Expectations
During the 10 years between 2016 and 2026, Pennsylvania is expected to see an 11.4 percent increase in surgical technician jobs, according to data presented by the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP). Their research shows that 3,800 people were working as surgical technologists in 2016, and by 2026 there are expected to be 4,230 people employed within the field in this state.
The highest-paid surgical technologists in Pennsylvania earned an annual average of $61,600 in 2021, according to data presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The same data show that most surgical techs earned an hourly average of $23.17, or $48,190 annually.
Working as a Surgical Technologist in Pennsylvania
There will continue to be an increase in the number of jobs across the field of surgical technology. The BLS reports that there will be 6 percent national growth within this trade by 2031. Surgical techs in Pennsylvania are paid the most when working in cities like Doylestown, Levittown, and Philadelphia.
You can expect to find work in hospital operating rooms, outpatient facilities, private medical and dental practices, and more. If you want to see an increase in compensation, you might also consider becoming a specialized surgical tech, which essentially means you would participate in specific types of surgeries. These areas of specialization can include gastric bypass surgery, heart surgery, bone surgery, plastic surgery, and many others. If you enjoy both working independently and taking direction as part of a team, consider starting your journey into surgical technology today.