Become a Plastic Surgery Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 23, 2022

Learn how to become a plastic surgery technician. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a plastic surgery technician.

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Become a Plastic Surgery Technician

Plastic surgery technicians, more generally known as surgical technologists, help prepare plastic surgery patients and operating rooms for surgical procedures. The job duties of a plastic surgery technician are vast. Technicians set up surgical suites by arranging surgical supplies, assembling tools, and adjusting equipment prior to and during surgery. They also get patients ready for surgery by observing vital signs and providing emotional support. During plastic surgery procedures, a technician might hold instruments, arrange suture materials or suction the incision site as directed by the plastic surgeon.

Degree Level Completion of an accredited certificate or associate's degree program preferred
Degree Field Surgical technology
Experience 1-5 years; sometimes education can make up for lack of experience
Certification Certification is not required, although many employers prefer hiring certified candidates
Key Skills Dexterity, attention to detail, stress and time management, active listening, critical thinking, physical stamina, the ability to follow orders, and knowledge of surgical equipment and tools
Salary (2020) $51,510 (average yearly salary for all surgical technologists in general)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Information Network, Online job postings (November 2012)

Let's take a look at the steps you might take to become a plastic surgery technician.

Complete Postsecondary Training

Most employers prefer or even require candidates to have completed some postsecondary education, such as a certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology, which are offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and some hospitals. These programs typically last one to two years and include a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical practice. Common courses include human anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, medical ethics, and surgical theory. When selecting a school, be sure it's accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Completion of an accredited program is often required for employment and certification.

Success Tips:

Become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation or Basic Life Support. Such certification is generally required for all surgical technologists. Although some employers allow candidates to become certified within several months of employment, others prefer to hire candidates who are already certified.

Become CST Certified

After graduating from an approved surgical technician training program, individuals are eligible to earn the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. This requires completion of an accredited program and passage of a multiple-choice exam made up of 200 questions. Those who have completed non-accredited programs may still qualify with experience and additional education. The test is scored within five minutes of completion, so applicants will know whether they passed before leaving the testing center.

Success Tip:

Prepare for certification by taking a practice exam. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers practice tests for CST certification for a fee. The practice exams simulate the actual test and provide an analysis of the test-taker's performance.

Also, keep in mind that certified surgical technologists must maintain their credentials. Certification must be renewed every four years by earning 60 continuing education credits or retaking the certification exam.

Gain Experience

Plastic surgery technicians can find work in outpatient surgery centers, physician offices, clinics or hospitals. In addition to assisting the surgical team in the operating room, entry-level surgical technicians might help care for patients after a procedure is completed and perform administrative tasks, such as completing charts or patient consent paperwork.

As you gain experience and expertise, consider opportunities for advancement. Some plastic surgery technicians opt to pursue additional education to advance to a career as a surgical assistant, physician assistant, or registered nurse.

Plastic surgery technicians generally hold a certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology as well as the certified surgical technologist designation. And with experience and additional education, they may advance to surgical assistant, physician assistant, or registered nurse.

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