How to Become a Scrub Tech: Education, Certification & Salary

Nov 24, 2021

Certified scrub technicians are medical professionals who assist surgeons in the operating room. Find out about scrub tech training, what's needed to become a scrub tech, and certification requirements by reading on.

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What is a Scrub Tech?

Scrub technicians, or scrub techs, more properly referred to as surgical technologists, are allied health professionals who prepare operating rooms and patients for surgery, and remain nearby to assist throughout the surgical procedure. They are responsible for ensuring that tools and equipment are sterilized and accounted for after the procedure. Scrub technicians can help transport patients into the operating room when the time comes, and they may need to assist surgeons by holding pieces in place or transporting samples during the procedure. Once a procedure is finished, they may have to transport the patient to a recovery room. Finally, these technicians may be tasked with restocking the operating room with consumable items such as bandages.

How to Become a Scrub Technician

The path to becoming a scrub technician is fairly straightforward, although it does include very specific education and training requirements. By following the steps outlined below, you can begin a career as a surgical technologist and earn your certification.

Step 1: Enroll in Scrub Tech School

Scrub tech programs are fairly common, and are generally offered as associate's degrees or as career diplomas from a scrub technician school. Associate's degree programs take about 2 years to complete on average, while diploma programs can be completed in just over 1 year. Educational programs in surgical technology often include courses such as:

Clinical experiences and internships are common among surgical technology programs, allowing students to gain valuable real-world experience prior to graduation. Before enrolling in a program, a prospective student should confirm that a school's surgical technology program is accredited by an organization such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Step 2: Build Scrub Tech Work Experience

Once you have graduated from an accredited program, you should be able to find employment at a hospital or stand-alone surgical center. This may come in the form of a longer-term internship or an entry-level position at the facility. Working with more experienced professionals in a hospital environment can teach valuable skills which are difficult to pick up as a student. Building up some experience is often also necessary before applying for certification, although certain programs may allow you to sit for a certification exam shortly after graduation.

Scrub techs also require good soft skills, such as:

  • Good oral communication
  • Good written communication
  • Teamwork
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to multitask
  • Empathy
  • Ability to relate to both patients and other medical professionals

Step 3: Earn Scrub Tech Certification

Scrub tech certification is primarily done through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), with the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential. There are 175 questions on the CST exam and candidates must correctly answer 102 for a passing score. Topics include perioperative procedures, basic science, and ancillary duties.

To be eligible for certification, a candidate must provide a notarized letter from the director of their accredited educational program, a copy of their graduation certificate, or a transcript. A candidate must then pay a fee and pass the certification exam. Certification must be renewed every 2 years, with 60 units of continuing education required every 4 years. While certification exams must be taken in person, online certification study for surgical technologists can increase the odds of passing.

Certified scrub technicians are likely to be more attractive to employers, and may receive greater pay or more responsibilities as a result. Certification may be required in some states, so be sure to check licensing requirements in your area.

Scrub Tech Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual scrub tech salary is $48,300 as of 2019. The BLS also predicts a 9% growth in employment of surgical technologists over the 10 year period from 2018 to 2028. Much of the growth in this field is attributed to the increasing medical needs of the aging population. As scrub technicians build their experience, it may be possible to move up to a surgical assistant position, such as first assistant. Most other medical positions, however, are likely to require additional education.

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