Becoming a Plastic Surgeon Assistant: Salary & Job Description

About this article
The median annual salary for plastic surgeons' assistants was about $43,000 as of May 2014. Read on see job postings from real employers and to learn about the employment outlook for this career.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Surgical Technologist

If you want to pursue a career as a plastic surgeon's assistant, your title would likely be surgical technologist. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a plastic surgeon's assistant is right for you.

Pros of Becoming a Surgical Technologist
Expected increase in job opportunities*
Better than average salary ($43,000 for 2014)*
Surgical technologists are sometimes preferred over nurses*
May only need an associate's degree to enter field*

Cons of Becoming a Surgical Technologist
Spend long periods of time on feet*
Other similar careers offer higher salaries*
Could require long hours, including nights and weekends*
Can be stressful at times*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Duties

Surgical technologists assist surgeons during surgical procedures by handing them medical instruments and keeping the area sterile. They are also responsible for preparing the operating room and sterilizing medical equipment. Some surgical technologists work directly with patients as well, preparing them for surgery, which might include washing and disinfecting surgery sites. During a procedure, you may be tasked with monitoring operating room conditions, preparing dressings and bandages, restocking operating rooms or operating surgical lights.

Salary and Career Outlook

In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of about $43,000 (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, surgical technologists are expected to experience an employment growth rate of 30% from 2012-2022. Growth in this field will be driven by an aging baby boomer population in need of healthcare as they get older. Job prospects may be best for candidates who have completed an accredited program in surgical technology. In 2014, general medical and surgical hospitals employed the most surgical technicians by far, nearly 68,000.

Job Requirements

Education

While you may qualify for some surgical technologist positions with just a high school diploma, many employers prefer job candidates who have completed an undergraduate certificate program or an associate's degree program. For example, you could pursue an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree program in surgical technology. This course of study takes about two years to complete, with courses in body structure, anatomy and surgical technology practice.

Top Skills

Surgical technologists need good observation and interpersonal skills. They need to be observant and monitor medical equipment readings and any members of the medical staff that they supervise. They must also be coordinated and aware of their surroundings, actively listening to and communicating with their teams. Additionally, they must be able to work under pressure, especially during a procedure.

Job Postings

Some employers may substitute experience in place of educational requirements. Employers include hospitals, ambulatory care centers and university healthcare facilities. The following job postings were listed in May 2012.

  • A surgical technologist is needed to assist a surgical team in North Dakota. This is a full-time position with no experience or education requirements specified. However, you must earn an Unlicensed Assistive Person certification from the state of North Dakota within 90 days of hire.
  • A surgical technologist is needed in Las Vegas. You need to have a current state surgical technician certification and one year of experience to be eligible for this position.
  • A surgical technologist is needed to assist surgeons at a university medical center in Nebraska. The minimum education requirement for this position is a high school diploma and no experience requirement is specified.

How to Stand Out

One option is to pursue a bachelor's degree. At the bachelor's level, you could apply for a Bachelor of Science in Surgical Technology. This is a 4-year course of study that could prepare you to enter the workforce immediate or to apply to graduate school. You may also consider joining a professional organization. In this field, you could join the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST), an organization that offers certification opportunities.

Alternative Careers

Dental Hygienist

If you want to work in medicine but prefer a career that pays more with a great job outlook, you may consider becoming a dental hygienist. In this position, you may perform basic procedures like cleaning the teeth of patients before they see the dentist. You may also assist dentists as they perform surgeries. Other responsibilities may include cleaning equipment and maintaining dental records. To get this job, you need at least an associate's degree. The BLS anticipates that employment opportunities for dental hygienists were expected to increase 38% from 2010-2020. In May 2011, the BLS indicated that dental hygienists earn about $70,000 annually.

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologist

If you want to work in medicine but think of yourself as more of a scientist, you may pursue a career as a medical or clinical laboratory technologist. Professionals in this field assist medical scientists by preparing lab samples, gathering data and assisting in experiments. These individuals may work in hospitals, laboratories and physician's offices. With experience, you may be able to supervise and train other laboratory technologists. In May 2011, the BLS reported that these individuals earned a median annual wage of more than $57,000.

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