8 Best Specialties in Surgical Technology
Learn More About the Most Popular Specializations for Surgical Techs
Did you know the profession of Surgical Technologist had its roots in the military during the battles of World War II? In the U.S. Army, these medics worked to assist surgeons as they tended to wounded soldiers. Aboard Navy combat ships, a medical corpsman performed similar duties. The military eventually gave these workers an official name: Operating Room Technicians.
Today, they’re called Surgical Technologists and still support surgeons in the operating room. What else does a Surgical Technologist do? They prepare operating rooms, sterilize and arrange equipment, ready patients for surgery, and even assist surgeons by helping perform many procedures.
Just as physicians specialize in a specific field of medicine, Surgical Technologists can also specialize. A growing number of Surgical Technologist specialties allow you to focus on a particular area of medical surgery—like obstetrics or neurology.
In this article, we’ll explore eight of the most popular specialties, some of the responsibilities each requires, and the skillsets that may be beneficial.
To learn more about pursuing this career, see our guide on how to become a Surgical Technologist.
1. Cardiovascular Surgical Technologist
What is a Cardiovascular Surgical Technologist?
A Cardiovascular Surgical Technologist specializes in cardiovascular surgeries and works under the supervision of cardiovascular surgeons. It’s an excellent option for technologists interested in surgeries and medical treatments related to the heart and lungs.
What Does a Cardiovascular Surgical Technologist Do?
A Cardiovascular Surgical Tech assists a cardiovascular surgeon before, during, and after heart surgeries such as open-heart surgery or during the insertion of pacemakers, defibrillators, and stents. They create images and conduct tests on the patient’s heart or lungs. Common responsibilities include:
- Prepare patients for procedures and answer questions
- Prep the CVOR (cardiovascular operating room)
- Help with preoperative care and transport
- Assist surgical staff during surgery
- Conduct tests and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
- Monitor patients’ conditions and keep track of records
- Transport patients to recovery rooms
Where Do Cardiovascular Surgical Technologists Work?
According to the BLS, most Cardiovascular Technologists work in state, local, and private hospitals (76%). The next largest segment of these technologists works in doctor’s offices (11%). Less than 5% work in outpatient care centers or medical and diagnostic laboratories.
Cardiovascular Surgical Technologists perform much of their work using tools like diagnostic imaging machines (such as an EKG machine) in operating rooms or physician’s offices.
Cardiovascular Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Students who have taken anatomy, physiology, physics, and math classes will have a solid background in this field of study. Qualities that will aid you in this work include being detail-oriented and having good stress-management skills.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become a Cardiovascular Surgical Technologist?
Cardiovascular Surgical Technologists usually have earned an associate or bachelor’s degree and passed the certification exam offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) to become Certified Cardiographic Technicians. Many employers require certification.
2. Neurosurgical Technologist
What is a Neurosurgical Technologist?
A Neurosurgical Technologist, under the direction of neurosurgeons and nurses, assists with treating neurological disorders, including specialized surgeries and other procedures. This includes injuries, diseases, and conditions of the brain, spinal cord, spinal column, and peripheral nerves. Surgical Technologists with a strong interest in the complexities of the brain and nervous system may find this area of focus attractive.
What Does a Neurosurgical Technologist Do?
These technologists support neurosurgeons before, during, and after surgeries and other treatments. They provide a critical role in caring for adults and children dealing with neurological injuries or conditions. Common responsibilities include:
- Assist neurosurgeons in the operating room
- Participate in various neurological treatments and procedures
- Plan, set up, and clean up the assigned surgical procedure
- Handle sharp, sponge, and instrument counts during surgery
- Help to create and maintain a sterile field during procedures
- Enter patient information into medical records
Where Do Neurosurgical Technologists Work?
Like the neurosurgeons who supervise them, Neurosurgical Technologists work in hospitals, special surgery centers, and other healthcare facilities. The operating rooms they work in are equipped to accommodate specialized surgeries on the brain, spine, and nervous system. They must be proficient with the various instruments and tools used in these types of surgeries.
Neurosurgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Surgical Technologists in neurological medicine must remain alert and focused during complex and challenging surgeries. The BLS reports that other essential qualities for Surgical Technologists include good communication skills, physical stamina, and detail-oriented.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become a Neurosurgical Technologist?
Typically, a certificate or associate’s degree from an accredited program at a college or vocational school is required. Once you’ve graduated, some employers may require certification—such as the Certified Surgical Technologist, offered by The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).
3. Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologist
What is an Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologist?
An Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologist also called an OB/GYN Technician, assists doctors and nurses during labor and delivery. This field can be an extremely rewarding subspecialty for those who enjoy working with patients before, during, and after giving birth.
What Does an Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologist Do?
An OB/GYN Technologist assists OB/GYN doctors, nurses, and midwives during labor and delivery. They help prepare for and directly assist with childbirth and birthing complications. Common responsibilities include:
- Prepare patients for procedures involved with childbirth
- Assist doctors and nurses during surgeries such as Cesarean sections
- Prepare and clean delivery rooms
- Perform basic clerical work and update patient records
- Transport patients and newborns to recovery rooms
- Answer patients’ questions
Where Do Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologists Work?
The BLS reports that Surgical Technologists work in hospitals (72%), physician’s offices (11%), and outpatient care centers (11%). OB/GYN Technicians most often work in hospital delivery centers. They assist doctors in delivery rooms and operating rooms.
Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Essential qualities for OB/GYN Surgical Technicians include superior communication skills, empathy, attention to detail, and stress-management skills. Those interested in pregnancy care and childbirth may want to specialize in this area.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become an Obstetric and Gynecological Surgical Technologist?
Surgical Technologists typically require a certificate or associate’s degree from an accredited program at a college or vocational school. Courses you might take as part of your program may include anatomy, microbiology, and physiology. Once finishing your program, some employers may require you to complete certification as a Certified Surgical Technologist.
4. Orthopedic Surgical Technologist
What is an Orthopedic Surgical Technologist?
An Orthopedic Surgical Technologist supports orthopedic surgeons and other medical providers during surgeries, assists with other patient procedures, and performs office administration. This is an attractive option for those interested in sports medicine and injury recovery.
What Does an Orthopedic Surgical Technologist Do?
As an Orthopedic Surgical Technologist, you’ll perform medical duties such as assisting in the operating room during orthopedic surgeries and non-medical tasks like educating patients and filling out paperwork. Common responsibilities include:
- Assist orthopedic surgeons in the operating room
- Help with applying and removing casts and traction equipment
- Educating patients about their condition or surgery
- Filling out paperwork and updating medical records
- Monitoring inventory and medical supplies
Where Do Orthopedic Surgical Technologists Work?
The BLS reports that Surgical Technologists like these work in hospitals, physician’s offices, and outpatient care centers. Orthopedic Surgical Technicians are most likely to work in hospitals, or specialty hospitals, and in the offices of orthopedic surgeons and physicians.
Orthopedic Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Orthopedic Surgical Technologists usually exhibit strong technical skills, interpersonal skills, and superior dexterity. These skills come in handy as techs often perform detailed tasks like helping to apply casts or adjusting traction equipment.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become an Orthopedic Surgical Technologist?
Zippia reports that about 39% of Orthopedic Techs obtain a bachelor’s degree. But students can also pursue an orthopedic technologist career by obtaining an associate degree at a private school or community college.
After finishing your educational program, many potential employers may require you to obtain certification by passing an exam. The National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists (NBCOT) administers exams for surgical technologists pursuing an orthopedic career. Those with this certification may have more opportunities for employment and advancement.
5. Ophthalmic Surgical Technologist
What is an Ophthalmic Surgical Technologist?
An Ophthalmic Surgical Technologist assists an ophthalmologist, a doctor specializing in clinical eye care, performing surgical procedures and diagnostic tests on the eyes. This may be an optimal subspecialty for technologists interested in the complexities of vision and eye health.
What Does an Ophthalmic Surgical Technologist Do?
In this role, you’ll assist ophthalmologists as they treat patients during regular eye exams and surgical procedures. You’ll also perform some administrative duties. Common responsibilities include:
- Assist ophthalmologists during surgical procedures
- Perform diagnostic eye exams
- Help educate patients on eye care at home
- Help maintain surgical equipment
- Taking patients’ medical histories and scheduling visits
- Help administer eye medication
- Instruct patients on caring for corrective lenses
Where Do Ophthalmic Surgical Technologists Work?
In this role, you’ll likely work inside an ophthalmologist’s office. Many Ophthalmologist Surgical Techs may also work in hospitals or outpatient centers.
Ophthalmic Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Some of the skills and areas of study that may be most important to prepare for this specialization include anatomy, communication, and computer skills. You’ll also learn about EHR/EMR systems and medical terminology in your program.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become an Ophthalmic Surgical Technologist?
You must have at least a high school diploma/GED. However, most candidates for this role complete an Ophthalmic Technician (OT) program accredited by the International Council of Accreditation (ICA). Once graduating from a program, you can pursue specialized certification by becoming a Certified Ophthalmic Technician (COT).
6. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologist
What is a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologist?
These Surgical Technologists help prepare patients for plastic or reconstructive surgery, arranging and managing instruments and tools during surgeries. Reconstructive surgery serves an important purpose for patients recovering from a mastectomy. It’s a good option for those interested in helping patients navigate this physical and emotional transformation.
What Does a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologist Do?
A Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologist supports plastic surgeons in many ways. They help support patients preparing for reconstructive surgery, prepare operating rooms, assemble tools, and adjust equipment. Common responsibilities include:
- Prepare operating rooms by arranging supplies, tools, and equipment
- Help patients get ready for plastic or reconstructive surgery
- Assist surgeons during reconstructive surgeries and other procedures
- Monitor patient vital signs during surgeries
- Hold instruments, arrange suture materials, and suction incision sites
- Perform administrative tasks and update medical records
Where Do Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologists Work?
Like all Surgical Technologists, the BLS reports on, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologists can work in hospitals, physician’s offices, and outpatient surgery centers. Those who choose to work in physician’s offices will typically work in a plastic and reconstructive surgeon’s private practice.
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
The BLS suggests that important qualities for Surgical Technologists, including those in plastic and reconstructive surgery, are good communication and listening skills, physical stamina, stress-management skills, and detail-oriented. Another plus is being certified in CPR and basic life support.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become a Plastic and Reconstructive Surgical Technologist?
Most employers will require candidates to earn a certificate or complete an associate degree program in surgical technology. Programs can take 1-2 years to finish, and training usually involves both classroom and clinical work. You may study anatomy, physiology, ethics, surgical theory, and medical terminology.
Upon graduating from a program accredited by an organization like CAAHEP or ABHES, many employers will require certification, such as the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. This demonstrates to your employer that you have acquired the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary to perform at a high level.
7. Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologist
What is a Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologist?
A Trauma Surgical Technologist assists emergency trauma technicians in treating patients who have experienced bodily injury or sudden illness. In emergency situations, these technologists help take immediate measures to treat trauma and save patients’ lives.
What Does a Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologist Do?
Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologists, under the supervision of emergency physicians, assist in administering tests, operating equipment, and administering treatment to patients in an emergency setting. Common responsibilities include:
- Assist physicians and nurses in assessing patients experiencing trauma
- Support physicians taking immediate measures to stabilize and treat patients
- Prepare patients for procedures and answer their questions
- Prep the emergency room or operating room where treatment occurs
- Conduct tests and maintain electrocardiographic equipment
- Monitor patients’ conditions and keep track of records
- Transport patients to operating rooms and recovery rooms
Where Do Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologists Work?
Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologists work in state, local, and private emergency departments. They may also work in ambulatory surgical centers.
Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Emergency Surgical Technologists acquire the knowledge and skills to assist with urgent care, such as immediate splinting, rapid measures to control bleeding, and cleansing abrasions and puncture wounds. Essential qualities include the ability to work well in emergency situations and remain calm and attentive. Additionally, Emergency Technologists should be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become a Trauma and Emergency Surgical Technologist?
To train as a Surgical Technologist before pursuing a career in the field of emergency medicine, you’ll need to complete a certificate or associate degree program in Surgical Technology from an accredited school. You’ll most likely take courses like anatomy, microbiology, and physiology. You’ll also participate in clinical settings to give you hands-on experience, preparing you for working with patients requiring emergency care and treatment.
Your employer may require you to gain a certification such as the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. This demonstrates to your employer that you are ready to work proficiently in your role in emergency medicine.
8. Urological Surgical Technologist
What is a Urological Surgical Technologist?
Urological Surgical Technicians work under the direction of physicians and nurses to prepare patients for various urological procedures and surgeries. They ensure the right equipment is available and set up for procedures. Specializing in this field helps support a large population of adults and children who require this kind of medical care.
What Does a Urological Surgical Technologist Do?
Many types of surgeries require catheterization during and after surgery while patients recover and heal. But this is only one type of procedure that Urological Surgical Technologists perform. Common responsibilities include:
- Assist physicians during urological surgeries and procedures
- Perform various catheterizations and educate patients
- Instruct patients in the care and maintenance of urological appliances
- Review patients’ charts and update medical records
- Maintain supplies and organize equipment
- Obtain urine specimens from patients
- Assist during various endoscopy procedures
Where Do Urological Surgical Technologists Work?
Urological Surgical Technologists work in hospitals, physician’s offices, and outpatient surgery centers. Those who choose to work in physician’s offices will typically work in a urologist’s private practice.
Urological Surgical Technologist Skills and Qualities
Besides good communication and listening skills, Urological Surgical Technicians exhibit manual dexterity and gain the trust of their patients. They respond quickly and accurately while also expressing empathy and understanding.
What Are the Education and Training Requirements to Become a Urological Surgical Technologist?
To start a career as a Urological Surgical Technologist, you’ll need to complete a certificate or associate degree program in Surgical Technology from an accredited school. You’ll learn about topics such as sterilization techniques, preventing and controlling infections, and how to use standard tools and equipment that you’ll use as you perform your job duties.
Your employer may require you to gain a certification such as the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. This demonstrates to your employer that you are knowledgeable and proficient. You may also complete other training and certifications as you advance your career in urology.
Find a Program and Think About Specialization
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a Surgical Technologist, it’s never too early to start thinking about which specializations might be the best fit for your skills and interests. If one of the areas of specialization we’ve mentioned piques your interest, take time to explore it more fully so you can make an informed decision about your future.
As you look into your options for a Surgical Technology program, look into the Surgical Technology program at Brookline College. With this accelerated program, you can earn your associate degree in as few as 90 weeks and participate in real-world labs and simulations that will prepare you for a successful career.