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The Now, The New & The Next in Careers

Shifting into a Female-Dominated Career

16 Jan 2012 4:24 PM | Anonymous

By Joan Runnheim Olson

I recently interviewed Jeff Johnson, who is working in a female-dominated career as a surgical technologist. Check out the interview below:    

What has been your career path?  I served in the Navy for four years specializing in aircraft maintenance. After my military service I attended college and earned my license as an aircraft maintenance technician. Following that I worked for 3+ years as a test technician for Ball Aerospace where I tested satellites for the space program. Next I worked for as an aircraft maintenance technician for two commercial airlines. After 20+ years of working in this field, I was laid off. At that time I decided to get retrained and went back to college earning my certification as a Surgical Technologist. I currently work for an orthopedic surgery center in the Midwest.

Were you encouraged to pursue work in a female-dominated industry?  I wasn’t encouraged to work in this field; however, the medical field has always held an interest for me. Another reason I chose this line of work is because of the high demand. There will always be a need for surgical technologists.

What kind of training was required for this career?  This type of work requires two years of formal training at a college which includes classes such as anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, and clinical rotations.

Describe a typical day on the job? A typical day on the job starts with reviewing the surgeries for the day; selecting proper instruments; setting up equipment required for special procedures; preparing the operating room for surgery; maintaining a sterile environment; setting up the sterile instruments for the procedure; assisting the surgeon by passing correct instruments and whatever else is required for that particular surgery.

What skills are important for your career? My job requires being detail-oriented, having excellent organizational skills, and the ability to work well in a team setting. It also requires being able to work in a fast-paced environment with ever changing technology.

What is the salary range for surgical technologists?  The median expected salary for a typical Surgical Technologist in the United States is $39,983, according to Those that specialize in a certain area can expect a higher salary.

What is the job outlook for your type of career? I would say it is very good, and I see positions open all of the time. It’s also a portable career meaning you can move anywhere and shouldn’t have a difficult time finding work.

How do you move up in your career?  You can pursue further training and specialize in different types of surgeries, e.g., heart or robotic surgery.

What challenges have you faced working in a female-dominated career?  In my prior career I worked with all men and shifting to working with mostly women required a bit of an adjustment. While men tend to not share how they are feeling, I have found that women tend to be more open about it, which can be helpful in a working relationship. If there's a problem, you know it.  Having three daughters and growing up with five sisters I am accustomed to being around females which helped ease the transition.

What do you enjoy most about working in a female-dominated career?  I enjoy helping people and the variety of people I work with as a team. Plus, working with mostly females, there is always good food around.

What advice would you give to males who may be considering a nontraditional career?  If you enjoy helping people, consider exploring career options in the medical field. With the aging baby boomer population, I feel that these types of jobs are readily available and secure even in a shaky economy.

Note: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is expected to grow 25 percent between 2008 and 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, as the volume of surgeries increases. The number of surgical procedures is expected to continue to rise as the population grows and ages.

Older people, including the baby-boom generation, which generally requires more surgical procedures, will continue to account for a larger portion of the U.S. population. In addition, technological advances, such as fiber optics and laser technology, have permitted an increasing number of new surgical procedures to be performed and also have allowed surgical technologists to assist with a greater number of procedures.

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