Surgical Technologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a surgical technologist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Surgical Technologist Jobs

  • Surgical Technologist - Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center - Warrenton, VA

    Ideal candidate must be motivated, personable, and energetic with the ability to multi-task. Orthopaedic/surgical setting experience is REQUIRED! We

  • Surgical Technologist - MedStar Washington Hospital Center - Washington, DC

    Education: • High school degree or GED diploma is required, plus specialized and/or advanced clerical, technical or other vocational training

  • Surgical Technologist - MedStar Health - Washington, DC

    Education: • High school degree or GED diploma is required, plus specialized and/or advanced clerical, technical or other vocational training

See all Surgical Technologist jobs

What Surgical Technologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.

Duties of Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists typically do the following:

  • Prepare operating rooms for surgery
  • Sterilize equipment and make sure that there are adequate supplies for surgery
  • Ready patients for surgery, such as by washing and disinfecting incision sites
  • Help surgeons during surgery by passing them instruments and other sterile supplies
  • Count supplies, such as sponges and instruments
  • Maintain a sterile environment

Surgical technologists work as members of a healthcare team alongside physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers.

Before an operation, surgical technologists prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment. They also prepare patients for surgery by washing and disinfecting incision sites, positioning the patients on the operating table, covering them with sterile drapes, and taking them to and from the operating room. Surgical technologists prepare sterile solutions and medications used in surgery and check that all surgical equipment is working properly. They help the surgical team put on sterile gowns and gloves.

During an operation, surgical technologists pass instruments and supplies to surgeons and first assistants. They also hold retractors, hold internal organs in place during the procedure, or set up robotic surgical equipment. Technologists also may handle specimens taken for laboratory analysis.

Once the operation is complete, surgical technologists may apply bandages and other dressings to the incision site. They may also help transfer patients to recovery rooms and restock operating rooms after a procedure.

Surgical first assistants have a hands-on role, directly assisting surgeons during a procedure. For instance, they may help to suction the incision site or suture a wound.

Work Environment for Surgical Technologists[About this section] [To Top]

Surgical technologists hold about 107,700 jobs. The largest employers of surgical technologists are as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 71%
Offices of physicians 11
Outpatient care centers 11
Offices of dentists 4

Ambulatory surgical centers are included in outpatient care centers.

Surgical technologists wear scrubs (special sterile clothing) while they are in the operating room. Their work may be physically demanding, requiring them to be on their feet for long periods. Surgical technologists also may need to help move patients or lift heavy trays of medical supplies. At times, they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.

Surgical Technologist Work Schedules

Most surgical technologists work full time. Surgical technologists employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.

How to Become a Surgical Technologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Surgical Technologists near you!

Surgical technologists typically need a postsecondary nondegree award or an associate's degree. Certification can be beneficial in finding a job. A small number of states regulate surgical technologists.

Education for Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists typically need postsecondary education. Many community colleges and vocational schools, as well as some universities and hospitals, have accredited programs in surgical technology. Programs range in length from several months to 2 years, and they grant a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree upon completion. Admission typically requires a high school diploma or the equivalent.

Surgical technology education includes courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, medical terminology, pharmacology, and other topics. Surgical technologists are trained in the care and safety of patients, sterilization techniques, how to set up technical or robotic equipment, and preventing and controlling infections. In addition to classroom study, students also work in supervised clinical settings to gain hands-on experience.

Surgical first assistants may complete a formal education program in surgical assisting. Others may work as surgical technologists and receive additional on-the-job training before becoming first assistants.

There are about 500 surgical technologist programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Important Qualities for Surgical Technologists

Detail oriented. Surgical technologists must pay close attention to their work at all times. For example, they need to provide the correct sterile equipment for surgeons during an operation.

Dexterity. Surgical technologists should be comfortable working with their hands. They must provide needed equipment quickly.

Integrity. Because they are trusted to provide sterile supplies and quality patient care during surgical procedures, surgical technologists must be ethical and honest.

Physical stamina. Surgical technologists should be comfortable standing for extended periods.

Stress-management skills. Working in an operating room can be stressful. Surgical technologists should work well under pressure while providing a high level of care.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Surgical Technologists

Certification can be beneficial in finding a job. Surgical technologists may earn certification through credentialing organizations.

Certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting allows the use of the title "Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)." Certification typically requires completing an accredited formal education program or military training program and passing an exam.

Certification through the National Center for Competency Testing allows the use of the title "Tech in Surgery — Certified or TS-C (NCCT)." Applicants may qualify through formal education, military training, or work experience. All require documenting critical skills and passing an exam.

Both certifications require surgical technologists to complete continuing education to maintain their certification.

In addition, many jobs require technologists to become certified in CPR or basic life support (BLS), or both.

A small number of states have regulations governing the work of surgical technologists or surgical first assistants, or both.

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants, and the American Board of Surgical Assistants offer certification for surgical first assistants.

Advancement for Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists may choose to advance to other healthcare occupations, such as registered nurse. Advancement to other healthcare occupations would usually require additional education, training, and/or certifications or licenses. A technologist may also choose to become a postsecondary teacher of health specialties.

Surgical Technologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for surgical technologists is $45,160. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $64,800.

The median annual wages for surgical technologists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Outpatient care centers $46,960
Offices of physicians 45,730
Hospitals; state, local, and private 44,740
Offices of dentists 44,050

Most surgical technologists work full time. Surgical technologists employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.

Job Outlook for Surgical Technologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 12 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations. Advances in medical technology have made surgery safer, and more operations are being done to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries.

In addition, the aging of the large baby-boom generation is expected to increase the need for surgical technologists because older people usually require more operations. Moreover, as these individuals age, they may be more willing than those in previous generations to seek medical treatment to improve their quality of life. For example, an individual may decide to have a knee replacement operation in order to maintain an active lifestyle or to have cataracts removed to improve vision.

See all medical jobs.

Job Prospects for Surgical Technologists

Job prospects should be best for surgical technologists who have completed an accredited education program and hold a certification.

Employment projections data for Surgical Technologists, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Surgical technologists 107,700 120,300 12 12,600


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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