Surgery assistant operating equipment

How to Become a Surgical Technologist

Learn about the duties and requirements of a Surgical Technologist, as well as their training, salaries, and job outlook.

Surgery assistant operating equipment

Do you like the idea of working in healthcare while making a difference? In the medical field, Surgical Technologists perform an invaluable service by assisting doctors and surgeons as they administer lifesaving procedures in the operating room. If you’re interested in healthcare and the operating room, then a career as a Surgical Technologist could be your ideal path.

Our career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a Surgical Technologist, including the educational requirements, certifications, and daily tasks. We will also cover how long it generally takes you to launch into this new career.

Not sure if becoming a Surgical Technologist is right for you? Click here to see more careers highlighted on our list of the 12 best entry-level medical jobs.

Surgical Technologist Definition

What Is a Surgical Technologist?

Surgical Technologists, also known as operating room technicians, assist with surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, position equipment, and help doctors and first assistants during surgeries. For instance, Surgical Technologists might hold retractors, hold internal organs in place during the procedure, or set up robotic surgical equipment. Surgical Technologists may also handle specimens taken for laboratory analysis.

Surgical Technologist: Job Description

What Does a Surgical Technologist Do?

In addition to preparing operating rooms for surgery, Surgical Technologists sterilize equipment and ensure adequate supplies for surgery. They also prep patients for surgery by washing and disinfecting their incision sites. During the surgery, Surgical Technologists may pass the surgeon instruments. Afterward, they ensure they have all the surgical instruments. This task helps ensure that no foreign objects have been left in the patients.

Above all else, Surgical Technologists are responsible for maintaining a sterile environment.

Surgical Technologist Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of Surgical Technologists include:

  • Preparing operating rooms for surgery
  • Sterilizing equipment and ensuring that there are adequate supplies for surgery
  • Prepping patients for surgery, i.e., washing and disinfecting incision sites
  • Assisting surgeons by passing them instruments or other sterile supplies
  • Counting supplies to ensure that no foreign objects were left inside patients
  • Maintaining a sterile environment to prevent patient infection

Surgical Technologist Skills

Most Surgical Technologists possess excellent stress-management skills. They also excel at communication, are detail-oriented, have great dexterity, and accurately follow directions. In addition, Surgical Technologists are known for their integrity and physical stamina. They enjoy working in hospitals or similar settings.

Surgical Technologist Hours & Work Environment

The majority of Surgical Technologists work 40 hours per week. They may be on call during nights, weekends, or holidays. They are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), undergo training, and follow proper procedures. Their work can be physically demanding as they are often on their feet for long periods. Surgical Technologists may help move patients or lift heavy trays full of medical supplies. At times, they can be exposed to unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.

Close up of student writing on paper

Surgical Technologist Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Surgical Technologist?

What Degree Do You Need to be a Surgical Technologist?

Aspiring Surgical Technologists typically need to acquire a certificate or an associate’s degree—fortunately, this Surgical Technology Degree can be completed in as little as 90 weeks. No matter which school you choose, remember to check the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) to ensure your program is accredited in Surgical Technology.

Like any worthwhile goal, a career as a Surgical Technologist will seem more attainable if it is broken down into individual steps.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a Surgical Technologist:

1. Enroll in a Surgical Technology Degree Program

One of the best ways to become a Surgical Technologist is to pursue an associate degree program at an accredited college. You can enroll in the Surgical Technology program at Brookline College with a high school diploma or GED and a passing grade on the Scholastic Level Exam.

2. Obtain Certification with a Major Professional Organization

Once you have earned your degree, seeking additional certifications would be highly beneficial. Enhance your job and career prospects by pursuing certification with organizations like the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or the National Center for Competency Testing.

Certification usually requires proof of completing an accredited educational program and passing an exam. Additionally, some jobs require that Surgical Technologists become certified in CPR, basic life support, or both.

3. Seek Employment as a Surgical Technologist

Once you’ve completed a formal program and obtained certification, it’s time to seek employment in the field of surgical technology. You could ask your college’s career services team for assistance—they often help graduates look for open positions—or start applying to jobs on websites like Indeed or LinkedIn.

How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Surgical Technologist Degree?

While some schools might charge $20,000 or more per semester for tuition, keep in mind that this amount doesn’t always include necessities like books, lab fees, etc. However, other schools offer cheaper tuition costs or better financing options. When researching each school, remember to look for accredited institutions that volunteer their tuition rates and additional fees for your education.

Surgical Technologist Salary

How Much Do Surgical Technologists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a Surgical Technologist is about $54,000, or around $26 per hour. The top 25% of earners in the field bring home an average of nearly $61,000 annually.

Sterilized surgical instruments on a blue sheet

Highest Paying Industries for Surgical Technologists

According to the BLS, these are the top-paying industries for Surgical Technologists:

Industry Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
Specialty Hospitals (Excluding Psychiatric or Substance Abuse Ones) $28.45 $59,180
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools $27.95 $58,130
Other Ambulatory Healthcare Services $27.43 $57,040
Offices of Other Health Practitioners $27.21 $56,600
Outpatient Care Centers $26.77 $55,680

Highest Paying States for Surgical Technologists

State Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
California $32.89 $68,410
Alaska $31.58 $65,690
District of Columbia $31.37 $65,250
Connecticut $31.34 $65,190
Nevada $31.34 $65,190

Highest Paying Cities for Surgical Technologists

City Average Hourly Pay Average Salary
San Jose, California $38.68 $80,450
San Francisco, California $38.54 $80,170
Vallejo, California $37.24 $77,460
Sacramento, California $35.80 $74,470
Santa Rosa, California $35.74 $74,330
Santa Cruz, California $34.41 $71,570
Danbury, Connecticut $34.36 $71,460
San Diego, California $32.70 $68,010
Stockton, California $32.24 $67,060
Los Angeles, California $32.22 $67,020

What is the Job Outlook for Surgical Technologists?

Surgical Technologists are essential members of an operating room team. As the baby-boom generation ages and requires increasing medical care, the need for Surgical Technologists will also increase.

According to the BLS, the number of positions for Surgical Technologists is projected to grow 6% by 2031, which is slightly higher than the average growth rate of 5% for all jobs.

Female surgeon in front of surgical team

Start Your Dream Career as a Surgical Technologist

If you have an insatiable desire to help others, becoming a Surgical Technologist can be a very satisfying career path for you. Learn more about the Surgical Technology Program at Brookline College and get started on the road to a rewarding career.