Surgical technologists assist surgeons and other health care professionals in the operating room, handing them needed surgical tools and making sure that all needed equipment is working correctly. They also help to prepare the operating room beforehand and to clean up afterward, meaning that their scope of responsibilities can extend from the beginning to the end of surgery. Because of this, they need to have many different types of skills, not just about how different types of equipment function, but also how to provide optimal patient care.

Responsibilities of Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists have a number of duties that they perform on the job and that they need to be able to carry out proficiently. In general, surgical technologists should be able to:

  • Prepare patients and operating rooms for surgery
  • Ensure all needed equipment is in the room and the appropriate tools have been sterilized
  • Help the medical team dress for surgery
  • Supply physicians and other healthcare providers with tools and equipment during surgery
  • Make sure that all equipment is working appropriately
  • Clean up after surgery, making sure equipment is put away and specimens are properly prepared
  • Take a patient to a recovery room

Surgical Technician Job Characteristics

Because surgical technologists and technicians spend much of their time in the operating room, they need to be able to function effectively as part of a team. They should be able to perform the following tasks:

  • Work in close proximity with patients, registered nurses and surgeons
  • Do their work in small spaces and stand or stay in awkward positions
  • Complete shifts that last longer than eight hours
  • Be at work or on call during the evenings or weekends, and even holidays
  • Lift and move equipment, and transport patients
  • They also need to wear scrubs while they are in the operating room

The skills that help make a good surgical technologist include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Accuracy
  • Manual dexterity
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • Effective communication
  • Physical stamina

Surgical Technologist Employment Outlook

The BLS reports the following information about surgical technologists nationwide:

  • Total Employed: 98,450 in 2014
  • Job Growth: 30% growth, from 2012 to 2022
  • Average Salary: $45,010 in 2014

Surgical technologists who have completed an accredited education program may find some of the best job opportunities, according to the BLS. While overall demand is expected to be faster than average from 2012 to 2022, those working in Nevada, Washington D.C., California, Hawaii and Connecticut had the highest mean annual wages, all above $54,000, in 2014.

Surgical Tech Schools, Certification and Licensing

A diploma, certificate or associate degree is typically necessary to enter the surgical technology field. Surgical tech training can be found through hospitals and healthcare facilities, vocational schools and community colleges. Some universities also may provide training. Programs can vary in length from several months to two years and enable students to learn about:

  • Sterilization
  • The care of patients
  • Preventing infection
  • Anatomy, biology, pharmacology and more

Certification can be sought through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting with its Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential. The National Center for Competency Testing also offers a Tech in Surgery-Certified (NCCT) designation. Passing an exam and graduating from an accredited program often are needed as part of certification. However, there also are other paths to certification.

Licensing is generally not required, although some states have set regulations regarding the employment of surgical technologists, according to the BLS. These requirements can vary by state, and typically require graduating from an accredited program, usually by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), and having certification.

Major Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Physician offices
  • Ambulatory centers
  • Clinics

Resources for Surgical Technologists

  • American Board of Surgical Assistants
  • Association of Surgical Technologists
  • National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
  • National Surgical Assistant Association
  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools


  1. Surgical Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm#tab-1
  2. Surgical Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292055.htm

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Surgical Technologists

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Surgical Technologists jobs , as of 2016

Metro Area Total Employment Annual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim 3,230 $56,890
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land 3,070 $49,350
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington 2,860 $47,980
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach 2,180 $44,150
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell 1,860 $44,130
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale 1,540 $52,340
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn 1,470 $44,020
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward 1,380 $69,500
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue 1,290 $56,570
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson 1,280 $50,170

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Total employment and salary for professions similar to surgical technologists

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Surgical Technologists

To find out more about building a career as Surgical Technologists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Source : 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, BLS.gov

Most Popular Industries for
Surgical Technologists

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment Percent Annual Median Salary
Hospital 64,030 71% $38,680
Medical Office 21,870 24% $38,690
Office Services And Staffing 1,890 2% $43,650
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Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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