How to Become a Surgical Technician

Surgical Technician Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $40,550
Avg. Pay / hour $19.50
Education 1-2 Years
Job Outlook 9%

You may think of an operating room as a bloody mess because of what goes on in there, but in reality, it is one of the cleanest, most sanitized places you can think of.

With the help of maintenance crew and under the supervision of registered nurses and surgeons, Surgical Technicians make sure the operating room is set and ready to go before an operation.

They also play an important role during a surgical procedure.

Also referred to as “Scrubs” or “Operating Room” Technicians, the Surgical Technician’s job is necessary in order to ward off infections and accidents in the surgery room before and during an operation.

Every time an operation is scheduled, a Surgical Technician is involved in making sure all operations go off without a hitch.

Their responsibilities include preparing and making sure the room is sterile and fully stocked with surgical equipment before any patient steps into the operating room for a scheduled procedure.

Surgical Technicians are also in charge of prepping and sterilizing the tools needed for an operation and replacing or fixing any faulty equipment.

Education Requirements to Become a Surgical Technician

Employers prefer to hire Surgical Technicians that have gone through training and who have acquired certification.

Candidates who want to become a Surgical Technician can follow several routes in their quest to certification.

Those who want to become a Surgical Technician can attend one of the 450 accredited schools that offer Surgical Technician training programs.

The length of a program depends on the student’s desire to solely seek certification or an Associate’s Degree; the total length is usually between 9 to 24 months.

If taking the Associate’s Degree path, students take a variety of medical related classes and receive training that teaches surgical procedures, sterilization of medical instruments, how to handle surgical instruments and the necessary steps to prevent infections.

After completing a training program, candidates then need to seek certification in order to become a Surgical Technician.

There are a couple of ways someone can get certified.

The first to become a Surgical Technician is by attending a program at an accredited school and then take a national certification exam.

This certification is granted by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.

In order to maintain certification, a Surgical Technician needs to take at least 60 hours of continuing education over a four year span or retake the certification exam every four years.

Another way to get certified to become a Surgical Technician is passing a certification exam recognized by the National Center for Competency Training (NCCT).

Candidates need to first qualify to take the certification exam.

They can qualify to take the NCCT exam by following one of three paths: finish a training program at an accredited school, two years of on the job training at a hospital or have seven years of experience in the same field.

Certification needs to be renewed every five years either by retaking the exam or fulfilling continuing education requirements.

Surgical Technician Job Description

The Surgical Technician works in a sterilized environment and is responsible for several things in preparation, during and after a surgery.

Some of those responsibilities include the following:

  • Prepare the surgery room for use.
  • Sterilize the operating room and other essential equipment needed to perform medical procedures.
  • Ensure all equipment is functioning properly.
  • Prepare patient for surgery by bathing; shaving body parts that need to be accessed and disinfecting areas on the body where incisions will be made.
  • Assist surgical team during an operation: pass required equipment and tools to surgeons when needed.
  • Oversee the cleaning and preparation of operating room after surgeries.

Surgical Technician Salary and Career Path

The medical industry is one of the healthiest nowadays and is expected to grow throughout the next decade.

Because of this growth, the demand for Surgical Technicians looks promising.

Surgical Technicians have better opportunities if they are certified and are willing to relocate to places where there is higher need for them.

Salary depends on the location and the industry Surgical Technicians get into.

On the low end, candidates should expect to start off making an average of $ 25,500; Surgical Technicians can earn up to $51,000 after several years of experience.

Industries in which candidates can expect to earn more include working in Hospitals, Dental Offices, Physician Offices and Outpatient Centers.

Surgical Technicians follow state mandated procedures to make sure a patient leaves an operation with a lowered risk of infection.

Their job is important in the first few steps the patient makes towards recovery after surgery.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$65,250
New Hampshire$53,460
New Jersey$57,900
New Mexico$44,820
New York$60,350
North Carolina$46,410
North Dakota$51,470
Rhode Island$60,260
South Carolina$46,390
South Dakota$45,100
West Virginia$40,290
Puerto Rico$21,420

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $68,410.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $68,410
Alaska - $65,690
District of Columbia - $65,250
Connecticut - $65,190
Nevada - $65,180
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Surgical Technologists, OCC Code 29-2055, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a surgical technician?

A surgical technician is an allied health professional who works as part of the surgical team and assists surgeons during operation.

Their job responsibilities also include preparing the operating rooms, sterilizing and arranging operating equipment, getting patients ready for surgery, counting supplies.

During the operation, surgical technicians pass the instruments and sterile supplies to surgeons.

They may also set up robotic surgical equipment, hold retractors and holding organs in place during surgery.

How much does a surgical technician make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surgical technologists was $47,300 in May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a wide range of factors, including the technician’s level of experience and education, the employer and the region of employment.

Surgical technicians can make anywhere between less than $35,000 and more than $70,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become a surgical technician?

Surgical technicians typically need an associate’s degree or a diploma from an accredited program in surgical technology.

A surgical technology program can cost you anywhere between $5,000-$25,000 depending on the school you choose and the program itself.

Choosing to seek certification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting may give you better job prospects.

The application fee for the Certified Surgical Technologist exam held by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting is $190 for members and $290 for non-members.

Many jobs also require surgical technicians to be certified in CPR or BLS.

CPR classes cost around $25-$60.

What is the demand for surgical technicians?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for surgical technologists is expected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Surgeries can now be performed faster and safer, thanks to advances in medical technology and more operations are performed to treat a variety of illnesses.

The growth is also explained by the fact that the large baby-boom generation is aging and the demand for surgeries is expected to grow because older people are more likely to suffer from conditions that need surgical intervention.

How long does it take to become a surgical technician?

Surgical technologists need a diploma in surgical technology or an associate’s degree.

An associate’s degree can be earned after approximately 2 years of post-secondary study; a diploma program can be completed in less than a year.

Many programs include coursework in surgical procedures, pharmacology, medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology but also a clinical training period that allows students to observe experienced surgical technicians and to learn, hands-on, the skills needed to perform this job.

Choosing to become certified by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or from the National Center for Competency Testing can give you better job prospects.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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