What To Know About Being a Surgical Technician

Interested in working in healthcare and soon? Well, you can as a surgical tech. Discover what a surgical tech does and the types of jobs you can get.
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  • Surgical technicians are trained medical professionals who assist throughout surgeries.
  • The duties of surgical techs include sterilizing instruments and monitoring patients' vitals.
  • Surgical techs must complete a certificate program or earn an associate degree.
  • In 2021, surgical techs earned a median pay of $48,510.

Not every career in healthcare requires years of training and costly degrees. In fact, surgical technicians don't even need a bachelor's degree.

So if you're looking to get into the healthcare field — but not as a nurse or doctor — becoming a surgical tech might be just the career for you. Not to mention, the entire healthcare sector will experience above-average demand at a projected growth of +13% from 2021-2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Find out more about what a surgical technician does and the requirements to begin a career as a surgical technician.

What Is a Surgical Technician?

A surgical technician is a medical professional who has been trained in sterilization techniques and surgical technology. They have the medical training to assist throughout a surgical procedure.

Surgical technicians play a valuable role in all stages of surgery. They prepare and sterilize surgery rooms before operations and keep equipment and surgical instruments sterile during procedures. After surgeries, they'll clear and clean the equipment.

As a surgical tech, you'll also be an active team member throughout a surgery. You'll assist surgeons by organizing and keeping track of sterilized instruments and monitoring the patient's vitals.

What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

Surgical technicians work in hospitals, care centers, and physicians' offices to assist medical teams during surgeries. They work to prevent mishaps and protect patient safety before, during, and after surgery.

Before a surgery starts, surgical technicians' job responsibilities include:

  • Preparing the operating room and equipment
  • Ensuring tools are readily available and properly sterilized to prevent infection
  • Inspecting machines, such as surgical lasers and robotic arms, to make sure they work

During an operation, surgical technicians may hand tools to surgeons and assistants. Like everyone in the operating room, they monitor the room for risk or anything that might lead to infection.

After surgery, surgical technicians take inventory of the operating room and dispose of or sterilize used equipment.

What Are the Training Requirements to Be a Surgical Tech?

To become a surgical technician, you need to build knowledge of human anatomy, bacterial infections, and sterile processing. You can gain the necessary training to become a surgical technician in a one-year certificate or two-year associate degree program. Both options include relevant coursework, as well as a clinical internship or practicum.

In many states, you must earn certification. Even if your state does not require surgical technicians to be certified, some employers might prefer it.

To become a certified surgical technologist (CST), you must:

How Much Do Surgical Techs Make?

According to the BLS, surgical technicians made a median annual pay of $48,510 in May 2021. The highest-paid 10% of surgical technicians earned more than $96,870 that year.

Keep in mind that, like most positions, surgical technician salaries depend on several factors. These factors include your degree or certificate earned, experience, and location.

Some states offer a higher salary potential than others. For example, the BLS reports that surgical technicians in Minnesota earned one of the highest average annual wages of $111,170 in 2021. Whereas, in that same year, these workers in North Carolina made an average annual salary of $37,920.

The type of practice you work at can also change your earning potential. For instance, BLS data shows that those working in private practices earned a median of $61,250 annually in 2021. And surgical technicians working in dental offices earned a median of $40,540.

Frequently Asked Questions About Surgical Technicians

Is surgical tech school harder than nursing?

Because becoming a surgical technician only requires a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree, surgical tech school can be a faster route than earning a nursing degree. Registered nurses (RNs) must earn at least an associate degree.

The courses in surgical tech school also tend to be more specialized. Coursework focuses on surgical technology, biology, and anatomy. Having an interest in these topics or a background in biology from high school or other secondary education could make surgical tech school easier.

Who makes more: nurses or surgical technicians?

Some nurses — including registered nurses and nurse practitioners — make significantly more than surgical technicians. Registered nurses made a median annual wage of $77,600 in May 2021, according to the BLS.

However, licensed practical nurses make about the same as surgical technicians. Licensed practical nurses earned a median annual wage of $48,070 in May 2021, as per the BLS.

How do you become a certified surgical tech?

To become a certified surgical technician, you must complete a postsecondary educational certificate program or earn an associate degree in surgical technology. Typically, this process takes about two years.

Once you have completed the educational requirements, you may need to complete a national surgical technician certification exam. Some states also require surgical technicians to become registered.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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