What is a Surgical Technician

Talk about an important career. Surgeons wouldn't be able to perform surgery safely without you around. As a surgical technician, you will work under the surgeon to make sure they have everything they need to successfully perform surgical procedures.

From making sure the operating area is safe and clean to ensuring the equipment necessary is functioning properly, surgical technicians are the real reason surgeries are successful. Since surgeries can be stressful, you really need to be able to remain calm at all times (even in stressful situations).

Every day is different for surgical technicians. You never know what your day will be like when you walk into work. It can be hard work, but when you pull off a successful surgery and save a patient, you'll see how rewarding it is.

What Does a Surgical Technician Do

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

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How To Become a Surgical Technician

Surgical technologists typically need a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree. Certification can be beneficial in finding a job. A small number of states regulate 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, 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.

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

Important Qualities

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 be able to provide needed equipment quickly.

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

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 be able to work well under pressure while providing a high level of care.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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 (NCCT).” Applicants may qualify through formal education, military training, work experience, or other eligibility paths. 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, or both.

A small number of states have regulations governing the work of surgical technologists or surgical 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.


Surgical technologists may choose to advance to other healthcare occupations, such as registered nurse. Technologists may also choose to become a postsecondary teacher of health specialties.

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Average Salary for a Surgical Technician

Surgical Technicians in America make an average salary of $52,709 per year or $25 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $65,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $42,000 per year.
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Surgical Technician Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Surgical Technician. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Surgical Technician Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Surgical Technician resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

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Surgical Technician Demographics

Surgical Technician Gender Statistics


69.5 %


26.2 %


4.3 %

Surgical Technician Ethnicity Statistics


69.4 %

Hispanic or Latino

13.0 %

Black or African American

11.4 %

Surgical Technician Foreign Languages Spoken Statistics


74.8 %


4.5 %


2.9 %
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Surgical Technician Education

Surgical Technician Majors

9.8 %

Surgical Technician Degrees


48.7 %


17.5 %


16.7 %

Top Colleges for Surgical Technicians

1. University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT • Private

In-State Tuition

2. New York University

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition

3. Inter American University of Puerto Rico Arecibo

Arecibo, PR • Private

In-State Tuition

4. Jefferson College of Health Sciences

Roanoke, VA • Private

In-State Tuition

5. Howard University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition

6. Ohio State University

Columbus, OH • Private

In-State Tuition

7. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

New Brunswick, NJ • Private

In-State Tuition

8. University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA • Private

In-State Tuition

9. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition

10. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA • Private

In-State Tuition
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Online Courses For Surgical Technician That You May Like

The Basics of Trauma Surgery

This course imparts a wide range of basic knowledge and skills in the field of trauma surgical and orthopedic treatment of patients. To facilitate this, the course employs a new concept of information transfer. We follow a scientific approach and a sophisticated combination of modern teaching methods to vividly impart the taught contents. This included case-based learning, comprehensive factual knowledge, and consecutive quizzes, which help to better memorize the learned contents and later emplo...

So You Want To Be A Surgeon?
edX (Global)

The World Health Organization (WHO) projected urgent need of physicians and surgeons in the next decade and the Lancet Commissions 2015 report indicated the need for surgical services will continue to rise substantially from now until 2030, in particular in the low-income and middle-income regions. In light of the challenges of new diseases and increase in the aging population, medical and surgical care are ever more essential. The future needs more surgeons! What do surgeons do? What...

Human Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Cases
edX (Global)

Human Anatomy: Musculoskeletal Cases invites students to join medical and basic science faculty at Harvard Medical School (HMS) to learn about musculoskeletal injuries commonly seen in clinical practice. For each case, students visit the HMS Clinical Skills Center to observe the initial patient encounter and physical examination by an orthopedic surgeon. Following the patient encounter, students complete the interactive gross anatomy, histology and radiology learning sessions essential for...

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Top Skills For a Surgical Technician

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 13.2% of surgical technicians listed surgical procedures on their resume, but soft skills such as dexterity and integrity are important as well.

12 Surgical Technician RESUME EXAMPLES

Best States For a Surgical Technician

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a surgical technician. The best states for people in this position are California, Alaska, Delaware, and New York. Surgical technicians make the most in California with an average salary of $64,180. Whereas in Alaska and Delaware, they would average $63,655 and $59,456, respectively. While surgical technicians would only make an average of $59,342 in New York, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. West Virginia

Total Surgical Technician Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Alaska

Total Surgical Technician Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Connecticut

Total Surgical Technician Jobs:
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Surgical Technicians

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Surgical Technician FAQs

Do surgical techs do stitches?

Yes, surgical technicians do stitches. Surgical technologists assist in surgical operations under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel.

The role of a surgical technologist primarily involves helping prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment, sterile drapes, and sterile solutions. Technologists also get patients ready for surgery by washing, shaving, and disinfecting incision sites.

However, they also assist during surgery. They will pass instruments and other sterile supplies to surgeons and surgical assistants. They may hold retractors, cut sutures, and help count sponges, needles, supplies, and instruments. Some operate sterilizers, lights, or suction machines and help operate diagnostic equipment.

Some surgical technicians are also qualified to aid in exposure, hemostasis (controlling blood flow and stopping or preventing hemorrhage), and other technical functions that help the surgeon carry out a safe operation.

After an operation, surgical technologists may help transfer patients to the recovery room and clean and restock the operating room.

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Do surgical techs make good money?

Yes, surgical technicians make good money. A surgical technician makes an average of $20 per hour. However, this can vary from $10 an hour up to $30 an hour.

The salary a surgical technician makes can vary depending on location and level of experience, with a typical range of $30,000 and $45,000 in annual salary.

Surgical technicians typically make the most money in states in the northeast, while southern states pay the least. Additionally, the level of experience in the field plays a huge factor, with experienced surgical technicians earning an average of nearly $25 an hour, compared to the $15 that entry-level surgical technicians make.

Therefore it is a good idea for a person to pursue additional education, training, and certifications to boost their experience as quickly as possible. There are many ways that a surgical technician can pursue more experience, and often an employer will offer training programs to ensure a more highly educated healthcare staff.

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How long does it take to be a surgical technician?

After graduating from high school, it takes about one to two years to become a surgical technician. Most practicing surgical technicians enroll in an associate's degree program at a community college or technical school with a specialty in surgical technology before taking their certification exam.

Since surgery is a precision-oriented environment, the operating room follows a strict hierarchical chain of command. Surgical technicians are an entry-level position at the bottom of this chain of command, and therefore it does not take long to earn this role.

Because it is an entry-level position in a high-stakes environment, it is critical to obtain at least an associate's degree to keep up in the fast-paced environment of an operating room. These two-year degree programs will provide significant amounts of hands-on experience as part of their degree completion requirements.

When choosing programs, students are advised to verify that their program is accredited by a proper agency, such as the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

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Is it hard to become a surgical tech?

It is not hard to become a surgical technician. Compared to more intensive healthcare roles, it is relatively easy to become a surgical technician.

However, that does not mean it is simple either. A person needs to dedicate significant amounts of time and energy to complete at least an associate's degree program in surgical technology.

This program is intended to prepare a surgical technician to expertly handle the many requests thrown at them in the operating room. They will gain hands-on experience and critical information. All of this education and training must then be remembered and performed perfectly every time.

The hardest part of becoming a surgical technician is getting certified. There are two groups that grant the credentials to become surgical technicians. Both require a person to finish school and pass a test.

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers the Certified Surgical Technologist exam, a 175 item test on everything from preoperative paperwork to legal practices related to surgery. The National Center for Competency Testing tests a person on medical terms, infection control, and safety and procedures.

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Updated August 18, 2021