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Surgical Technologist

Career Information


Surgical technologist passing a cystotome needle for cataract surgery

A surgical technologist prepares equipment.

Huntstock / Getty Images

Job Description

A surgical technologist assists in surgery. He or she works under the supervision of surgeons and registered nurses as a member of the operating room team. A surgical technologist may also be called a surgical or operating room technician or a scrub tech.

Employment Facts

There were 91,500 surgical technologists employed in 2008.

Educational Requirements

To become a surgical technologist one must complete a formal program which consists of a combination of classroom instruction and clinical training. This usually takes between 9 and 12 months and results in one earning a certificate, diploma or associate degree. These formal training programs are offered by community and junior colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals and the military.

Other Requirements

Employers prefer job candidates who have been certified by the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist. To receive this certification one must graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and pass a written exam.

Advancement Opportunities

Surgical technologists advance by specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open-heart surgery.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job growth for surgical technologists will be much faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.


Surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of $39,400 in 2009.

Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a surgical technologist currently earns in your city.


A Day in a Surgical Technologist's Life:

On a typical day a surgical technologist's tasks might include:

  • setting up surgical instruments and equipment, sterile drapes and sterile solutions in the operating room
  • assembling both sterile and nonsterile equipment
  • checking and adjusting surgical equipment to make sure it is working properly
  • preparing patients for surgery by washing, shaving and disinfecting incision sites
  • transporting patients to the operating room
  • positioning patients on the operating table and covering them with sterile surgical drapes
  • observing patients' vital signs and checking charts
  • handing instruments to surgeons and surgical assistants
  • holding retractors and cutting sutures
  • transfering patients to the recovery room

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Surgical Technologist, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm (visited January 20, 2010).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Surgical Technologist, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/29-2055.00 (visited December 7, 2010).

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