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Surgical Technologists Job, Salary, and School Information

Home >> Careers & Education

Surgical Technologists


Schools and Education

What’s needed:

  • Complete an accredited surgical technology program that can vary in length from nine months for a certificate and up to two years for an associate degree.
  • Programs are offered by colleges vocational schools and hospitals. All accredited programs include internships in clinical settings for hands-on practice.
  • The entrance requirement is usually a high school diploma or equivalent.

What you study: Study topics usually include:

  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Surgical procedures
  • Surgical techniques
  • Operating room sterilization and safety
  • Medical terminology
  • Patient care

What courses you’ll take

Below are examples of courses that you’ll likely take as a surgical technologist student.

Course Studies Purpose
Introduction to Surgical Technology Structure and function of the operating room environment; types of technological instruments used in surgery; responsibilities and roles of the surgical technician in a team context; basic terminology and medical communication; ethical and legal considerations in the field. Familiarize students with the tools and techniques they’ll be using as surgical technologists.
Perioperative Procedures Preparing the operating room and patient for surgery; sanitation concerns such as asepsis (keeping the operating room and patient free from disease-causing contaminants) disinfection and sterilization; care of patients post-surgery. Enable students to maintain patient health and safety immediately before during and after surgery.
Surgical Techniques and Procedures Roles of machines and related technologies in surgeries particularly in maintaining blood circulation; transportation and positioning of a surgical patient; proper use of surgical instruments; main steps of common surgical procedures; surgical procedures; needles and suturing (stitching); wound care and healing. Prepare students to assist with the technological aspects of typical surgeries.
Surgical Specialties Surgical teams specializing in particular procedures and their differences from general surgical teams; the surgical technologist’s role in the fields of gynecology (medicine dealing with the female reproductive system) genitourinary surgery (surgery dealing with the urinary tract and genitals) otorhinolarynology (medicine dealing with the throat and mouth) and neurosurgery. Give more details on possible career paths within more specialized surgical technology roles.
Pharmacology and Anesthesia Types of drugs used in surgical settings and their effects; pharmacokinetics (what the body does to a drug) and pharmacodynamics (what a drug does to the body); drug dosages and systems of measurement; methods of administering drugs to a surgical patient and maintaining them at appropriate levels throughout surgery. Ready students to recognize and safely administer drugs.


Video Overview

A quick introduction into a surgical technologist career. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.


Certifications and Licensing

Becoming certified is currently voluntary in most states. However certification improves job and advancement opportunities and is in growing demand.

Certification involves successfully completing an approved educational program and passing a credentialing examination. The profession recognizes two main credentialing organizations. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting offers the Certified Surgical Technologist certification while the National Center for Competency Testing confers the Tech in Surgery ? Certified.


Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time:

Surgical technologists work scheduled shifts that may sometimes include overtime. Due to the critical nature of surgery they may also be on call or work evenings and weekends. Outpatient settings such as physician offices are more likely to observe regular weekday hours.

Work location:

Most surgical technologists work on site with hospital surgical teams and spend much of their time in operating rooms. Others assist with outpatient surgery in clinics and medical offices.


Recommended Websites

  • U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook — The site provides a factual overview of the surgical technologist profession. It’s a good starting point for learning the basics about the field. Information is divided into sections on job duties education employment outlook and other fundamentals. Once you have a solid idea build on it by exploring other websites that present the profession in richer detail.
  • The Association of Surgical Technologists — AST is the professional association for surgical technologists. The site offers a wealth of information about all aspects of the field and is an excellent resource for those considering the profession in more depth. Web sections provide detailed coverage of job duties education and certification and topics important to the surgical profession. The career center section offers searchable job listings employment tips and career development resources. To help you understand your education options the site includes a list of accredited training programs.
  • The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting — This organization provides the most widely recognized certification for surgical technologists. The site’s examinations section clearly explains the certification process. It also includes a comprehensive page on test information that covers everything from how to schedule an exam to options for military personnel on active duty.
  • National Center for Competency Testing — NCCT is an organization offering independent certification in surgical technology as well as other allied health fields. The site provides a well-organized and straightforward look at the credentialing process.


Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

State City / Region Typical Salary Salary Range Job Count % of All Jobs
AK Anchorage $53300 $42K – $71K 110 0.06%
AL Anniston – Oxford $29470 $21K – $47K 50 0.12%
AL Birmingham – Hoover $31690 $24K – $45K 520 0.11%
AL Decatur $31420 $21K – $39K 70 0.14%
AL Florence – Muscle Shoals $34580 $25K – $46K 50 0.11%
AL Huntsville $39060 $29K – $54K 260 0.13%
AL Mobile $32610 $25K – $39K 160 0.10%
AL Montgomery $31010 $19K – $45K 280 0.18%
AL Tuscaloosa $36440 $25K – $53K 90 0.10%
AR Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers $39050 $29K – $70K 40 0.02%
AR Fort Smith $33560 $26K – $44K 110 0.09%
AR Jonesboro $33280 $27K – $45K 30 0.06%
AR Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway $41000 $26K – $58K

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