Top Menu

What Do You Need to Do to Become A Surgical Technician?

Surgical Technician Using an Xray Machine as part of the course training

Image: Public Domain 1.0, Stephane Belcher via National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Flickr

In the field of healthcare, there are so many roles one can assume. Yes, it gets quite overwhelming as you stay longer. Being involved in the treating of patients makes the role of a surgical technician as your great option.

Surgical technicians involve themselves in fascinating procedures. Examples include helping surgeons and patients through surgical treatments. So, how does one become a surgical technician? Becoming a surgical technician involves educational training and hands-on training. These include rotations in surgical specialties and other certifications.

Before we look into what a candidate needs to become a surgical technician, let’s take a quick look into what a surgical technician does.

What is a Surgical Technician?

Surgical Technician Students Working Together on an Operating Room with Air Force, Navy, and the Aloha Medical Mission doctors

Image: Public Domain, U.S. Navy photo by Journalist Seaman Joseph Caballero, via Wikipedia Commons

A surgical technician works as a part of a medical team that is generally made up of surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists. The primary duty of the surgical technician is to assist the surgeon. This happens before and during a procedure.

The primary tasks of a surgical technician include:

  • Inspecting, decontaminating, as well as repairing and maintaining surgical equipment.
  • Keep inventory records up to date.
  • Conduct both pre- and post-surgery patient care. It covers shaving & cleaning incision areas and transporting the patient to & from the surgical room. Applying any needed dressings after the surgery deems necessary.
  • Keep all surgical equipment like sterile linens, lights, and saline stocked and ready
  • Set up and maintain the surgical room
  • Collaborate with nurses and doctors to better assist them

Your Qualities

While the role of the surgical technician may seem minor to some, it is an important role. They have to stay on top of the equipment, the patient and any other needs of the surgical team.

Because of all these duties, a surgical technician must be able to do well under pressure. Other important qualities of surgical technicians include dexterity and integrity. Being detail-oriented and maintaining physical stamina makes one fit for the role.

Most of those working in this occupation work full time, which generally means 40-hour work weeks. Those who are employed in hospitals may be asked to be on call or work more than eight-hour shifts. Their work weeks exceed the traditional 40-hour work week. In many cases, surgical technicians submit themselves to work weekends, nights, shifting schedules, and holidays.

Besides working in hospitals, surgical technicians also are employed in physician offices, dental offices and outpatient care centers.

How to Become A Surgical Technician

Surgical Technician Assisting the Head Surgeon in wearing laboratory gown

Image: CC by 2.0, MilitaryHealth, via Flickr

To become a surgical technician, some level of postsecondary education is required. Most community and junior colleges offer programs and training in becoming a surgical technician. Many vocational schools, universities, hospitals and even the military offer instruction.

The Duration and Needs

In most cases, programs take between 12 months to two years to complete. Programs combine traditional classroom lessons with hands-on training in supervised clinical settings. The basic coursework for these programs includes anatomy, biology, physiology, pharmacology and medical terminology.

Surgical Technician training also includes patient care and safety, how to set up robotic or technical equipment, sterilization techniques for both patients, themselves and the equipment and training on how to prevent and control infections.

Your Certification

Besides a post-secondary education, many surgical technicians find becoming certified helps them not only with their skills but in finding work and even a better salary. For example, many surgical technicians chose to seek certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, which allows the candidate to use the title of “Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).”

The CST certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the accreditation division of the National Organization for Competency Assurance and is compliance with NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification.

Surgical Technician Students Taking Certification and Practical Examination

Image: CC by 2.0, MilitaryHealth, via Flickr


In order to attain this certification, a prospect must have completed a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited program. In order to prove this, they must provide at least one of the following documents:

  • A notarized letter (on institutional letterhead) from the Program Director which states your name, date of graduation, and type of degree awarded.
  • A copy of your graduation certificate
  • Transcript (Transcripts do not have to be official; however, NBSTSA reserves the right to request an official transcript.)

Taking the Examination

Once the eligibility of the candidate has been approved, they must then submit their examination application. Examination fees qualify one to be part of the examination list. This includes such as a $190 fee for AST members or $290 for non-members.

Finally, a candidate receives the certification as a Certified Surgical Technologist after passing the exam.

Once received, an individual happens to be responsible for making sure they renew their certification. This is done by enrolling in continuing education classes and re-taking the certification exam every four years.

How Much Does A Surgical Technician Make?

Surgical Technician Students wearing violet laboratory gowns Working around a tan table

Image: CC by 2.0, VIA Agency, via Flickr

On average, a surgical technician makes around $41,614 a year, which comes out to around $19.62 an hour. Of course, these numbers can change depending on the location of where a prospect is looking, their education and their overall experience in the occupation.

As mentioned, the location of the job can play a big role in overall pay. For instance, the overall pay in Sacramento is 36% higher than the national average, while those in Birmingham made around 22% less than the national average.

Compensation and Benefits

Experience is another factor that plays a significant role in the annual salary of a surgical technician. Those with less than five years in the industry make an average of $38,000, while those with five to ten years of experience can expect an average of $43,000. Surgical technicians with between ten and 20 years of experience can expect an annual salary around $48,000, while someone with more than 20 years of experience can expect around $51,000.

Additional education quickly becomes a common requirement for surgical technician positions. These supplementary degrees and certificates play a significant role in how much an individual can make. For example, if an individual takes and successfully completes certification to become a certified surgical technologist, the average annual salary raises slightly to $41,746 annually.

Surgical Technicians Is A Career Stepping Stone

Surgical Technician Graduates Smiling after completing training at Berkeley College

Image: CC by 2.0, VIA Agency, via Flickr

All employed surgical technicians require to have at least some level of post-secondary education. This position allows individuals the opportunity to worth with nursing staff and doctors alike. This results for many to consider advancing their careers after working so many years as a surgical technician.

What’s Up Ahead

Many surgical technicians choose to stay in their field. On the other hand, some of them chose to advance their careers after ten or more years as a technician. The education and training involved in becoming a surgical technician contribute to this reason. After so many years in the field, many prospects choose to further their education and credentials to become a registered nurse.

In most cases, thanks to the requirement of continuing education classes, which is mandatory for certified surgical technologists to keep their certifications, most candidates that are thinking of advancing to a registered nurse only need a few additional classes and certifications to make a move.

Surgical Technician Job Outlook

Surgical Technician inside a training laboratory Job Outlook as Medical professionals

Image: CC by 2.0, US Army Africa, via Flickr

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of surgical technologists projects itself to grow around 12% from 2016 to 2026, rounding out to about 12,600 new positions.

As a Social Responsibility

The position of a surgical technician signifies an important one. As the large baby-boom generation increases, the need for surgical technologies follows. More surgical procedures imply to take place, as this generation ages.

As more technologies and artificial intelligence come available into the surgical room, a surgical technician stands as a primary requirement.  This provides a helping hand to those running the equipment. Also, this ensures that the machinery and technology work accordingly.

As a Community Health Advocate

Because of these factors, becoming a surgical technician is a viable occupation selection for many who are dabbling with the idea of entering the healthcare field.

With factors such as steady and increasing employment opportunities over the next ten years and with steady pay rates, it looks as if those currently in school or looking for a position as a surgical technician should be able to find something that suits them. Added education and certifications help prospective candidates. This goes for the same for postsecondary education and certification which becomes a consideration before jumping into the job market.


Featured Image: Public Domain 1.0, Stephane Belcher via National Museum of the U.S. Navy, Flickr

, , , , , , , ,