What They Do:

Before the surgeon scrubs in, surgical technologists sterilize the operating room and set tools out on the tables for procedures. Before the operation, surgical technologists may also position the patient on the table, cover him or her with drapes and prepare medications and sterile solutions. These health care workers may find themselves handing over the scalpel for incisions or moving tissue out of the surgeon’s vision with retractors. They are also tasked with keeping the room sterile and counting tools. In the assisting role, surgical technologists are the surgeon’s right hand during operations, directly attending to the surgeon’s needs and perhaps suctioning incisions or suturing wounds. After procedures, surgical technologists may transfer the patient to the recovery room and restock the operating room.


To get a job as a surgical technologist, you typically need a postsecondary certificate or associate degree. Accredited surgical technology programs are usually one to two years and are offered at community colleges, technical schools, colleges, universities and through the military.

In an accredited program, a prospective surgical technologist will complete a minimum of 120 surgical procedures under direct supervision. Upon graduation, surgical technologists may obtain the Certified Surgical Technician credential, although not every state requires it. Some states – Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas – have a surgical technology law that requires an individual must be a graduate of an accredited program, attain and maintain the CST credential and complete continuing education to renew the credential in order to work in the state as a surgical technologist.

Additional certifications are available from the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. The Certified Surgical First Assisting credential, for example, allows surgical technologists to directly assist surgeons during procedures.

Surgical technologists who have completed an accredited program will have the best job prospects.

What They Make:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median annual wage was $48,300 per year.                                        

Where They Work:

Surgical technologists work primarily in hospitals.

Career Outlook:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Advances in medical technology have made surgery safer, and more operations are being done to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. 


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surgical Technologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm 

Updated February 2021