What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

A surgical technologist, also called a scrub, scrub tech, surgical technician, or operating room technician, is an allied health professional working as a part of the team delivering surgical care.

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Job Description

A surgical technologist is an allied health professional who works alongside surgeons, nurses and other medical staff during surgical procedures. He or she is responsible for ensuring that the operating room is ready for the procedure and that the patient is properly prepared. The surgical technologist also assists the surgeon during the procedure and helps to care for the patient afterwards.


A surgical technologist, also called a scrub, scrubs in before an operation and hands the surgeon the needed instruments during the surgery. Surgical technologists also may apply sterile dressings, hold retractors, and set up equipment. They may handle tissues and organs during surgery and place them where the surgeon will need them.


Most surgical techs have completed a postsecondary educational program and become certified. Although certification is not required in all states, employers usually prefer to hire those who are certified. Certification for surgical techs is available from several organizations, including the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist. In order to be certified, surgical techs must pass a written exam. Some states also require surgical techs to be licensed.


A Surgical Tech is a medical professional who works alongside surgeons to provide patient care before, during, and after surgery. They are an important part of the surgical team and play a vital role in the operating room. Surgical Techs typically earn an annual salary of $40,000-$60,000.

Pay by Experience

An entry-level Surgical Technologist with less than 1 year experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $17.04 based on 546 salaries. An early career Surgical Technologist with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $20.60 based on 2,835 salaries. A mid-career Surgical Technologist with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $22.86 based on 1,588 salaries. An experienced Surgical Technologist with 10-19 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $24.02 based on 1,195 salaries. In their late career (20 years and higher), employees earn an average total compensation of $25.

Pay by State

In 2016, the median annual salary for surgical technologists was $47,300, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, earnings can vary widely depending on geographic location. For example, surgical techs in California earn a median salary of $53,470 per year, while those in Florida take home a median pay of $42,610.

Education and Training

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, are part of a surgical team. They work under the supervision of surgeons, registered nurses, or other surgical personnel. Surgical technologists help prepare operating rooms, equipment, and supplies for surgical procedures. They also sterilize equipment and make sure that there are no infections.


There are several ways to become a certified surgical technologist. The most common path is to complete a surgical technology program at a community college, trade school, or technical institute. These programs typically last about nine months to two years and lead to a certificate or diploma. Alternatively, some hospitals offer on-the-job training programs that can last up to six months. Finally, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC-STSA) offer voluntary certification for surgical technologists who have completed an accredited surgical technology program and passed a national exam. Certification must be renewed every four years.


There are two main types of education programs for surgical techs: certificate programs and associate’s degree programs. These programs can be found at community colleges, technical colleges, and some hospitals.

Certificate programs typically take about 1 year to complete and include both classroom and clinical instruction. Associate’s degree programs usually take 2 years to complete and also include classroom and clinical instruction.

Some states have regulations that require surgical techs to be licensed or certified. Specific requirements vary by state, but most licensure or certification boards require proof of completion of an accredited surgical tech program and passing a national exam.

Job Outlook

Employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Operations performed in surgeons’ offices and outpatient care centers are expected to grow as these facilities expand to accommodate the demand for cosmetic surgery and other medical procedures performed outside of hospitals.

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