What is a Surgical Tech?

A surgical technologist, also called a scrub, scrub tech, surgical technician, operating room technician, or OR tech, is an allied health professional working as a member of the surgical team and who performs a variety of tasks before, during, and after an operation.

Checkout this video:

Job Description

A surgical technologist is an allied health professional who works alongside surgeons, registered nurses and other surgical personnel. Surgical technologists are a vital part of the surgical team. They prepare the operating room and equipment for surgery and assist the surgical team during the procedure.


A surgical technologist, also called a scrub, scrub tech, surgery tech or operating room technician, is an allied health professional working as a part of the team delivering surgical patient care. Surgical technologists work under the supervision of a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or physician totransport patients, set up operating rooms with sterile equipment and supplies, prepare patients for surgery and assist during operations. They also may handle tissue and blood samples and count needles, sponges and supplies used during surgery.

Surgical technologists typically complete a postsecondary educational program that leads to a certificate or an associate’s degree. Although certification is not required in all states, many employers prefer to hire certified surgical technologists.


surgical techs must have excellent communication, documentation, and interpersonal skills. They work with patients before, during, and after surgery, so the ability to put patients at ease is crucial. In addition, surgical techs must be able to follow the surgeon’s instructions and keep up with the pace of the operating room. Because they work with sharp instruments and other potentially dangerous supplies and equipment, surgical techs must pay close attention to detail and be able to maintain their focus during fast-paced procedures.


How much does a Surgical Tech make? The median annual surgical technologist salary is $47,300, or $22.81 per hour, as of May 2016. This is lower than the average salary for all working Americans, which is $59,039 per year.

Pay by Experience Level

The average surgical technologist salary in the united states is $52,090 as of May 31, 2019, but the salary range typically falls between $46,790 and $57,890. This can vary greatly depending on the type of facility you work for as well as your experience level.

-Entry-level salaries: $40k-$50k
-Mid-career salaries:$50k-$60k
-Experienced salaries:$60k-$70k
-Late-career salaries:$70k +

Pay by State

In order to become a surgical technologist, one must complete an accredited educational program and pass a Certification Exam. As of 2017, there are 49 ABHES and CAAHEP accredited programs in the United States. Salary for surgical techs can vary depending on experience, geographical location, size of facility, and type of employer.

The table below shows the average hourly wage for surgical technologists in each state as of May 2017.

State|Hourly Wage
District of Columbia|$30.79

Education and Training

Aspiring surgical techs can learn the necessary skills and knowledge by completing a postsecondary certificate or diploma program in surgical technology. Some community colleges and vocational schools offer these programs, which typically last about a year.

Surgical Tech Programs

There are several ways to become a surgical tech, but most people enter the field by completing an accredited surgical technology program. These programs are typically offered at the technical school or community college level, and they take anywhere from nine months to two years to complete.

During a surgical tech program, students will take courses in anatomy, physiology, medical terminology and other related subjects. They will also get hands-on experience in a hospital or clinical setting, where they will learn how to scrub in for surgery, assist surgeons and handle tissue and instruments.

After successfully completing a surgical tech program, graduates must then pass a national certification exam before they can start working in the field. Surgical techs who want to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in the field may choose to pursue additional certifications or even a degree in surgical technology.


There are two primary ways to become a certified surgical technologist: through an accredited surgical technology educational program or through on-the-job training and certification by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

Most surgical technologists have completed an accredited surgical technology educational program, which typically takes about nine months to a year to complete. These programs, which can be found at community colleges, technical schools and some hospitals, include both classroom and clinical instruction. During clinical instruction, students work under the supervision of experienced surgical technologists in actual operating rooms.

To be eligible for certification through the NBSTSA, candidates must have graduated from an accredited surgical technology program or have completed a minimum of one year of full-time employment as a surgical technologist within the last four years. Candidates must also pass a written examination. Once certified, surgical technologists must recertify every four years by completing continuing education credits or passing a recertification exam.

Job Outlook

A Surgical Tech, also called a surgical technologist, is an allied health professional who works closely with surgeons, Registered Nurses (RNs) and other medical staff during surgery. Surgical techs are a vital part of the surgical team and play an important role in ensuring the surgical suite is ready for the procedure, sterile supplies are available, and the patient is prepared for surgery.

Employment by State

The best opportunities for employment as a surgical technologist are found in states with large urban populations, as these areas typically have the greatest number of hospitals and outpatient surgery centers. Employment of surgical technologists is expected to grow much faster than the average for alloccupations through 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. A growing elderly population and advances in medical technology will increase the demand for surgical procedures and, therefore, the need for surgical technologists.

In addition, as baby boomers age, more will require hip and knee replacements and other types of surgeries that were once considered too risky for this age group. Surgical technologists will also be needed to assist withthese surgeries. The following states are projected to have the highest employment levels for surgical techs in 2024:

New York

Employment by Metropolitan Area

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities for surgical technologists will be best in metropolitan areas with large hospitals, medical centers and surgicenters. The following is a list of metro areas with the highest concentration of surgical tech jobs as of May 2014, according to the BLS:

-Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach, FL
-Boston and Cambridge, MA-NH
-Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA
-Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL Metropolitan Division
-Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX

Scroll to Top