Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologists assist doctors in the operating room.

Surgical technologists assist doctors in the operating room.

“Scalpel,” the surgeon says, as the tool is placed in his open hand. It’s not magic that makes this equipment appear, it’s a surgical technologist. In the operating room, technologists keep everything organized, sterilized and ready to go. They act on the orders of doctors and nurses during procedures and prepare the OR for the next patient when the surgery is complete.


Fast Facts

Minimum Education Required: Certificate

Top 3 Skills: Work Under Pressure, Organization, Communication

Average Starting Salary: $30,000/year


Job Description

Surgical technologists, also called operating room (OR) technicians, assist as needed during surgical procedures. Their duties may include:

  • Sterilizing equipment
  • Laying out necessary tools and supplies
  • Disinfecting incision sites on patients
  • Help surgical team dress in sterile clothing and gloves before procedure
  • Passing equipment and receiving samples taken
  • Dress and bandage incision/stitched area after procedure

Almost 70% of surgical technologists work in hospitals. They work nights, weekends, and days, often on 8, 10, or 12-hour shift rotations.


Different states have different programs in place for students wishing to become surgical technologists — check with your local community college or vocational school to see what program they offer, as it will generally fit the state’s requirements. All technologists must obtain a post-secondary certificate or award, whether it be a six month certificate or two-year associate’s degree. These programs train students for work in an operating room.

Interested high school students should pursue courses in biology, anatomy, and physiology.


Varies — see education.

Job Outlook: Fair

Surgical technologists make around $40,000 a year, and are expected to grow in number by 19% between 2010 and 2020 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

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