What Surgical Technologists Do
Surgical technologists assist in surgical operations.
Most surgical technologists work in hospitals. They spend much of their time on their feet.
How to Become a Surgical Technologist
Surgical technologists typically need a postsecondary nondegree award or an associate’s degree. Certification can be beneficial in finding a job. A small number of states regulate surgical technologists.
The median annual wage for surgical technologists was $48,300 in May 2019.
Employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, 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.
Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist with operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries.
Surgical technologists typically do the following:
- Prepare operating rooms for surgery
- Sterilize equipment and make sure that there are adequate supplies for surgery
- Ready patients for surgery, such as by washing and disinfecting incision sites
- Help surgeons during surgery by passing them instruments and other sterile supplies
- Count supplies, such as surgical instruments, to ensure that no foreign objects are retained in patients
- Maintain a sterile environment to prevent patient infection
Surgical technologists work as members of a healthcare team alongside physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers.
Before an operation, surgical technologists prepare the operating room by setting up surgical instruments and equipment. They prepare sterile solutions and medications used in surgery and check that all surgical equipment is working properly. Surgical technologists also bring patients to the operating room and get them ready for surgery by positioning them on the table, covering them with sterile drapes, and washing and disinfecting incision sites. And they help the surgical team put on sterile gowns.
During an operation, surgical technologists pass the sterile instruments and supplies to surgeons and first assistants. They might hold retractors, hold internal organs in place during the procedure, or set up robotic surgical equipment. Technologists also may handle specimens taken for laboratory analysis.
After the operation is complete, surgical technologists may apply bandages and other dressings to the incision site. They may also transfer patients to recovery rooms and restock operating rooms after a procedure.
Surgical first assistants have a hands-on role, directly assisting surgeons during a procedure. For example, they may help to suction the incision site or suture a wound.
Surgical technologists held about 111,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of surgical technologists were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||73%|
|Outpatient care centers||10|
|Offices of physicians||10|
|Offices of dentists||3|
Ambulatory surgical centers are included in outpatient care centers.
Surgical technologists wear scrubs and sterile gowns, gloves, caps, and masks while they are in the operating room. Their work may be physically demanding, requiring them to be on their feet for long periods. Surgical technologists also may need to help move patients or lift heavy trays of medical supplies. At times, they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials.
Most surgical technologists work full time. Surgical technologists employed in hospitals may work or be on call during nights, weekends, and holidays. They may also be required to work shifts lasting longer than 8 hours.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of surgical technologists.
For more information about surgical technologists, visit
For a list of accredited programs for surgical technologists, visit
For information about certification, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surgical Technologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm (visited ).