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How to Become a Surgical Tech

Even the most minuscule surgical procedure can have serious consequences if things don't go according to plan. The last thing a doctor needs is for surgical tools to go missing or the operating room to go unsanitized. This is where a talented surgical tech comes in to save the day.

What Is a Surgical Tech?

A surgical tech is an individual who generally assists surgeons and other medical personnel during all stages of surgery. They are assistants that graduate from accredited programs to perform their duties.

Surgical techs are there before the doctors arrive to ensure everything is working correctly, and they remain in the operating room during the surgical procedure and after.

What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

A surgical tech’s responsibilities are vital to their team’s success and include aiding the surgeon, managing surgical equipment, aiding the patient, and sanitizing the operating room.

Assists the Surgeon and Takes Care of Surgical Equipment

If surgeons want to ensure that patients receive the best care possible, they have to have sterilized surgical instruments. A surgical tech diligently cleans and organizes a surgeon's medical tools.

During the surgical procedure itself, surgical techs are waiting at a surgeon's side for instruction. They need to prepare themselves for many things, like helping perform biopsies, intubating patients, and more.

Assists Patients During Surgical Procedures

Surgical techs play a rather large role in assisting the patient during all stages of a surgical procedure. Beforehand, they often prepare the patient for surgery and help transport them to the operating room.

Afterward, they sometimes clean areas on the patient's body and wheel them out into the recovery room. Surgical techs can also help analyze samples taken from a patient's body during the surgical procedure.

Maintains Cleanliness in the Operating Room

A cornerstone of good healthcare is cleanliness. If the surgical instruments and operating room aren't clean for the surgical procedure, the patient's life could very well be in danger.

The surgical tech uses sterilization techniques and thorough cleaning measures to ensure the operating room is completely free of any potentially harmful germs.

Along with cleaning, the surgical tech ensures all medical supplies in the operating room and surrounding areas are fully stocked for surgical procedures.

Essential Surgical Tech Skills

What skills does the ideal surgical tech need to succeed? Below are just a few crucial ways to make it as a surgical tech.

Meticulous Eye for Detail

If you have a Type-A personality, wanting to have every part of your life in order, becoming a surgical technologist may be a fantastic idea. To become a surgical tech, you need to either have an innate ability for detail or quickly hone your observation skills.

Surgical technologists need to kick it into high gear when it comes to cleaning and ensuring proper medical protocol adherence. After all, a patient's well-being could depend on it.


Surgical technologists work intimately alongside a surgical team in the operating room every day. This means not only interacting and communicating with other individuals for long periods, but actively participating in a challenging atmosphere.

Communication Skills

There's no room for misinterpretation in the operating room, and you need to communicate clearly and concisely. Along with communicating with the surgeon and surgical team, a successful surgical technologist works well with patients.

A surgical tech is the surgeon’s most significant asset. Communicating clearly with the surgeon will better ensure a successful operation.

Surgical Technologist Salaries and Job Outlook

How much does a surgical tech make? A surgical tech's salary depends on a few factors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for surgical techs is $48,300 per year.

The highest 10 percent of surgical techs reported earning around $71,400. Your salary can depend on your location. States like Texas and California have the highest concentration of surgical techs due to their massive state sizes and considerable populations.

The place with the highest surgical technologist salary is Alaska. Due to its small number of surgical techs, hovering around 240, surgical techs are in higher demand. Keep these facts in mind when job hunting.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the overall employment of surgical technologists will rise by an estimated seven percent over the coming years. This is a great sign if you are thinking of breaking into this medical career.

Like registered nurses and surgeons themselves, there will always be a strong need for medical personnel. Surgeons will still need good assistance in the operating room, so a surgical technologist's work is guaranteed.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Surgical Tech?

It takes about one to two years, depending on what the accredited programs require. We can break it down further and in more detail to see how long it takes to become a surgical tech by exploring the step-by-step guide below.

How to Become a Surgical Tech: A Step by Step Guide

It may seem like a complicated process to become a surgical tech, but let's break down the steps to clear some things up.

Step 1: High School Diploma or GED

Before joining any accredited programs or schools, you need to have either your high school diploma or GED. Besides a certificate from different programs, this is basically the only other primary requirement you need to be a successful surgical tech.

Step 2: Find an Accredited Program

Now the real work beings. Depending on what program you choose, they either last anywhere from one year to two years. It's crucial that you find one that fits in with your learning style.

You can usually find applicable majors and accredited programs at your local community college. You can go for your associate degree and get a good foothold in the medical community, or simply go for certificate programs if you want a more specialized outlook.

These majors and certificate programs allow students to partake in multiple classes like biology and anatomy, preparing them for a career in medicine.

A great way to shorten the search for an accredited program is by consulting the Commission on Accreditation Of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The commission allows you to look up specific programs and degrees to help you along in your career path.

Regardless, you need to find an accredited program endorsed by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). This ensures that you're fit to take the certified surgical technologist (CST) exam and start a career as a surgical tech.

Step 3: Take the Certified Surgical Technologist Exam

Now that you have what it takes to become certified, you need to take the exam in surgical technology. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers this exam for would-be surgical technologists.

It offers certifications and certification renewals. There are no tricks here. Just score a 70 percent and you will get your certificate.

However, make sure you're up to date with all things medical, as this is a nearly 200-question test. Almost all the aspects of your future medical career are on this test.

Step 4: Become a Certified Surgical Technologist

You have your official certification from passing the CST, so now what? The job search begins, of course. Your best bet is looking for a surgical tech job at a hospital, as that is where most surgeries take place.

There are a few places, like private practices, that perform smaller surgical procedures. However, hospitals offer you the best chance to find steady and meaningful surgical technologist work.

Should You Become a Surgical Tech?

If you have reliable communication skills, an eye for detail, and are passionate about medicine, then becoming a surgical tech is an excellent idea. It's the perfect entry-level position with upward mobility.

For eager high school graduates who want to jump right into the medical world, this could be an excellent choice. Instead of earning a bachelor's degree or going to a costly medical school, you can immerse yourself in a medical field in a fraction of the time.

With the constant need or surgical techs and surgeons, there is no end in sight for talented surgical techs.


What is the difference between a surgical technician and a surgical technologist?
Both the surgical technician and surgical technologist job description is more or less the same. Many higher learning institutions, along with surgical tech programs, use these terms interchangeably.
Is being a surgical tech hard?
It depends on what kind of person you are. Surgical technologists work alongside medical professionals who require diligent individuals to help them during surgical procedures. If you're good under pressure, have excellent communication skills, and possess the know-how to care for patients, it shouldn't be too hard at all.
What is the difference between a surgical tech and a surgical assistant?
Surgical assistants are more involved during the surgical procedure. Surgical assistants will often directly take part in the patient's surgery. Surgery technologists work more behind the scenes, assisting surgical teams with sterilization, cleaning, and handing out the proper medical instruments.
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