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Surgical Technologists

At a Glance

  • Work under the supervision of surgeons and nurses
  • Set up the operating room before surgery
  • Work with patients and other medical staff
  • Almost always wear a uniform
  • May work on-call, nights, weekends, or holidays
  • Train through two-year surgical technology programs

Career summary

Surgical technologists prepare for and assist with surgical procedures.

Surgical technologists may also be called operating room/surgical scrub technicians or technologists.

Surgical technologists are also called operating room technicians or scrubs. They work under the supervision of surgeons and nurses.

Before surgery, technologists help set up the operating room. They wash and sterilize instruments. They also make sure there are enough supplies for the procedure. They set up, adjust, and check non-sterile equipment to be sure it works properly.

Surgical technologists prepare patients for surgery. They transport patients to the operating room. They help position patients on the table and cover them with surgical drapes. They also observe patients' vital signs.

Technologists help the surgical team scrub and put on gloves, gowns, and masks. During surgery, technologists pass instruments and supplies to surgeons and their assistants. They hold retractors (instruments that hold back the edges of a wound) or cut sutures (stitches). They may also help apply dressings to patients' incisions.

During surgery, technologists may have other tasks, such as:

After surgery, technologists help transfer patients to the recovery room. They clean and restock the operating room for the next procedure.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to surgical technologists.

Common work activities

Surgical technologists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, surgical technologists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Surgical technologists frequently:

It is important for surgical technologists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for surgical technologists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Surgical technologists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a surgical technologist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Many surgical technologists earn an associate degree by completing a two-year training program. Professional-technical schools, two-year colleges, universities, and hospitals all offer surgical technology programs. As a student, you learn anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and medical terminology. You also learn about aseptic techniques, the care and safety of patients during surgery, and infection control and prevention.

Certification is important in this occupation. Certification requires a combination of training, experience, and good scores on exams.

On-the-job training

While completing a training program, you get hands-on training by working under the supervision of an experienced technologist. You may receive training for up to six months.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be medical care technicians. This occupation includes surgical technologists. Training lasts seven to 52 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers prefer to hire technologists who are certified. Employers look for technologists who are responsible, orderly, and emotionally stable. They also look for technologists with good hand and finger control. The ability to respond quickly under stress is also an asset. Knowledge of current procedures and new developments in the field are also important.

Some employers will hire surgical technologists who do not have any work related experience. Other employers prefer to hire surgical technologists who have one or two years of experience.

Some technologists may improve their chances of being hired by becoming certified. To do so, surgical technologists must pass a national examination available through The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. To sit for the exam, technologists must:

Technologists who pass the exam are certified for four years. To renew their certificate, they must take a renewal exam or take and show proof of continuing education courses and pay a renewal processing fee.

For more information on national certification, contact The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (external link).

#this is fine 4/6/12 lh & 5/713 cj. Made the national board title a direct link to their website; info ok 4/8/15 cj. Info ok 1/31/17, 3/12/19 cj.


Talk with people who work in this field to learn more about it. Volunteer at a hospital or other health care facility to see if this type of work setting suits you. Surgical technologists should enjoy working with and helping people. The ability to handle constructive criticism is helpful. You must also have good stamina, anticipate events, and be a good listener. Keep in mind that each member of the team is just as important as another. Be willing to be on call and work variable or evening shifts. Basic Life Support (BLS) and/or CPR certification is often required by employers.

#Added on call variable/evening shifts and BLS/CPR reqs from various ads cited on US Jobs site 4/8/15 cj.

Costs to workers

Workers may wish to join a professional association, which may have annual dues. Some employers require surgical technologists to be certified by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. The costs for this vary depending on whether the person is a member of the Association of Surgical Technologists. Costs for members include a $60 processing and $130 exam fee. Costs for non-members are $60 and $230 respectively.

#no fee changes 4/6/12 lh or 5/7/13 cj. no changes per board website 2/26/14 lh or 4/8/15, 1/31/17, 3/12/19 cj.


Surgical technologist must be registered with the State of Washington. Registration requirements include:

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Surgical Technologist Program
Customer Service Center (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Surgical technologists (SOC 29-2055)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $20.64 $23.54 $27.52 $31.66 $37.38
Monthly $3,577 $4,079 $4,769 $5,487 $6,478
Yearly $42,930 $48,960 $57,240 $65,860 $77,750
    Bellingham Hourly $20.42 $22.25 $25.33 $30.33 $39.77
Monthly $3,539 $3,856 $4,390 $5,256 $6,892
Yearly $42,480 $46,291 $52,688 $63,083 $82,725
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $20.47 $22.65 $26.72 $31.51 $38.01
Monthly $3,547 $3,925 $4,631 $5,461 $6,587
Yearly $42,568 $47,104 $55,571 $65,537 $79,072
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $17.65 $20.68 $24.19 $29.22 $34.54
Monthly $3,059 $3,584 $4,192 $5,064 $5,986
Yearly $36,719 $43,028 $50,329 $60,769 $71,847
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $20.34 $21.64 $23.81 $27.57 $30.53
Monthly $3,525 $3,750 $4,126 $4,778 $5,291
Yearly $42,293 $45,004 $49,525 $57,358 $63,498
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $20.22 $22.44 $26.19 $30.59 $37.91
Monthly $3,504 $3,889 $4,539 $5,301 $6,570
Yearly $42,058 $46,684 $54,474 $63,639 $78,841
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $21.79 $25.14 $28.97 $33.73 $38.71
Monthly $3,776 $4,357 $5,021 $5,845 $6,708
Yearly $45,320 $52,287 $60,240 $70,143 $80,522
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $21.22 $23.83 $27.51 $31.19 $37.10
Monthly $3,677 $4,130 $4,767 $5,405 $6,429
Yearly $44,145 $49,559 $57,225 $64,887 $77,180
    Vancouver Hourly $21.15 $24.24 $27.79 $31.40 $36.57
Monthly $3,665 $4,201 $4,816 $5,442 $6,338
Yearly $43,995 $50,425 $57,797 $65,314 $76,054
    Yakima Hourly $20.10 $21.63 $24.17 $28.88 $34.87
Monthly $3,483 $3,748 $4,189 $5,005 $6,043
Yearly $41,815 $44,993 $50,287 $60,073 $72,516
United States Hourly $15.80 $18.70 $22.74 $27.90 $33.25
Monthly $2,738 $3,241 $3,941 $4,835 $5,762
Yearly $32,870 $38,910 $47,300 $58,040 $69,170

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. Wages also vary based on the surgical technologist's experience.

Benefits vary by employer. Most full-time surgical technologists receive typical benefits. These include vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Part-time surgical technologists usually do not receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Surgical Technologists (SOC 29-2055)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,958 24.0% 16.1% 262
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 85 29.4% 13.4% 12
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 62 19.4% 8.6% 8
    Benton and Franklin Counties 76 30.3% 15.0% 11
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 59 27.1% 11.9% 8
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 133 23.3% 15.2% 17
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 116 25.0% 14.1% 15
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 61 24.6% 14.6% 8
    King County 832 25.7% 19.6% 115
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 54 7.4% 13.8% 5
    Pierce County 243 26.7% 15.2% 34
    Snohomish County 66 22.7% 12.4% 9
    Spokane County 179 16.2% 13.9% 20
United States 112,100 8.7% 5.2% 10,400

National employment

About seven out of ten surgical technologists work in public or private hospitals.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be very strong. The number of surgeries performed each year is expected to increase. This increase will be due in part to a growing and aging population. Older people generally require more surgical procedures. In addition, advances in technology will make new surgical procedures available.

Hospitals will continue to be the largest employer of surgical technologists. However, the fastest employment growth is expected in doctors' offices and out-patient centers. Job prospects are best for those who complete an accredited program.

Other resources

Association of Surgical Technologists (external link)
6 West Dry Creek Circle, Suite 200
Littleton, CO 80120
Explore Health Careers: Surgical Technologist (external link)
Health Occupation Students of America (external link)
548 Silicon Drive, Suite 101
Southlake, TX 76092
Interview with a Surgical Technologist (external link)
BLS Career Outlook, November 2019
National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (external link)
6 West Dry Creek Circle
Littleton, CO 80120


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster