Surgical technologists

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Professional Activities

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians, assist in surgical operations. They prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors during surgeries. Surgical technologists work as members of a healthcare team alongside physicians and surgeons, registered nurses, and other healthcare workers.

Surgical technologists typically do the following:

  • Prepare operating rooms for surgery

  • Sterilize equipment and make sure that there are adequate supplies for surgery

  • Prepare 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 sponges and instruments to maintain a sterile environment

During an operation, surgical technologists pass instruments and supplies to surgeons and first assistants. They also hold retractors and may hold internal organs in place during the procedure. Technologists also may handle specimens taken for laboratory analysis. Once the operation is complete, surgical technologists may apply bandages and other dressings to the incision site. They may also help transfer patients to recovery rooms and restock operating rooms after a procedure.

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. Some work in outpatient care centers or in offices of physicians who perform outpatient surgery
Educational Requirements

Surgical technologists typically need a postsecondary certificate or an associate’s degree. Many community colleges and vocational schools, as well as some universities and hospitals, have accredited programs in surgical technology. Programs range in length from several months to 2 years, and they grant a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree upon completion. In addition to classroom study, students also work in supervised clinical settings to gain hands-on experience. Certification can be beneficial in finding a job as a surgical technologist. A small number of states regulate surgical technologists.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification can be beneficial in finding a job as a surgical technologist. Surgical technologists may earn certification through two credentialing organizations. Certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting allows the use of the title “Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).” Certification typically requires completing an accredited formal education program or military training program and passing an exam. Certification through the National Center for Competency (NCCT) Testing allows the use of the title “Tech in Surgery-Certified (NCCT).” An applicant must pass an exam and have taken one of several routes to be eligible. These routes include formal education, military training, or work experience, among others. Both certifications require surgical technologists to complete continuing education to maintain their certification.

Academic Programs

College of Dupage Midwestern Career College

College of Lake County Parkland College

Elgin Community College Shawnee Community College

Illinois Central College

John Wood Community College

Kaskaskia College

Malcolm X College (will ask you for a username &password just click cancel)
Employment/Salary Outlook

Employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, much 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. Hospitals will continue to employ surgical technologists to work in operating rooms because they are more cost-effective.

State and National Wages for Surgical Technologists







United States


















State and National Trends for Surgical Technologists

United States



Job Openings 1



Surgical Technologists








Job Openings 1



Surgical Technologists





1Job Openings refers to the average annual job openings due to growth and net replacement.
Note: The data for the State Employment Trends and the National Employment Trends are not directly comparable. The projections period for state data is 2010-2020, while the projections period for national data is 2012-2022.
Professional Organizations

Association of Surgical Technologists

6 West Dry Creek Circle Suite 200

Littleton CO, 80120
The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting

6 West Dry Creek Circle, Suite 100

Littleton, CO 80120
National Surgical Assistant Association

1425 K Street NW, Suite 350

Washington, DC 20005

American Board of Surgical Assistants-Midwest Office

4951 Hidden Lakes Drive

Harshaw, WI 54529-9583

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Surgical Technologists on the Internet at

O*NET OnLine, on the Internet at

Date Last Modified: August 12, 2015
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