Surgical Instrument Technician Education and Career Information

Sep 25, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a surgical instrument technician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Studying to become a surgical instrument technician requires completion of a certificate or associate's degree program in order to be prepared for this position. Although not required for work, certification is available and may be required by employers looking for qualified candidates.

Essential Information

A surgical instrument technician assists surgeons prior, during and after surgery by sterilizing tools and equipment, prepping patients and setting up the operating room. The majority of technicians have completed a certificate or associate's degree program, as well as a certification examination.

Required Education Certificate or associate's degree in surgical technology
Certification Voluntary through the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist and the National Center for Competency Testing
Median Annual Salary (May 2018)* $47,300 (for surgical technologists)
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 9% (for surgical technologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for a Surgical Instrument Technician

A career as a surgical instrument technician requires the completion of either a certificate program or an associate's degree program in surgical technology. Within the program, students learn through classroom lectures and hands-on labs to treat and prevent infection, use specialized equipment and sterilize surgical tools. Both programs provide students with the fundamental knowledge and experience required to assist surgical operations. Aside from general education requirements, some programs also have prerequisites such as being certified to perform CPR and being fingerprinted.

While there are different education paths for prospective surgical instrument technicians, the core required courses are similar for both options. Most programs also require students to complete an approved internship or practicum where students will gain hands-on supervised experience. Topics covered may include:

  • Surgical technology theory
  • Medical terminology for allied health sciences
  • Introduction to surgical technology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Surgical procedures
  • Surgical patient care


While certification is not required, most employers prefer candidates that are certified in the field. Certification exams are offered through agencies such as the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist and the National Center for Competency Testing. Technicians need to meet minimum continuing education requirements in order to maintain their certification.

Career Information for Surgical Instrument Technicians

Surgical instrument technicians assist surgeons and nurses during surgical procedures by preparing patients and surgical instruments. Technicians are responsible for sterilizing the operating room before and after surgery, as well as helping other members of the surgical team with tools and equipment. Technicians also assist with patient care by transporting and prepping patients both before and after a procedure.

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the projected growth for surgical technologists, including surgical instrument technicians, is much faster than average at 9% from 2018 to 2028 ( The BLS reported median annual wages of $47,300 in May 2018 for surgical technologists.

Surgical instrument technicians are responsible for preparing the tools and surgical room throughout a surgical procedure, including set up and patient preparation. Certificate and degree programs prepare these technicians for their work with training in sanitation, patient care, and medical terminology, among other topics. Certification is possible by completing an exam and is maintained though ongoing education.

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