Surgical Technology Career Options and Salary Information

Sep 16, 2019

Surgical technology is generally a certificate program. Continue reading for an overview of these programs, as well as employment outlook and career options for graduates.

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Hospitals require a variety of complex technological instruments to perform surgeries. That's why hospitals hire different types of technologists to assist during surgery, including general surgical technologists and circulating technologists.

Essential Information

There are several career options within the field of surgical technology, based upon the level of training and certification completed. Training programs typically range from 9-24 months and may result in a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. Most surgical technologists work in hospitals; however, other employment options exist at places like insurance companies, operating equipment firms and sterile supply companies.

Career Surgical Technologist Circulating Technologist
Education Requirements Certificate or associate's degree Certificate or associate's degree
Other Requirements Certification sometimes required by state or employer Voluntary certification available
Job Growth* (2018-2028) 9% 9%
Median Salary* (2018) $47,300 $47,300

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Surgical technologists are allied health professionals who work in operating rooms and assist surgeons during surgeries. These professionals must possess expertise in sterile technology and surgical procedures in order to ensure safe, invasive surgical procedures.

Surgical Technologist

Surgical technologists assist surgeons and nurses in surgical procedures and operations. They may be responsible for setting up and handling instruments, preparing and transporting patients for surgeries, checking charts and cleaning up the operating room. Most surgical technologists complete a certificate or associate's degree program in surgical technology. Also known as scrubs, surgical technologists have a deep understanding and knowledge of general surgical procedures and may specialize in specific procedures for advancement.

Certified Surgical Technologist

A certified surgical technologist (CST) has completed additional training past obtaining a certificate, diploma or degree. The main task of a CST is to provide aid in exposure, prevent hemorrhages and meet other technical needs of the surgeon. Surgical technologists can become certified by the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist by passing an exam. Certification candidates must have graduated from a program that is approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs. To maintain this certification, 60 hours of continuing education courses are required over the course of four years. CST's who have completed a minimum of 350 surgical procedures and two years of surgical assistant experience may also take the certification exam to become a certified surgical first assistant.

Circulating Technologist

A circulating technologist is the unsterile member of the surgical team, as they deal mostly with patient care outside of the operating room. For instance, these professionals interview and prepare a patient before surgery, keep a written account of the occurrences during a surgical procedure and answer questions about a patient's history.

Salary Information for Surgical Technologists

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the demand for all types of surgical technologists will increase faster than the average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $69,170 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $32,870 or less per year. The BLS did not differentiate between surgical technologists, certified surgical technologists or circulating technologists in these statistics.

As with most occupations in the medical field, BLS expects faster-than-average growth in positions for surgical technologists in the next ten years. Surgical technologists and circulating technologists both play important roles in caring for surgical patients on and off the operating table.

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