Surgical Tech Advancement Opportunities

Surgical technologists play a critical role in assisting the surgeon during patient operations. After working as a surgical tech, some professionals may wish to explore other opportunities in surgery.

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Career Growth Opportunities for Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists play a crucial role in the operating room. They get the surgical room ready for operations, assist the physicians, and maintain a sterile environment. Surgical techs are able to enter the field with a training program after high school. After working in the field, they may wish to advance to other positions within the operating room. Some options are presented below.

Job Title Median Salary Job Growth (2016-2026)* Education or Experience
Surgical Assistant $55,586 (2018)** 12% (surgical technologists) Post-secondary certificate or experience as a surgical technologist
Perfusionist $111,459 (2018)** 13% (health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other) Accredited cardiovascular perfusion education program
Nurse Anesthetist $165,120 (2017)* 16% Master's degree
Surgeon $251,890 (2017)* 14% Medical degree and residency

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **PayScale

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Career Information

Surgical Assistant

Surgical technologists who enjoy their work and wish to undertake more responsibility may wish to become a surgical assistant. Surgical assistants work under the direct supervision of the surgeon. Before surgery, the surgical assistant works to properly position the patient. They may then help with anesthesia procedures. During surgery, the surgical assistant works directly to aid the surgeon by undertaking such tasks as removing tissues, securing devices, and closing the surgical site. After the surgery, the surgical assistant helps in transferring the patient. To become a surgical assistant, one must graduate from a program offering a certificate in surgical assisting. These programs typically take 12-24 months. Upon graduation, the potential surgical assistant must sit for the Certified Surgical First Assistant exam.


Surgical technologists who are hoping to take on highly specialized roles within the operating room may consider the role of a perfusionist. These professionals specialize in operating a machine that simulates the functions of the heart and lungs during open-heart surgeries. The perfusionist must also administer the medication that stops the heart during the surgery and works closely with cardiovascular surgeons and other medical professionals. To become a perfusionist, candidates might achieve a bachelor's degree, post-graduate certificate or master's degree in cardiac perfusion. They must then take the examination offered by the American Board of Cardiac Perfusion.

Nurse Anesthetist

Surgical technologists are familiar with the procedures behind the administration of anesthesia for surgery, and some may wish to undertake further education to become a nurse anesthetist. Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses who provide care related to anesthesia during surgery. Depending on the type of procedure, they may administer general or local anesthesia and might make adjustments to the anesthesia during the course of surgery. To become a nurse anesthetist, one must first become a registered nurse, have one year of clinical experience, and then seek to enter a master's degree program to become a nurse anesthetist. Certification is required by most states.


Surgical technologists who truly wish to be able to offer advanced care in the operating room might consider undergoing extensive education to seek to become a surgeon. Surgeons use surgical tools to treat injuries and diseases. They must be highly familiar with the patient's health history and plan of treatment. Becoming a surgeon is a long journey. One must first obtain a bachelor's degree and then apply to and attend medical school. After medical school, a residency, typically five years, is required.

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