Interested in a healthcare career path that doesn’t require a four-year degree? If you’re a person who’s known for close attention to detail and you have a strong interest in surgery, consider enrolling in surgical technologist school. Surgical technologists support surgeons, nurses and other medical personnel during surgical procedures. They also play an important role in preventing infections during and after surgery.
Altierus Career College offers a 24-month Associate of Science in Surgical Technology at our Norcross, Georgia and Houston, Texas campuses. Combining online coursework with in-person lab instruction and clinical rotations, it teaches the knowledge, skills and professional behavior employers look for in entry-level surgical techs.
This FAQ page answers questions about surgical tech programs, what surgical techs do, and the surgical tech career outlook. We hope it answers your questions about how you can get started on the path to an exciting and essential career in this field!
What Does a Surgical Tech Do?
What are the duties of a surgical technologist?
Surgical technologists are part of the healthcare teams that complete surgical procedures. They support surgeons, registered nurses (RNs), anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals before, during and after surgical procedures.
Surgical techs also play a key role in preventing infection in patients.
Their specific duties can include:
- Helping to prepare patients for surgery—for example, by washing or disinfecting the surgical site, positioning patients on the operating table, and placing surgical drapes around the incision area
- Preparing instrument trays and inspecting equipment for cleanliness and functionality
- Helping other members of the surgical team “scrub in” and put on sterile surgical gowns and masks
- Counting and documenting supplies used during the surgery before and after the procedure to ensure no foreign objects are left in the patient
- Passing instruments and supplies to surgeons and nurses during the procedure
- Positioning lights, diagnostic machinery, IV stands, and other equipment during the procedure
- Preparing reusable instruments for cleaning and sterilization
- Cleaning and restocking the operating room post-procedure
You can learn more about the duties of surgical technologists in our articles, “A Day in the Life of a Surgical Technologist” and “What Do Surgical Technologists Do in the OR?”
Where do surgical technologists work?
The vast majority of surgical techs work in hospitals, although some outpatient clinics, doctors and dentists also employ them. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the largest employers of surgical techs in 2019 were as follows:
- Hospitals; state, local, and private—73% of jobs
- Outpatient care centers—10%
- Doctors’ offices—10%
- Dental offices—3%
Is a surgical technologist the same as a surgical nurse?
No. Surgical nurses are RNs who have specialized in caring for patients during surgeries. They are licensed as nurses by the state in which they practice and hold either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
You can learn more about the differences between surgical techs and surgical nurses in our article, “Surgeon, Surgical Technologist, Surgical Nurse: What’s the Difference?”
How to Become a Surgical Technologist
What do you need to know before starting surgical technologist school?
Applicants to our surgical technologist program need to have a high school diploma or a GED and be at least 18 years of age by the time they graduate. While we don’t require applicants to have taken specific courses, it can help if you are someone who enjoyed and did well in science and math courses.
The surgical tech role is also a very physical one. It requires both strength to move equipment and patients and fine motor skills to help with suturing (stitching up wounds) and positioning or adjusting delicate instruments. You will need to be able to meet these physical requirements if you want to successfully train to become a surgical tech.
How long does it take to become a surgical technologist?
About two to three years, depending on how long it takes you to complete your degree and pass a certification exam (if you are taking one—they’re optional in many states, but employers often prefer candidates who have certification).
Our surgical technology associate degree takes two years of full-time study to complete. Graduates who go on to pursue certification as a surgical technologist may need a few additional months to take their exams. This will vary according to the testing schedule set by the certification board.
Can you become a surgical technologist without going to school?
No. Surgical procedures are complicated, and the supporting role a surgical technologist plays requires specialized knowledge, hands-on skills practice in a lab setting and supervised clinical training.
What can you learn in surgical technologist school?
Our surgical tech degree program aims to help you develop across three areas:
- Knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology, and principles of surgical practice
- Practical and clinical skills needed to carry out the duties of a surgical tech before, during and after procedures
- Professional behavior necessary to make positive contributions to healthcare teams and maintain patient safety
The structure of our program reflects this three-part requirement.
Online coursework offers our students the opportunity to develop essential knowledge of microbiology, human anatomy, surgical tools and procedures, and more in a flexible virtual format.
In-person lab classes bring students into our mock OR, where they can practice their skills using real surgical equipment, such as laparoscopy towers, patient monitoring equipment, specialty surgical instruments, and more.
Finally, supervised clinical rotations let surgical tech students gain direct experience performing their duties in a hospital or other healthcare setting. Students complete at least 120 different surgical cases as part of their clinicals with us.
Do surgical technologists need certifications?
Most states do not license or regulate surgical technologists, so certification is not mandatory to practice. However, obtaining certification can help you stand out in the job market after you graduate. Two of the most well-known certification programs include:
- The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting
- Tech in Surgery – Certified (TS-C NCCT) exam from the National Center for Competency Testing
Please note: these and other certification exams are controlled by outside organizations, so we cannot guarantee graduates of our programs will be eligible to take these certification exams.
Why Go to Surgical Technologist School?
Is going to surgical technologist school worth it?
Absolutely. If you’re a detail-oriented person, interested in surgery, and want to make a difference every single day, you might have what it takes to succeed as a surgical technologist.
You’re also entering a career field that’s projected to experience job growth. The BLS projects that job opportunities for surgical technologists will rise by 7% over the 2019–2029 period, adding up to 7,600 job openings nationwide.
As the baby boom generation continues to age, they will seek more healthcare, including surgeries. As surgical techniques advance, more procedures will be available to patients—procedures that can help improve or even save lives.
How much does a surgical tech make?
Nationwide, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for surgical technologists was $49,710 in May 2020. The bottom 10% of surgical techs earned less than $34,120, while the top 10% of earners made more than $73,110.
Salaries vary according to the employer and the local market. Altierus offers its surgical technologist degree program in Georgia and Texas. In 2020, salaries in those states were:
What Surgical Technologists Make in Georgia
- Median: $46,800
- Bottom 10%: $33,750 or less
- Top 10%: $64,130 or more
What Surgical Technologists Make in Texas
- Median: $49,120
- Bottom 10%: $33,430 or less
- Top 10%: $37,340 or more
Learn More About Our Surgical Technologist School
Contact Altierus Career College today to learn more about our Associate of Science in Surgical Technology program!
KW: surgical technologist school
Title: Should You Go to Surgical Technologist School?
Description: Is surgical technologist school the right choice for you? We answer questions about what surgical techs do and how to get on the path to a career.