The Ultimate Guide to the Surgical Tech / Technologist Career

Becoming a surgical technologist allows you to work with patients in an operating room, but with less medical responsibility and training. You’ll essentially serve as an extra set of hands and eyes in the surgical room, allowing doctors and nurses to concentrate more closely on the specific tasks at hand. This is a great way to get started rather quickly in a health-related career, rather than going through school and participating in internships for over an decade to become a doctor.

Job Duties

As a surgical tech, your job duties will depend on the needs of your healthcare facility and your specific job title. Essentially, though, your job is to ensure that conditions are optimal for surgery and that they remain optimal throughout the procedure. Some of your specific job duties may include:

  • Sterilizing equipment, tools, etc. before the operation starts
  • Checking patient charts, consent forms, and other paperwork
  • Performing counts before an incision is closed to ensure that nothing foreign is left behind
  • Draping a sterile field and preparing the skin
  • Dressing the wound when the surgery is complete
  • Keeping a record of what happens during surgery
  • Ensuring that samples are collected correctly if necessary
  • Helping to position the patient
  • Handing tools to the surgeon during the operation
  • Holding retractors, sponges, suction instruments, or other tools as directed by the surgeon
  • Cleaning the room to prepare for the next patient

At a larger facility, you may have a single specific task, such as sterilizing a room before patients enter. Smaller facilities have surgical techs perform in more comprehensive roles, assisting with a patient’s care from start to finish.


To be successful as a surgical tech, it helps to have the following characteristics:

  • Attention to detail
  • Empathizing with patients
  • Ability to foresee and predict a surgeon’s needs
  • Ability to stay calm under pressure

While you may not be the person holding the knife, the job of a surgical tech is extremely important. Without a surgical tech who performs his or her job well patients can get infections, infectious diseases can be passed on to hospital staff or other patients, sponges and other items can get left behind inside a patients, surgeons can make mistakes because they are trying to do too many tasks at once, and patient samples can be contaminated, providing insufficient and inconclusive results.

Training and Certification

Most employers prefer that you have at least an associate’s degree before you start working as a surgical tech. There are also diploma programs available to students who what to go through shorter programs. You must attend an accredited program to be eligible for certification through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, which is required to work in this field. Additionally, you can participate in more classes to improve your skills and become a first surgical assistant, which is the highest level of work you can do in the operating room.

Work Environment

As a surgical tech, you aren’t just limited to working in a hospital environment. Surgical tech as also needed in dentists’ offices, morgues with organ donation facilities, veterinary hospitals, military bases in combat zones, and private care facilities. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can expect to earn $34,410 to $54,204 in this field

Online Surgical Technician Degree Programs

Ultimate Medical Academy Ultimate Medical Academy — Ultimate Medical Academy offers several online programs in the healthcare industry. These programs include Health Science specializations in Healthcare Technology & Systems and Pharmacy Technician as well as programs designed for administrative rolls in healthcare like Medical Billing and Coding. Students will be prepared to work as technicians in a variety of settings. Click Here
Purdue University Purdue University — Apply for this school's associate degree in Health Sciences: Surgical Technologist to achieve a strong foundation in surgical technology. This course is ideal for a fast and flexible solution to your online degree as you earn an entry-level education that concentrates on helping students acquire knowledge and develop skills in performing laboratory, clinical, and medical office procedures. Purdue also offers degrees in Medical Assisting and Health Science. Click Here

Click here to see more medical diagnostic programs


Fill out this short form below, and we'll help match you to an accredited college program that suits your interests, whether online- or campus-based.