Surgical Tech: Job Description, Requirements, and Outlook

HealthcareSeptember 29, 2023

If you’ve ever wanted to work in an operating room, becoming a surgical technologist may be for you. This is a way to work side-by-side with surgeons without having to go to four years or more of college.

Surgical technologists, which in some states may also be called operating room technicians, prepare operating rooms, arrange equipment, and help doctors and first assistants during surgeries. To fulfill the surgical tech job description, these healthcare professionals need to be knowledgeable in medical terminology, understand surgical techniques, and efficiently provide an extra set of hands before, during, and after a surgery.

Surgical technologists need to complete an accredited postsecondary program before entering the workforce. Surg tech education programs, such as an associate degree program, can take two years or less to complete. Beyond formal training, techs may pursue professional certification to highlight their skills and knowledge. Employers may prefer certified candidates, and some states require it. With advanced education and certification, there’s also the potential for a higher compensation or salary as a surgical technologist.

Surgical Tech Job Description

Surgical technologists are part of the surgical care team in an operating room. Their expertise lies in preparing the surgical area with the required medical supplies and tools so doctors, registered nurses, and other assistants have what they need to perform elective and non-elective surgeries. A large part of the surgical tech job description involves anticipating the needs of operating room medical staff and maintaining a sterile work environment.

Typical Work Environments

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority (72%) of surgical technologists work in hospitals. The remaining professionals typically find employment in doctor’s offices, outpatient care centers, and administrative support services. It’s common for surg techs to be on their feet most of the day. Additionally, they may be asked to work holidays and weekends and be on-call. 

Key Responsibilities

Before a surgery, surgical technologists sterilize equipment, count instruments, stock supplies, and ensure all tools are functioning correctly. They may be asked to transport patients to the operating room and position them on the operating table. 

When surgery begins, surgical techs ‘scrub in,’ and are tasked with handling and passing sterile surgical tools when asked. They might also cover patients with drapes, disinfect incision sites, set up equipment, hold organs in place, and label specimens. 

After the surgery, technologists may perform wound care, such as bandaging and dressing incisions. They’ll also transport patients to the recovery area and restock the operating room. 

Surgical Tech Skill Requirements

Surgical technologists play a crucial role in assisting surgeons and other healthcare workers in an operating room. One of the ways to be successful in this career is to gain and apply a set of fundamental skills such as the following:

  • Communication: Surgical technologists must be able to clearly express themselves and listen to team members to maintain safety in the operating room.
  • Problem-solving: When a challenge arises, technologists will be called upon to react quickly and efficiently while working in a high-stress environment.
  • Attention to detail: Surgical techs need to pay close attention to the layout and functionality of an operating room. Physicians rely on staff such as surgical technologists to pass the correct surgical instruments and set up surgical areas to maximize efficiency.
  • Manual dexterity: Surg techs need excellent hand-eye coordination to hold and distribute surgical tools in a fast-paced operating room.
  • Teamwork: Completing successful surgeries is a group effort, so techs should be comfortable working alongside others during standard procedures and in emergency situations.
  • Empathy: Having compassion can help comfort patients and their families before and after a surgical procedure.

Surgical Tech Job Growth and Employment Outlook

According to the BLS, job growth for surgical technologists is projected to be 6% from 2021 to 2031. This rise in employment is attributed to surgical advancements and increased demand for surgeries among the expanding population of older adults.  

The BLS reports that as of May 2022, a surgical tech salary can vary according to several factors. These include the region and location of the job, the type of employer, a candidate’s education level, any certifications that are held, the type of industry, and a candidate’s years of experience. For example, techs working in outpatient care centers and specialty hospitals in 2022 earned slightly higher salaries than those working in physician’s offices and general hospitals, according to the BLS.

Compensation may also be dependent on surgical specialization. August 2023 data from Payscale shows that bariatrics, podiatry, and robotics specialties could pay more compared to surgical techs who work in more general surgical areas.

Start Your Surgical Tech Career With an Associate Degree From Fortis 

If you’re interested in a career in medical technology, consider a role as a surgical technologist. The Fortis surgical technology associate degree program can be completed in as little as 21 months or 72 weeks. Choose from campuses in Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

You’ll have the opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of surgical procedures, medical instruments, and the technical skills needed to work in an operating room. The curriculum focuses on preparing you to work alongside surgeons and nurses by following ethical and professional standards. 

Discover more about the surgical tech job description and how the Surgical Technology program at Fortis can prepare you for this career.

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Administration of Children and Families, Surgical Tech Career Pathway
Monster Jobs, Surgical Technologist Job Description TemplatePayscale, Average Surgical Technologist Hourly Pay
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Surgical Assistants and Technologists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Surgical Technologists
U.S. News & World Report, Surgical Technologist OverviewWebMD, What is a Surgical Technologist?