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What Is the Average Surgical Tech Salary? And Your Other Career Questions Answered

Surgical tech salary

Have you ever watched Grey’s Anatomy—or even better, those shows that document real-life surgeries—and wondered what it would be like to work in an operating room? While having a front-and-center view to surgery might not be for everyone, a career as a surgical technologist could be an excellent option for someone looking for a fulfilling and fascinating healthcare career.

Surgical technologists are healthcare professionals crucial to life-saving operations and surgeries. Though not everyone can be Meredith Grey, you can begin your own career doing what’s right for your patients and yourself.

As you begin to research this possible career path, you may have a list of questions that need answering: How much do surgical techs make on average? What do surgical techs do? What can I expect for the surgical tech job market? You’ve been looking for answers, and we’ve got them.

What is the average surgical technologist salary?

One of the first questions that may come to your mind is how much a surgical technologist earns. It’s important to consider if the job you love is one that can support your family. Whether or not a surgical tech salary can do that will depend on your personal situation, but the average salary does stack up well when compared to all positions nationwide.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the 2017 median salary for a surgical technologist was $45,160. This is above the reported national average of $37,040 for all occupations, and even sits higher than other health technologist jobs.1

What do surgical technologists do?

While surgical technicians aren’t often featured prominently in TV shows, they are vital to a successful surgery. They work to assist surgeons by preparing the operating room before surgery, sterilizing equipment, passing instruments and tools during surgery and ensuring that the correct number of supplies are available before and after surgery—a small but very important task—just ask anyone stuck dealing with the complications of a retained surgical item.

Surgical technologists may not perform surgical work such as creating incisions, but they’re definitely in the thick of things as they can help surgeons by holding retractors or internal organs in place. Once surgery is over, surgical techs may dress the incision with bandages. They also work before surgery with patients, transporting them to the operating room and cleaning or disinfecting the incision site.

Where do surgical technologists work?

You may be familiar with the hospital operating room on television, but you may not know where else surgical technologists work. According to the BLS, surgical technologists can be found in a range of settings including physician offices, outpatient care centers and even in dental offices. The majority of surgical techs do work in hospitals—about 71 percent of them—but do not discount these other settings.1

Many routine and same-day surgeries are moving to outpatient care centers. This reduces costs for hospitals and lets patients go home the same day so they can be more comfortable in their recovery. Surgical technologists will be needed in these centers as they grow in popularity.

What skills do surgical techs need?

We used real-time job posting analysis software to take a closer at 35,295 job postings for surgical technologists and learn what skills employers are actively seeking.2 Among the top soft skills are communication, organization, planning and critical thinking.

The top specialized skills include knowledge of surgery, surgical technology, patient care, aseptic technique, life support and cleaning and sterilization techniques.

Don’t worry if this list sounds intimidating. Soft skills can be sharpened over time, and all the specialized skills are taught in a Surgical Technologist program. Once you finish school, you will be equipped with the knowledge and skill set needed to succeed in this field.

The skills listed in job postings only tells part of the story—there are several traits and abilities needed to be a great surgical tech. A strong stomach, ability to keep cool under pressure and adapt on the fly are all definite plusses.

How do you become a surgical technologist?

Now that you know all the details of the job, you may be considering becoming one. But how do you become a surgical technologist? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you will need an education beyond high school—a postsecondary non-degree award or a Surgical Technologist Associate’s degree are two common options.1

Surgical technologist associate’s programs range in length, with some lasting as few as 21 months.3 This is not a bad turnaround time considering the number of healthcare jobs that require a Bachelor’s degree and beyond. In an Associate’s degree program, you learn important subjects such as anatomy, biology and medical terminology as well as learn sterilization methods, how to set up surgical equipment and how to prevent infections. Degree programs also include a hands-on clinical component for experience.

What is the job outlook for surgical technologists?

You know now the importance of surgical technologists within the healthcare system, and you may be seriously considering this field as your future career. However, you should also know whether the field of your choice is stable enough to support you long-term.

The BLS estimates that employment of surgical technologists will grow 12 percent through 2026. This is faster than the average of all occupations in the country, as the aging population will cause an increase in healthcare services, including the surgical sector.1 While obviously things can change, these longer-term employment growth projections show a steady field.

Could you be a surgical technologist?

If you are fascinated with the intricate field of surgery and want to join a rewarding healthcare career, then you could be a surgical technologist. The route to becoming a surgical technologist may not always be easy, but the relatively short educational path for this fulfilling career can help balance out some of that challenge.

Looking for more details about the life of a surgical technologist and what the role is really like?  Check out our article, “Surgical Technologist Duties: A Day in the Life,” for an in-depth look at what this job entails.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed May 5, 2018] Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary. (Analysis of 35,292 surgical technologist job postings, Apr. 01, 2017 – Mar. 31, 2018).
3Time to completion is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.

Anna Heinrich

Anna is a Copywriter at Collegis Education who researches and writes student-focused content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She believes the power of the written word can help educate and assist students on their way to a rewarding education. 

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