Surgical Technologist Salary - How Much Do Surgical Techs Make?

Surgical technology is one of many career paths available in the allied healthcare sector, which includes numerous occupations, ranging from dental assistants to coding specialists. Why consider this occupation? Perhaps for its excitement and the opportunities to work with advanced healthcare professionals. Surgical technologists (STs), sometimes referred to as scrubs, are actually an integral part of a surgical team in an operating room. This team also includes surgeons, anesthesiologists and registered nurses, The Mayo Clinic reports. With tasks that vary from preparing operating rooms to handing tools and instruments to surgical assistants and surgeons, the occupation may be a way for individuals to find an exciting career without having to undergo years of training and education. In fact, most surgical technologist programs take just two years or less to complete.

Nearly 75 percent of surgical technologists are employed in hospitals, according to The Mayo Clinic. This may provide them with opportunities to work atypical or unique schedules, such as swing or graveyard shifts or even to do 10-hour shifts. Some surgical technologists also become private scrubs, meaning that they work with surgeons and specific teams to accomplish certain purposes, such as doing organ transplants, according to The Mayo Clinic.

Career Outlook for Surgical Technologists

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that job demand for surgical technologists should be 30 percent, much faster than average, from 2012 to 2022, potentially leading to the creation of 29,300 new positions. As of 2012, 98,500 people were employed as surgical technologists in the U.S., but if the BLS’ predictions hold true, this could reach 127,800 by 2022. Factors for this potential job growth include:

  • An increase in the Baby Boomer population creating a greater need for surgical technologists since the elderly often require more operations.

  • An increased willingness of this aging population (compared to those of generations past) to utilize surgery to maintain a desired quality of life.

  • That surgical technologists are less expensive to hire to work in an operating room compared to registered nurses.

  • That advances in technology have occurred in the 21st-century, making surgical operations safer than they were in the past.

There are also various areas of specialization available to surgical technologists. According to the Florida Area Health Education Centers (FLAHEC) Network, these include neurosurgery, open-heart surgery, organ transplantation, orthopedic surgery and plastic surgery. Obstetrics can also be an option. Some surgical technologists might advance to become a surgical first assistant, which are people who work directly with surgeons. An educational program or training on the job can allow surgical technologists to advance to this occupation. Others may go on to become RNs, or, as FLAHEC reports, to pursue employment with surgical supply companies, to work in inventory control management or to become a surgical nurse. Still another option may be to go to work for an insurance company.

Surgical Technologist Salary

According to May 2013 data from the BLS, the median salary for the surgical technologist occupation was $42,720. This means that 50 percent of workers made salaries above this amount and 50 percent earned less than this amount. However, those in the top 10 percent earned as much as $61,300 while those in the lowest 10 percent earned as little as $30,450, BLS data shows. While this can provide you with an idea about potential surgical tech salary, be aware that other factors can come into play, including time on the job, certification achieved, job location, or even additional education. provides very similar information about surgical tech pay. It reports that median pay, as of December 2014, was $41,716. Those in the upper 25 percent earned as much as $46,308 while those in the upper 10 percent earned as much as $50,488. Those in the lower 25 earned as little as $37,655 while those in the lowest 10 percent earned as little $33,957.’s information is a little more recent that the BLS, but both the BLS and provide information about existing surgical tech pay ranges. According to the BLS, the top five paying states for surgical technologists are:

  • California: $57,790

  • Hawaii: $55,740

  • Nevada $54,590

  • Connecticut: $53,950

  • Alaska: $52,730

However, this pay in these states is based on mean pay, or average pay, which can sometimes be higher (or lower) than median pay, given salary outliers. Also, some of these states have above average costs of living. The BLS reports the mean surgical technologist salary, as of May 2013, was $44,420. Another website,, reports the median hourly pay for the occupation, as of September 2014, as $17, but also ranging anywhere from $13.53 to $24.75. This is somewhat lower than what the BLS reports as an hourly median pay of $20.54. However, shows that other factors can impact total pay, including overtime, bonuses and profit sharing. In fact, it reports the yearly surgical tech salary as falling between $28,391 and $53,818 with these considerations factored in. It also reports that neuroscience, neurosurgery, open heart and vascular skills can affect pay for the job and that most people move onto other positions after approximately 20 years.

Job Requirements for Surgical Technologists

A wide range of postsecondary programs are available to help train students to enter the surgical technologist occupation. According to the BLS, these programs range in length from several months to two years and can lead to a diploma, certificate or associate degree. While in school, students learn about a variety of subjects, ranging from anatomy to biology and medical terminology and pharmacology, according to the BLS. They also learn about patient care and safety, sterilization, and setting up technical and robotic equipment. Clinical experiences, providing students with hands-on supervised opportunities, also comprise part of the surgical technology program. Individuals interested in the occupation may want to look for programs accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools, which in total accredited about 500 programs as of 2012. Accreditation may be important in continuing education or seeking accreditation.

Finally, graduates may want to seek certification either through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Certification through the NBSTSA allows surgical technologists to use the title Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) while certification through the NCCT allows them to use the title Tech in Surgery-Certified (NCCT). Candidates typically need to pass an exam to gain certification and have education through a postsecondary institution or the military. Some surgical technologists may go on to become registered nurses, or even to work as educators or operating room managers, according to the BLS. Certification can also be helpful to finding employment, reports the BLS.

Top Employers of Surgical Technologists

Most surgical technologists work in hospitals, while others work in outpatient care centers or in the offices of doctors who do outpatient surgery, according to the BLS. While certification is not required, FLAHEC reports that most hospitals require surgical technologists to be certified. Individuals seeking employment in hospitals may be required to work evenings, weekends, or on holidays. Basic job searches show that there are many niche opportunities available for surgical technologists, including employment in the ophthalmic medical services, orthopedics, and even sales. Sometimes employers have hiring guidelines, such as requiring applicants to be graduates of an accredited postsecondary program, to have certification, to be CPR certified or to have a certain number years of previous experience. Additionally, some employers may offer a wide range of benefits, not limited to just dental and medical insurance but also including the availability of retirement plans, tuition reimbursement or even relocation assistance.