The Starting Wages for a Surgical Assistant

by Rick Suttle

Surgical assistants or technologists, who are also called operating room technicians, sterilize surgical instruments, transport patients to operating rooms, and hand the required instruments to surgeons during operations. They also clean and disinfect patients' incisions after surgical procedures and ensure all medical equipment is working properly. Surgical assistants earn starting salaries of approximately $40,000 annually.

Associate Degree Required

The average starting salary for a surgical assistant was $38,000 as of 2013, according to the job site Indeed. To become a surgical assistant, you need the minimum of an associate degree or post-secondary certificate in surgical technology or applied science. Certificate programs usually range from several months to two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Other important requirements for this job include an attention to detail, physical stamina, dexterity and stress management skills.

Top Pay in New York

In 2013, average starting salaries for surgical assistants varied most significantly in the West region, where they earned the lowest starting salaries of $24,000 in Hawaii and the highest of $41,000 in California. If you were a surgical assistant in Maine or New York, you'd earn an average of $32,000 or $46,000, respectively -- the lowest and highest starting salaries in the Northeast. In the South region, you'd make $32,000 to $46,000 in Louisiana or Washington, D.C., respectively. Starting salaries for surgical assistants in the Midwest ranged from $28,000 to $41,000, with the lowest ones in Nebraska and South Dakota and the highest in Illinois.

Top Salaries Over $60,000

While surgical assistants earned starting salaries of $38,000 in 2013, according to Indeed, the BLS reported an average salary of $43,480 for surgical technologists as of May 2012. The top 10 percent made more than $60,240 annually. In 2013, Indeed reported an average salary of $46,000 for surgical technologists -- $8,000 more than the average starting salary.

Average Job Growth

The BLS forecasts a 19 percent increase in jobs for surgical technologists between 2010 and 2020, which is statistically about average compared to the 14 percent national rate for all jobs. The BLS cites increasing populations among the elderly and more surgical procedures as the primary reasons why demand for surgical technologists will increase. Hospitals and outpatient centers also need more surgical assistants to keep up with advances in technology.

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