Surgical technicians, also called surgical technologists or scrubs, assist physicians and nurses in the operating room. As crucial members of the surgical team, they prepare patients for surgery, sterilize equipment, and hand instruments to doctors and nurses. Training typically takes between nine months and two years and leads to a certificate or an associate degree. Among other benefits, a career as a surgical tech offers a competitive salary and a favorable job outlook.
The average hourly wage for a surgical tech was $20.91 per hour or $43,480 annually full time in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median income, meaning half earned more, was $20,09 per hour or $41,790 per year. The lowest-earning 10 percent received $29,710 per year or less, while the top 10 percent earned $60,240 annually or more. By way of comparison, the average annual income with any associate degree was $40,820 in 2012 and $37,804 with some college but no degree.
More than 95 percent of 97,150 surgical techs nationwide worked in five industries in 2012, according to the BLS. The highest-paying among these major industries was employment services, where wages averaged $48,340 annually. Dentists' offices were the lowest-paying in this group, paying $40,460 per year on average. Among the other major industries, outpatient centers paid an average yearly pay of $45,560, while doctors' offices paid an average of $45,500. Hospitals, which were the largest employer of all, had 67,230 technicians and paid average wages of $42,700 per year.
Pay by State
In the five states with the most jobs for surgical techs in 2012, annual pay ranged from $54,750 in California to $38,720 in Florida, reports the BLS. Other states with large employment were New York, where average wages were $46,640 per year, and Texas, where pay averaged $42,940. In Ohio, annual wages averaged $41,510, the lowest in this group. California had the average highest pay among the 50 states, but wages in Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii also exceeded $53,000 per year on average.
The majority of full-time surgical techs qualify for sick leave, vacation pay and insurance benefits, including medical, dental and vision insurance, according to the Career Cornerstone Center. Life insurance is another common perk, and some employers provide child care or tuition reimbursement. According to the BLS, most surgical technicians work full time.
The BLS predicts a 19 percent increase in jobs for surgical technicians in the decade up to 2020, compared to 14 percent for the average of all jobs. Surgical techs can strengthen their job prospects by passing exams for certification from a national organization, such as the National Center for Competency Testing or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. A surgical tech can also advance to surgical assistant or registered nurse by completing more training.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Surgical Technologists
- Career Cornerstone Center: Surgical Technologist Overview
- Explore Health Careers: Surgical Technologist
- Mayo School of Health Sciences: Surgical Technology
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012: Surgical Technologists
- Surgical Assistant Resource: Surgical Technology FAQ
- Jochen Sands/Digital Vision/Getty Images