California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Surgical Technologists in California

May also be called: Certified Surgical Technologists; Scrub Technicians; Surgery Technicians; Surgical Technicians

What Would I Do?

Surgical Technologists are allied health professionals and essential members of the surgical team. Working under the supervision of a surgeon, they provide surgical care to patients ensuring that invasive surgical procedures are being carried out safely and effectively. Technologists make sure the operating room environment is safe and that equipment is working properly. They also make sure that surgical procedures are performed under conditions that maximize patient safety.

Surgical Technologists possess expertise in the theory and application of sterile technique. Therefore, during the entire surgical procedure, they ensure the operating room staff is aware of any breaks in sterile technique in order to prevent a surgical site infection.

Before an operation, Technologists help prepare the operating room by checking supplies and equipment needed for the surgical procedure. They make sure sterile scrubs, gowns, gloves, and linens are in supply and assist the surgeon and surgical assistant with putting on their gowns and gloves. They also set up a sterile table and electrosurgical unit stand (Mayo stand) with surgical instruments, supplies, equipment, and medications that are needed for the surgery. Technologists may move the sterile table, Mayo stand, and other sterilely draped equipment and supplies into place. They may also drape sterile linens over the patient to prevent exposure.

During surgery, Surgical Technologists listen to and anticipate the needs of the surgeon and provide the necessary items in order of need. They pass instruments and other sterile supplies to the surgeon and surgical assistant as well as hold retractors, cut sutures, and count sponges, needles (sharps), and other surgical instruments with the circulating nurse.

After an operation, Surgical Technologists help prepare and apply sterile dressings or bandages on the patient. They maintain a sterile field (the germ-free area surrounding the patient) until the patient is transported out of the operating room. Then they break down the sterile field by preparing the instruments and equipment for transport to the decontamination room and assisting team members in cleaning and preparing the operating room for the next procedure.

Some of the surgical tools used by the surgeon and prepared by the Surgical Technologist include electrosurgical equipment; stapling devices; surgical lasers; and power equipment such as saws, drills, suction units, surgical robots, and endoscopic equipment. They also enter data into computer databases and use computer software for supply documentation and surgery communication.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Maintain a proper sterile field during surgical procedures.Medicine and Dentistry
Count sponges, needles, and instruments before and after operation.Number Facility
Hand instruments and supplies to surgeons and surgeons' assistants, hold retractors and cut sutures, and perform other tasks as directed by surgeon during operation.Manual Dexterity
Prepare patients for surgery, including positioning patients on the operating table and covering them with sterile surgical drapes to prevent exposure.Customer and Personal Service
Scrub arms and hands and assist the surgical team to scrub and put on gloves, masks, and surgical clothing.Service Orientation
Monitor and continually assess operating room conditions, including patient and surgical team needs.Monitoring
Prepare dressings or bandages and apply or assist with their application following surgery.Arm-Hand Steadiness
Operate, assemble, adjust, or monitor sterilizers, lights, suction machines, and diagnostic equipment to ensure proper operation.Operation Monitoring
Clean and restock operating room, gathering and placing equipment and supplies and arranging instruments according to instructions, such as a preference card.Coordination
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Surgical Technologists work in the operating rooms of hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and surgeon's offices. Their work environment is generally sterile, well lit, cool, and well ventilated.

The operating room can be stressful, especially during emergency operations. Surgical Technologists often stand for long periods of time and must remain alert and attentive during operations. Unpleasant sights, odors, and materials are part of the surgery environment, as well as the risk of exposure to communicable diseases without proper safety precautions.

Most Surgical Technologists work a regular 40-hour week, although they may be on-call or work nights, weekends, and holidays on a rotating basis. In addition, they may be required to work a variety of shifts, as operations may be conducted at any time of the day or night.

Surgical Technologists may belong to organizations such as the Association of Surgical Technologists.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Surgical Technologist may appeal to those who enjoy activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often work with materials, tools, and machinery and must pay close attention to detail.

Surgical Technologists need manual dexterity to handle instruments quickly. They also must be conscientious, orderly, and emotionally stable to handle the demands of the operating room environment. Technologists must be good listeners, respond quickly, and be familiar with operating procedures in order to have instruments ready for surgeons.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

The earnings for Surgical Technologists vary widely by employer, level of education, and experience. Additional pay is generally given to those who work on-call or overtime hours. In addition, shift differentials may be paid to those who work evening or overnight shifts. Surgical Technologists who privately work for surgeons or employment service firms generally receive higher salaries.


The median wage in 2022 for Surgical Technologists in California is $76,715 annually, or $36.88 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2022Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2022 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Some employers also provide tuition reimbursement and child care benefits.

What is the Job Outlook?

Employment growth is expected for Surgical Technologists, mainly because the number of surgical procedures is expected to rise as the population grows and ages. Older people, including the baby boom generation, who generally require more surgical procedures, will account for a larger portion of the general population. In addition, technological advances, such as fiber optics and laser technology, will permit an increasing number of new surgical procedures to be performed and will also allow Surgical Technologists to assist with a greater number of procedures.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Surgical Technologists is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Surgical Technologists are expected to increase by 13.3 percent, or 1,300 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Surgical Technologists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Surgical Technologists must possess a high school diploma (or equivalent) and complete an accredited surgical technology training program. In California, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accredits surgical technology programs offered by community colleges, vocational schools, universities, hospitals, and the military. Training programs typically last from 12 to 24 months and lead to a certificate, diploma, or associate degree.

Many employers require candidates to hold a certificate in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). A background check and fingerprint clearance may be required by employers as well.


Many employers prefer candidates to have at least one year of experience working in a hospital setting.

Early Career Planning

Recommended high school courses include health, biology, chemistry, and mathematics.

Work Study Programs

California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for Surgical Technologists. One such program is titled Surgical Technology. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

Surgical Technologists are expected to keep abreast of new developments in the field, therefore, continuing education is recommended. In addition, continuing education (or re-examination) is often required to maintain certifications.


Most employers prefer to hire Technologists who are certified. In addition, professional certification can help in getting jobs and promotions. Technologists may obtain professional certification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) by graduating from a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited program and passing a national certification examination. They may then use the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. In order to maintain certification, Certified Surgical Technologists must earn 60 hours of approved continuing education over a four-year period or retake and pass the certifying exam at the end of the four-year period.

Certification may also be obtained from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). To qualify to take the exam, candidates follow one of three paths: complete a CAAHEP or ABHES accredited training program, undergo a two-year hospital on-the-job training program, or acquire seven years of experience working in the field. After passing the exam, individuals may use the designation Tech in Surgery-Certified, TS-C (NCCT). This certification must be renewed every five years through either continuing education or re-examination. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Surgical Technologists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals69.7%
Outpatient Care Centers17.2%
Offices of Physicians8.7%
Offices of Dentists1.6%
Employment Services1.2%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Surgical Technologists can also register with their school's career center for job leads. Professional associations may list job openings on their Web sites. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet also provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Surgical Technologists.

  • Children's Hospitals
  • Emergency Care Facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Medical Centers
  • Medical Clinics
  • Physicians & Surgeons
  • Surgery Centers

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Technologists advance by specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or open heart surgery. With additional training, some Technologists advance to Surgical First Assistants.

Surgical Technologists may manage central supply departments in hospitals, or take positions with insurance companies, sterile supply services, and operating equipment firms. They can also advance to Assistant Operating Room Supervisors or Assistant Operating Room Administrators with a bachelor's degree in business or health administration.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Surgical Technologists with links to more information.

Dental AssistantsGuide
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational NursesGuide
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechniciansGuide
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsGuide
Medical AssistantsGuide
Radiologic Technologists and Technicians*Guide
Respiratory TherapistsGuide
Veterinary Technologists and TechniciansGuide

Other Sources

  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
  • Association of Surgical Technologists
  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  • The Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-2055
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Surgical Technologists29-2055.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)RSC
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Surgical Technology/Technologist 510909
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Surgical Technician121700