Surgical Tech Salary Guide

LearnHowToBecome Team
Lyss Welding
July 20, 2021

Are you considering going into the medical field but aren't sure you want to devote the many years to schooling that's often required? Becoming a surgical technologist is a great way to get into healthcare and earn a good salary, all earning a bachelor's degree.

These professionals work in operating rooms and other medical settings, preparing the rooms and helping surgeons throughout surgeries. Keep reading to learn how much you can earn as a surgical technologist and how to become one.

How Much Does a Surgical Tech Make in the United States?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a surgical technologist is $49,710. The bottom 10% of professionals in the field earn less than $34,120, while the top 10% earn more than $73,110.

But how does this compare to other careers?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary across all occupations is just $41,620. However, surgical technologists, on average, earn less than all professions — $51,510 versus $56,310, respectively.

One of the benefits of becoming a surgical tech is the return on your investment on the path to becoming one. This job is a vocational career, meaning you don't need a bachelor's degree. Instead, you can become a surgical tech with just a certificate or associate degree.

Salary Changes Throughout the Career Path

While the average annual salary for surgical technologists is $51,510, the amount you'll earn also depends on where you are in your career. Once you get further into your career and start increasing your salary, you may eventually work your way up to the top 10th percentile, which is over $70,000 a year.

Your salary as a surgical technologist also depends on the setting in which you work, not just where in your career you are. Here are the average surgical tech salaries by industry:

Higher education settings
Outpatient care centers
Specialty Hospitals
Physicians' offices
Dentists' offices

Pay Difference By Location


Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Opportunities and Job Growth

The BLS projects employment for surgical technologists to grow rapidly over the next decade, which is good news if you're considering entering the field. From 2019 to 2019, the BLS projects the field will increase by 7,600 jobs, for a total growth of 7%. This growth is partially due to the aging baby boomer generation and its increasing need for medical care.

States with the highest rate of employment for surgical techs are:

The metropolitan areas with the highest rates of employment for surgical techs are:

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Other Benefits of Becoming a Surgical Tech

The pay and rapid job growth aren't the only reasons to become a surgical technologist. There are plenty of other benefits to entering this field.

Minimal Education Requirements

First, it’s fairly easy to enter the surgical tech field.

Employers typically require a certificate or associate degree, which you can earn from an accredited surgical technology program at a community college or vocational school. You can complete these programs in as little as several months or as many as two years.

Jobs Opportunities Everywhere

Geography won’t limit you as a surgical tech. This important job exists everywhere you go, meaning you won’t have to change careers if you have to or choose to move at some point.

And in some cases, you may be able to relocate to find higher-paying jobs in states like Alaska, Nevada, and California, which have the highest median salaries for surgical techs.

You Get to Help People

Being a surgical tech can be incredibly fulfilling. You get to work in operating rooms and other healthcare settings, helping save lives by assisting the surgeon and keeping the surfaces and tools sterile. You’ll feel fulfilled knowing the important role you play for patients.

Salary for Independent Contractors

You might be surprised that you don't have to work for an employer as a surgical tech. In fact, not only can you be a surgical tech as a freelancer or contractor, but you may also even earn more money. According to ZipRecruiter, self-employed surgical techs make an average of $74,217 per year.

You'll have similar responsibilities, but keep in mind that there are downsides to going the contract route. While the hourly pay may be higher, the job doesn't include health insurance, paid vacation, and other benefits. You'll also have to pay your own income taxes out of your earnings.

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Surgical Tech?

While it's great to focus on the pay you can earn as a surgical tech, it's also important to consider the costs required to get there.

First, you'll usually need a certificate or associate's degree to become a surgical tech. You can expect to pay under $10,000 for a two-year public school, but you can most likely save by attending a community college program.

While a license isn't necessarily required to work as a surgical tech, getting one through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) might help you get a job. Taking the license exam costs between $190 and $290.

Luckily, you don't necessarily need to cover the costs on your own. There are plenty of scholarships available for those entering the healthcare field, even if you only get your associate degree. You may also be eligible for federal financial aid, so be sure to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Salaries for Related Jobs

If a job as a surgical tech sounds interesting, but you aren't sure if it's for you, you can also consider some of the related jobs in the field. Examples include:

Radiologic and MRI technologist

  • Salary: $63,710
  • Cost to become: Up to $30,000 for an associate degree or under $15,000 for a post-secondary certificate

Clinical laboratory technician

  • Salary: $54,180
  • Cost to become: Up to $30,000 for an associate degree or under $15,000 for a post-secondary certificate

Medical assistant

  • Salary: $35,850
  • Cost to become: Under $15,000 for a post-secondary certificate

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Lyss Welding
Contributing Writer

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