Job Qualifications of a Surgical Technician

Surgical technicians are trained to help ensure that procedures run smoothly.

Surgical technicians are trained to help ensure that procedures run smoothly.

Have you ever seen a hospital drama where a surgeon is handed a sterile, life-saving instrument by a masked assistant? Well, the masked assistant was a surgical technician. Surgical techs take care of several important details of surgical procedures, such as positioning the patient on the table, preparing the incision site, and ensuring that the room, instruments and all present medical personnel remain sterile throughout the surgery. Although their duties are highly specialized, becoming a surgical tech only requires only two years of post-secondary education.

Training Prerequisites

A high school diploma or GED equivalency is required for admittance to surgical tech training programs. High school students preparing for this field should take classes in biology, chemistry, mathematics and health. Students also need strong listening and communication skills, and careful attention to detail.

Post-Secondary Training Program

Surgical technicians must complete a formal training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, or CAAHEP. Programs can last anywhere from one to two years, and can culminate in either a certificate, diploma or associate degree. Students are taught through a combination of classroom instruction and laboratory work, and engage in supervised clinical practice to gain hands-on experience.. According to the CAAHEP website, surgical tech students study anesthesia, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and microbiology. They also learn sterilization techniques, surgical care and safety measures, and which equipment to use during surgery. During clinical practice, students must be learn procedures routinely performed in obstetrics and gynecology, general surgery, thoracic surgery and neurosurgery.


Certification is not required of surgical technicians, but doing so can improve your chances of employment and increase your earning potential. There are three main certifying organizations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, The National Center for Competency Testing and the National Healthcare association. Certification typically requires completion of a formal, accredited training program or equivalent experience, and passing a certification exam.

Additional Qualifications

Surgical technicians must have steady hands and dexterous fingers. They also must be good at managing their emotions and thinking clearly during stressful situations, and they must be able to stand still and hold their positions for long periods of time. Surgical techs also must have a strong attention to detail, and excellent communication skills.

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About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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