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What is a Surgical Technologist?

The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) defines technologists as "allied health professionals, who are an integral part of the team of medical practitioners providing surgical care to patients. Surgical technologists work under the supervision of a surgeon to facilitate the safe and effective conduct of invasive surgical procedures, ensuring that the operating room environment is safe, that equipment functions properly, and that the operative procedure is conducted under conditions that maximize patient safety. Surgical technologists possess expertise in the theory and application of sterile and aseptic technique and combine the knowledge of human anatomy, surgical procedures, and implementation tools and technologies to facilitate a physician's performance of invasive therapeutic and diagnostic procedures."

Working Conditions

CSTs work in clean, brightly lit, relatively quiet, cool environments. At times they may be exposed to communicable diseases and unpleasant sights, odors, and materials. Most of their duties require standing, sometimes for a number of hours, and it is imperative that their attention be focused closely on the task at hand. Most surgery is performed during the day, but many hospitals and surgical centers require 24-hour coverage. A 40-hour week is common, although most are required to periodically "on call"-available to work on short notice in case of emergency.


Many CSTs are employed in hospital operating rooms, delivery rooms, cast rooms, emergency departments, ambulatory care areas, and central supply departments. Some serve in management roles in surgical services departments. In the private scrub role, they are employed directly by surgeons, while others work as surgical first assistants. They are utilized in clinics and surgical centers; in opthalmologists', physicians', and dentists' offices; and in home health care.

Because of a broad educational background combined educational background combined with a specialized focus, CSTs function well in a number of diverse areas. They are employed as central service managers, surgery schedulers, and materials managers. Their multi-competency is demonstrated by cardiac catheterization laboratories, medical sales, product development, and research. Laser technology, bio-medical engineering, technical writing, photography, illustration, and medical-legal auditing are other areas in which their education has valuable application. They have served in the Peace Corps as well as in all branches of the military. A number are instructors and directors of surgical technology programs.

  Employment Outlook for Surgical Technology

The current Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that there were 89,600 surgical technologists nationally in 2008 with a mean national salary of $40,070.  In Kentucky, as of 2008 there were 1850 surgical technologists working in the state at a mean salary of $35,060.  Employment of surgical technologists is expected to grow 24 percent between 2006 and 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations, as the volume of surgeries increases.

Click here to see a map showing salaries across the nation.

Related Links

Association of Surgical Assistants

Association of Surgical Technologists