Is Surgical Tech a Good Career? Pros & Cons to Consider

If you are interested in starting a career in healthcare, you may want to consider becoming a surgical tech. 

Surgical techs, also known as scrub techs or surgical technologists, work in operating rooms and physicians' offices. They typically help with surgeries and procedures and gain extensive hands-on experience with surgical instruments. 

Being a surgical tech is a good career for a variety of reasons, but there are pros & cons to consider. Let’s take a look.

Why Being a Surgical Tech is a Good Career Choice – Pros

There are many things that people enjoy about working as a surgical tech. Most people who choose to work in healthcare find that there are many benefits to this career. 

1) Low Barrier to Entry 

One of the best things about becoming a surgical tech is that training is fairly quick and inexpensive

While some healthcare jobs require years of training and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, surgical technologist training can be completed in just 4 months and costs only a few thousand dollars. 

2) Great Job Outlook and Security

Surgical techs also enjoy great job outlook and security. Like most healthcare professions, surgical techs are in high demand all over the country. 

With an expected growth rate of 5% between 2022 and 2023, surgical techs have a better job outlook than most other careers in the United States. 

3) Certification Can Be Completed Quickly

Unlike many other healthcare jobs, becoming a surgical tech does not require years of schooling or an advanced degree. 

Even in states with the strictest requirements, surgical technicians can begin working without a degree, as long as they pass their certification exam. 

Some certification programs last as long as two years, and others can be completed in as little as four months. It is important to keep in mind that accelerated programs take a lot of focus and hard work. 

You can learn more about the length of surgical tech training options here and how to get your surgical tech certification here

4) Decent Pay

In addition to being able to start a career quickly, surgical technologists earn a decent wage. In 2023, surgical techs earned an average of $59,160 per year.  

Their pay is especially impressive when compared to other healthcare jobs that do not require a degree

5) Flexibility in Work Location

Hospital staff and healthcare workers are needed all over the country, from rural areas to big cities, surgical techs are usually able to find work anywhere they would like to go. 

Surgical tech jobs are available in all 50 states, and surgical techs can choose from several types of healthcare facilities. They may work in the operating room, a dentist’s office, a physician's clinic, or an outpatient center. 

Some surgical technologists specialize in different types of operating rooms such as cardiac, general surgery, or orthopedics. 

6) Experience in the Operating Room

Many people choose to get experience as surgical techs to get exposure to the operating room and clinical experience for medical school

Since it is relatively fast and inexpensive to get a certification, many hopeful medical school applicants work as surgical techs while they prepare to take the MCAT or complete their pre-medicine courses. 

7) Get to Help Others

While job security and good pay are great benefits of being a surgical tech, the best part of the job is being able to have a positive impact on others. 

Surgical techs are an essential part of the healthcare team and help to protect patients from infections, wrong-site surgeries, bleeding complications, and other common surgical issues. 

8) Preparation for Advanced Jobs

For those who plan to apply to medical or nursing school, working in the operating room as a scrub tech provides an excellent opportunity to learn. Seeing surgical instruments, working on real patients, and hearing medical terminology can all help solidify learning for future classes and assignments. 

9) Fast-Paced and Engaging Job

If you like to stay busy, working as a surgical tech might be a great choice for you. Time passes quickly in the operating room, where there is always something to do or a task to focus on. 

If they are not directly assisting with an operation, surgical techs spend their time organizing equipment, sterilizing instruments, documenting procedures, and cleaning rooms. 

You can learn more about a day in the life of a surgical tech here.

10) Great Benefits

Most surgical techs enjoy excellent benefits at their jobs. Some of these include health insurance, dental coverage, employee assistance programs, continued education courses, tuition reimbursement, and paid time off. Most full-time employees receive better benefits packages than part-time. 

11) Travel Opportunities

Some surgical techs choose to work travel contracts. This means that they get to spend several weeks at a time working in a different location, often while earning significantly more money. 

Travel surgical technologists are never forced to travel somewhere they don’t want to go and get to choose whether or not to take travel opportunities that come their way. 

Cons of Being a Surgical Tech

While being a surgical tech is mostly a great job, there are some things that make it not a good fit for some people, including: 

1) Lower Pay than Some Advanced Healthcare Jobs

While surgical techs do earn a decent salary, there are other jobs that allow a person to earn much more. However, healthcare jobs with higher salaries almost always require more education. 

2) Education Needed for Advancement Opportunities

Once someone starts working as a surgical tech, there are not many advancement opportunities available without returning to school. 

Some surgical technologists can work to become first assistants or even instructors for other surgical technicians, but moving into a higher-level position in an operating room requires several years of schooling and thousands of dollars in tuition. 

3) Can Be Stressful

Sometimes, healthcare can be stressful. Mistakes can cost patients their lives, and even routine surgeries can have stressful complications. 

Surgical technologists have to stay focused at all times while at work, sometimes working without breaks or staying in the operating room all night long. 

4) On Your Feet a Lot

Surgical techs spend their workday on their feet. There is no sitting down during surgery, and when an operation ends, technologists continue to stand up while sterilizing instruments, organizing tools, and cleaning equipment. Operating room staff can spend an entire day standing at the operating table, working on a patient. 

5) Emotional Challenges

Like any other healthcare job, working as a surgical technologist comes with some emotional challenges. While it is extremely rewarding to help a patient regain function and improve their quality of life, some patients don’t make it out of surgery, and some suffer life-changing complications. 

Surgical techs and other healthcare workers can benefit from having a strong support system and talking to their coworkers if they ever find the emotional challenges of working in healthcare too hard to manage. 

Surgical Tech Salaries & Job Outlook

Surgical techs enjoy a decent salary and a good job outlook. Once someone earns their surgical technologist certification, they should be able to find and keep a well-paying job for as long as they’d like. 

The average salary for a surgical tech is $60,370 per year or $29 per hour. Experienced and traveling surgical techs can earn more than $100,000 per year in some areas. 

According to the BLS, job opportunities for surgical techs are expected to increase faster than the national average. It is predicted that job opportunities will increase by 5% between 2022 and 2032 for surgical technologists. 

Common Benefits for Surgical Techs

Often, working in healthcare as a surgical technician means you will receive some valuable benefits. These might include: 

  • Paid time off
  • Sick leave
  • Health insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Retirement savings
  • Night and weekend differential pay 
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Childcare assistance

Deciding if a Surgical Tech Career is Right for You

Surgical technologists have rewarding careers that offer opportunities for continued learning while earning a decent salary. Many people enjoy working as surgical technicians, but the job is not a good fit for everyone. 

People who are more likely to thrive in healthcare or as surgical technologists are organized, calm under pressure, and not bothered by blood and other body fluids. In addition, surgical technologists should be in good health, able to lift at least 15 pounds, and comfortable spending long hours on their feet. 

Anyone working in healthcare will need to take good care of their mental health and make sure that they have a good support system to help them get through the more emotionally challenging shifts. 

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