Surgical technologists, also known as scrubs or operating room technicians, work in a team of surgeons, anesthesiologists and circulating nurses to assist in surgeries. Surgical technologists set up surgical instruments and equipment, sterile drapes and sterile solutions before surgery. They also assemble necessary equipment and make sure that it is working properly. Technologists are involved in patient prep and getting transport ready before surgery. During surgery, they observe patients' vital signs, check charts and help the surgical team with sterile gowns and gloves.
Large City Salaries
As of July 2011, in New York City the average starting salary for surgery techs was $40,000; in Dallas and Houston it was $35,000 and in Boston, $41,000, per SimplyHired Inc.
The average entry-level surgery tech salary in San Francisco was $45,000. In Chicago, it was $37,000; and in Miami, it was $33,000. The nationwide average entry-level salary for a surgery tech was $34,000.
Smaller Cities Salaries
Entry-level surgery tech salaries for smaller cities ranged from $27,000 in Waco, Texas to $34,000 in St Louis, Missouri, according to SimplyHired Inc. Entry-level surgery techs in Bismarck, North Dakota earned average salaries of $29,000. In Greenville, South Carolina, surgery techs earned $30,000 on average, compared to $31,000 in New Orleans, Louisiana and $33,000 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Association of Surgical Technologists
The Association of Surgical Technologists reports salary figures by state based on membership information. These state-wide averages include entry-level, experienced, certified and noncertified members in one total by state, which ranges from a high of $25.19 per hour in Hawaii and $22.67 in Alaska to lows of $15.79 per hour in West Virginia and $15.99 in Alabama. A little more than half of all surgery techs had some college, but no degree, says O-Net Online, with 27 percent holding an associate degree and 10 percent having a high school diploma or equivalent.
Certification versus Education
Hospitals and other employers of surgical technologists don't really distinguish between techs with certificates and those with associate degrees when determining pay rates, according to W. Glenn Madden, Surgical Technology Program Director at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas. Madden explained that in many cases the actual surgical experience is completed in the certificate program, so the associate degree only requires four additional classes, usually including college algebra, which students tend to put off taking. The increased pay comes by becoming certified, which requires passing a national exam, he said. However, Texas no longer allows the hiring of uncertified techs. The assumption is that certified surgical techs will be "safer," he added, and therefore, be less of an insurance liability.
Surgical Technologists by Industry
As of May 2008, the median annual wage of surgical technologists of all experience levels was $38,740, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The lowest paid 10 percent earned less than $27,510, while the highest paid 10 percent earned more than $54,300. Median annual wages in the industries with the largest numbers of surgical technologists ranged from $40,880 in specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals, $39,660 in outpatient care centers, $38,640 in general medical and surgical hospitals, $38,520 in physician offices, and $36,380 in dentist offices.