How Do I Become a Surgical Instrument Technician?

N. Madison
N. Madison

A surgical instrument technician assists surgeons by making sure the surgical instruments they need are set up and available for surgical procedures. To become a surgical instrument technician, you will typically need to obtain a high school education and then enter a training program. Usually, these programs last for one or two years and end with the receipt of a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree. You might also be required to seek certification by providing proof of your training and passing an exam.

A high school education is usually required to become a surgical instrument technician, though an equivalent credential may be acceptable.
A high school education is usually required to become a surgical instrument technician, though an equivalent credential may be acceptable.

A high school education is generally required when you want to become a surgical instrument technician, though an equivalent credential may prove acceptable as well. You will need such a credential to gain admission to the required training program. Since this job is in the health field, you may benefit from paying particular attention to science and health courses while you are in high school. Additionally, you might benefit from activities or courses that help boost your communication skills as well as your ability to pay attention to detail and follow directions.

In most cases, a four-year college degree isn't necessary for becoming a surgical instrument technician. You will usually, however, have to enroll in a surgical instrument technology program to pursue this career. These programs often vary in terms of length, but many last for about a year or two. A year-long program may end with a diploma or certificate while many two-year programs end with an associate's degree instead. In general, you can land a job after completing either type of program, but an associate's degree may translate into more job prospects.

A surgical instrument technician training program will prepare you to help surgeons by ensuring that the medical instruments they need are sterile and available to them as needed. Such programs typically involve instruction in surgical technology theory, anatomy and physiology, and procedures in surgery and patient care. You'll probably also learn medical terminology as part of this type of program. In some courses, you may also learn about the use of electricity and robotics in surgery as you prepare to become a surgical instrument technician.

In some cases, you will need to seek certification to become a surgical instrument technician. Even if you will work in a jurisdiction in which certification is not required, you may find that many employers prefer candidates who have earned it. Usually, earning certification means providing proof that you have completed an accredited surgical instrument technician program and passing an exam.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@Pippinwhite -- Being an instrument technician is definitely stressful. My sister started out as an instrument tech and she went on to nursing school because the pay was better and she didn't have to stay in an operating room all day.

She works on the pediatric floor and the obstetrics floor and says she loves her work. She said being an instrument tech is such important work, but said the surgeons are too temperamental and moody and she would rather deal with five year olds -- they acted better than the surgeons! It's better money, too. Instrument techs often don't get paid equivalent to their experience level.


A friend of mine became an instrument technician, or surgical tech, as they called them. She started at the hospital as a certified nurses assistant, and then went to the instrument room, where all the instruments are cleaned, sterilized, sorted and prepared for surgery.

Because of her experience there, she was able to go right into the scrub school program the hospital offered and got certified. She did scrub tech work for about two years and then went back into the instrument room. She said being a scrub tech was entirely too stressful and the hours were too irregular. She's much happier in the instrument room.

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