Surgical Assistant

Average Salary (US)


Projected 5-Year Job Growth


Source: JobsEQ®, a labor market data provider developed by economists and data scientists. Data as of 2020Q1 except wages which are as of 2019

Table of Contents

What is a Surgical Assistant?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”), the U.S. Department of Labor’s principal fact- finding agency for the federal government in the field of labor, economics, and statistics that provides data on employment and wages, Surgical Assistants have a hands-on role, directly assisting surgeons during a procedure. For example, they may help to suction the incision site or suture a wound.


Surgical Assistants typically do the following:

  • Directly assist surgeons during procedures
  • Coordinate or participate in the positioning of patients, using body stabilizing equipment or protective padding to provide appropriate exposure for the procedure or to protect against nerve damage or circulation impairment.
  • Maintain an unobstructed operative field, using surgical retractors, sponges, or suctioning and irrigating equipment.
  • Prepare operating rooms for surgery
  • Sterilize equipment and make sure that there are adequate supplies for surgery
  • Ready patients for surgery, such as by washing and disinfecting incision sites
  • Help surgeons during surgery by passing them instruments and other sterile supplies
  • Count supplies, such as surgical instruments, to ensure that no foreign objects are retained in patients
  • Maintain a sterile environment to prevent patient infection

Surgical Assistants work as members of a healthcare team alongside physicians and surgeonsregistered nurses, and other healthcare workers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Surgical Technologists,

O*NET Resource Center

How much does a Surgical Assistant get paid?*

According to JobsEQ, a labor market data provider developed by economists and data scientists, Surgical Assistants made an average salary of $58,600 in 2019.

The top 25% of earners made $76,000 and the bottom 25% of surgical assistants earned $35,200 in 2019. Those who started out as entry-level Surgical Assistants in 2019 made $29,900 on average.

These numbers may vary based on geography and labor market.

Entry Level Mean Bottom 25% Top 25%

*Source: JobsEQ®. Wage data are as of 2019 and represent the average for all Covered Employment

Best-paying states for Surgical Assistants**

According to BLS, the top annual median salaries for surgical assistants are in Washington D.C. ($56,310), Alaska ($54,630), Minnesota ($50,760), Massachusetts ($50,710), and Hawaii ($50,160).

**Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”). Data as of May 2019

Interested in becoming a Surgical Assistant?

Visit Meritize Connect to Find Training Programs in Your Area

Surgical Assistant job outlook***

Job opportunities are on the rise for surgical assistants. The field is expected to grow by five percent from 2020 to 2025, creating opportunities for those who pursue a career in the field. As such, certified candidates have plenty of options upon entering the workforce.

***Source: JobsEQ, Data as of 2020Q1, The shaded areas of the graph represent national recessions.

Surgical Assistant job skills and knowledge

According to O*NET Resource Center, people in this career often have these skills:

  • Active Listening — Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Source: O*NET Resource Center

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