Surgical / Operating Room Technician

A surgical technologist or surgical technician makes sure that the operating room is prepared for the patient, the doctors, and the nurses. The surgical tech's job involves organizing equipment, sterilizing the area, prepping the patient, and collecting and labeling samples during the procedure.

The job of surgical tech is one of the allied health professions, positions that provide support to doctors and nurses. During surgery, the tech assists the medical team in numerous ways, from helping members don their sterile gowns to handing them instruments. An able surgical tech provides structure that allows the team to concentrate on the patient.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for surgical techs will increase around 20 percent over the next decade, in part because of the increased need for surgery among an aging population. Surgical techs work primarily in hospitals, but also find positions in outpatient surgery centers and physician's offices. There are around 93,000 surgical techs currently employed in the United States.


In order to become a surgical tech, a certificate or associate's degree is required. Programs for surgical technologists are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (C.A.A.H.E.P.). This commission, a collaboration between the Association of Surgical Technologists (A.S.T.) and the American College of Surgeons, accredits around 460 programs in schools around the country. The Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (A.B.H.E.S.) is another respected agency that accredits surgical programs; they accredit around 60 programs in the United States. Unaccredited programs are offered by some online and technical schools as well.


Surgical techs gain certification through one of three national organizations: the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (N.B.S.T.A.) and the National Center for Competency Testing (N.C.C.T.). In addition to taking an exam, the certification from the N.B.S.T.A. requires either that the tech be a graduate be from either an accredited or a military surgical tech program, or that he has been certified by the N.C.C.T. and has accumulated a certain number of clinical hours. For the N.C.C.T. certification, an applicant must show that he has assisted in at least five types of surgery and he must pass an exam.

While earning credentials may make lead to better job opportunities, only a few states regulate surgical techs, imposing certification and education requirements. The professional organization, the A.S.T., strongly advocates for certification, and requires that its active, voting members pass the N.B.S.T.A. exam.

Certificate in Surgical Technology

Earning a certificate as a surgical tech takes a year to a year and a half. There may be some science or healthcare prerequisites for a student to fulfill before she is admitted to a surgical tech program. Upon completing the program, the student is qualified to work as a level I surgical tech. According to the A.S.T., a surgical tech at this level should possess a solid understanding of basic health concepts, be conversant with routines and expectations in five different types of surgery, and participate in continuing education.

Courses at surgical tech schools allow students to become familiar with the human body, procedures for creating a sterile environment and with terminology used during medical procedures.

  • Surgical technology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Human physiology

Associate's Degree as a Surgical Tech

Students wishing to earn an associate's degree in surgical tech training can expect to spend two to two-and-a-half years in school. A minimum GPA and certain healthcare-related courses, such as biology or medical terminology, are typically required for admission to the surgical tech program.

An associate's degree makes sense for students who intend to return to school for a bachelor's degree. They can often transfer the credit hours they earned to a four-year school, while this is sometimes not possible for the credits taken to earn a certificate. The courses, however, are much the same.

  • Anatomy
  • Human pathophysiology
  • Microbiology
  • Statistics
  • Terminology
  • Operating room lab


There is no difference in pay between an entry-level surgical tech with an associate's degree and one with a graduate certificate. Both qualify for the ranking of level I surgical tech, the entry-level position in the field. Professional certification and experience are the factors that make the greatest difference in salary and career advancement. In time, the entry-level tech works his way up to the status of proficient practitioner, and then to expert practitioner. While the median salary of surgical techs is a bit less than $40,000, and the starting pay is close to $28,000, those who have worked their way up the employment ladder can earn more. The top 10 percent of salaries in the profession earn around $57,000.

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We found 273 schools offering surgical technician degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 273 Surgical / Operating Room Technician Colleges in the U.S.

Surgical Technician Schools By Total Enrollment

Community College of the Air Force
Montgomery, AL  |  Total Enrollment: 378162

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Associate's
Houston Community College System
Houston, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 40929

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
Northern Virginia Community College
Annandale, VA  |  Total Enrollment: 37073

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
College of Dupage
Glen Ellyn, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 28862

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Pima Community College
Tucson, AZ  |  Total Enrollment: 28078

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Tarrant County College
Fort Worth, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 26868

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Austin Community College
Austin, TX  |  Total Enrollment: 25735

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's
Salt Lake Community College
Salt Lake City, UT  |  Total Enrollment: 21596

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years
University of Akron Main Campus
Akron, OH  |  Total Enrollment: 21363

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
Florida Community College at Jacksonville
Jacksonville, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 20838

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's

Browse All 273 Colleges With Surgical Technician Programs

Title City State Enrollment
Albany Technical College Albany GA 2444
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute Albuquerque NM 17265
Amarillo College Amarillo TX 8422
American Center for Technical Arts and Sciences Philadelphia PA 217
Anoka Technical College Anoka MN 2046
Ashland Technical College Ashland KY 503
Athens Technical College Athens GA 2747
Augusta Technical College Augusta GA 3265
Austin Community College Austin TX 25735
Autry Technology Center Enid OK 208
Baker College of Cadillac Cadillac MI 864
Baker College of Clinton Township Clinton Township MI 2559
Baker College of Flint Flint MI 3896
Baker College of Jackson Jackson MI 1027
Baker College of Muskegon Muskegon MI 2727
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore MD 5883
Baptist Health Schools of Nursing and Allied Health Little Rock AR 567
Baptist Health System School of Health Professions San Antonio TX 282
Bergen Community College Paramus NJ 11993
Bevill State Community College Sumiton AL 3558
Blue Ridge Community College Flat Rock NC 1826
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City LA 4332
Bowling Green Technical College Bowling Green KY 854
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing Bridgeport CT 119
Bunker Hill Community College Boston MA 6385
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Concord NC 259
California Business Institute El Monte CA 398
California Paramedical and Technical College Long Beach CA 169
Cambridge College - Aurora Aurora CO 426
Canadian Valley Technology Center El Reno OK 198
Career Centers of Texas - El Paso El Paso TX 883
Carolinas College of Health Sciences Charlotte NC 226
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory NC 3731
Central Carolina Technical College Sumter SC 2546
Central Florida Community College Ocala FL 5230
Central Georgia Technical College Macon GA 3787
Central Kentucky Technical College Lexington KY 1501
Central Wyoming College Riverton WY 1644
Chattahoochee Technical College Marietta GA 3287
Chesapeake College Wye Mills MD 2186
Chi Institute Southampton PA 594
Choffin Career and Technical Center Youngstown OH 453
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Cincinnati OH 6675
Cisco Junior College Cisco TX 2642
Clover Park Technical College Lakewood WA 7921
Coastal Carolina Community College Jacksonville NC 3780
Coastal Georgia Community College Brunswick GA 1912
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn IL 28862
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls ID 5452
Columbia Area Vocational Technical School Columbia MO 111
Columbus State Community College Columbus OH 18094
Columbus Technical College Columbus GA 1754
Community College of Allegheny County Pittsburgh PA 15556
Community College of Denver Denver CO 6635
Community College of the Air Force Montgomery AL 378162
Concorde Career College North Hollywood CA 444
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital Johnstown PA 68
Connelley Technical Institute and Adult Educ Ctr Pittsburgh PA 191
Cumberland Valley Technical College Pineville KY 516
D G Erwin Technical Center Tampa FL 853
Daytona Beach Community College Daytona Beach FL 10420
Dekalb Technical College Clarkston GA 3315
Del Mar College Corpus Christi TX 9936
Delaware County Community College Media PA 8943
Delgado Community College New Orleans LA 12784
Delta College University Center MI 9358
Durham Technical Community College Durham NC 4915
East Central Community College Decatur MS 2291
Eastern Idaho Technical College Idaho Falls ID 595
Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk VA 699
Edgecombe Community College Tarboro NC 1877
El Centro College Dallas TX 4333
El Paso Community College El Paso TX 18001
Elgin Community College Elgin IL 10174
Everest College - Merrillville Merrillville IN 85
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville NC 8310
Flint River Technical College Thomaston GA 605
Florence - Darlington Technical College Florence SC 3814
Florida Community College at Jacksonville Jacksonville FL 20838
Frederick Community College Frederick MD 4343
Gallia Jackson Vinton Joint Vocational School District Rio Grande OH 355
Gateway Community College Phoenix AZ 7895
Gateway Technical College Kenosha WI 5741
Georgia Medical Institute - Marietta Campus Marietta GA 288
Georgia Perimeter College Decatur GA 13708
Glendale Career Schools Glendale CA 1128
Great Lakes Institute of Technology Erie PA 277
Great Plains Technology Center Lawton OK 234
Greenville Technical College Greenville SC 10786
Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown NC 8008
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville GA 4814
Harry M Ayers State Technical College Anniston AL 1112
Henry Ford Community College Dearborn MI 12742
High - Tech Institute - Orlando Orlando FL 453
High - Tech Institute - Sacramento Sacramento CA 338
Hinds Community College Raymond MS 16032
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