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
Presentation College Aberdeen SD 468
University of Akron Main Campus Akron OH 21363
Albany Technical College Albany GA 2444
Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute Albuquerque NM 17265
Amarillo College Amarillo TX 8422
Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor MI 11089
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale VA 37073
Harry M Ayers State Technical College Anniston AL 1112
Anoka Technical College Anoka MN 2046
Ashland Technical College Ashland KY 503
Athens Technical College Athens GA 2747
Trinity Valley Community College Athens TX 4780
Augusta Technical College Augusta GA 3265
Cambridge College - Aurora Aurora CO 426
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
Austin Community College Austin TX 25735
San Joaquin Valley College - Bakersfield Bakersfield CA 742
Baltimore City Community College Baltimore MD 5883
Louisiana Technical College - Bastrop Campus Bastrop LA 280
University of Arkansas Community College - Batesville Batesville AR 1024
Our Lady of the Lake College Baton Rouge LA 1053
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Bossier Parish Community College Bossier City LA 4332
Bunker Hill Community College Boston MA 6385
Bowling Green Technical College Bowling Green KY 854
Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing Bridgeport CT 119
Coastal Georgia Community College Brunswick GA 1912
Trocaire College Buffalo NY 681
Baker College of Cadillac Cadillac MI 864
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing Cape Girardeau MO 47
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Parkland College Champaign IL 8026
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
Carolinas College of Health Sciences Charlotte NC 226
Sentara School of Health Professions Chesapeake VA 71
O C Collins Career Center Chesapeake OH 502
Southwestern College Chula Vista CA 17994
Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Cincinnati OH 6675
Cisco Junior College Cisco TX 2642
Dekalb Technical College Clarkston GA 3315
Pinellas Technical Education Center - Clearwater Clearwater FL 1417
Baker College of Clinton Township Clinton Township MI 2559
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
Columbia Area Vocational Technical School Columbia MO 111
Columbus Technical College Columbus GA 1754
Columbus State Community College Columbus OH 18094
Mt Diablo Adult Education Concord CA 637
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Concord NC 259
Del Mar College Corpus Christi TX 9936
Mount Aloysius College Cresson PA 1297
Tennessee Technology Center at Crossville Crossville TN 205
El Centro College Dallas TX 4333
North Shore Community College Danvers MA 6285
Sinclair Community College Dayton OH 19026
Daytona Beach Community College Daytona Beach FL 10420
Henry Ford Community College Dearborn MI 12742
Georgia Perimeter College Decatur GA 13708
Richland Community College Decatur IL 3243
East Central Community College Decatur MS 2291
Community College of Denver Denver CO 6635
Mercy College of Health Sciences Des Moines IA 409
Wayne County Community College District Detroit MI 9008
Lake Superior College Duluth MN 3972
Red River Technology Center Duncan OK 35
Durham Technical Community College Durham NC 4915
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
California Business Institute El Monte CA 398
Career Centers of Texas - El Paso El Paso TX 883
El Paso Community College El Paso TX 18001
Canadian Valley Technology Center El Reno OK 198
Elgin Community College Elgin IL 10174
Lorain County Community College Elyria OH 10521
Autry Technology Center Enid OK 208
Great Lakes Institute of Technology Erie PA 277
Ivy Tech Community College - Southwest Evansville IN 3448
Fayetteville Technical Community College Fayetteville NC 8310
Blue Ridge Community College Flat Rock NC 1826
Baker College of Flint Flint MI 3896
Florence - Darlington Technical College Florence SC 3814
Lee County High Tech Center Central Fort Myers FL 874
University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne IN 1570
Tarrant County College Fort Worth TX 26868
Frederick Community College Frederick MD 4343
Itawamba Community College Fulton MS 3467
Santa Fe Community College Gainesville FL 12464
Nassau Community College Garden City NY 19621
Ivy Tech Community College - Northwest Gary IN 4675
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn IL 28862
Glendale Career Schools Glendale CA 1128
Holmes Community College Goodman MS 3022
Olympia Career Training Institute - Grand Rapids Grand Rapids MI 279
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay WI 7500
Greenville Technical College Greenville SC 10786
Piedmont Technical College Greenwood SC 4104
Mt Hood Community College Gresham OR 8556
Texas State Technical College - Harlingen Harlingen TX 3265
North Arkansas College Harrison AR 1817
National School of Technology Inc Hialeah FL 502
Catawba Valley Community College Hickory NC 3731
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