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
Rochester Educ Opportunity Center Suny Brockport Rochester NY No Data
Trinity School of Surgical Technology Moline IL 3
Nnps Rrmc School of Surgical Technology Newport News VA 9
New York University Medical Center Allied Hlth Ed New York NY 25
Maine Medical Center School of Surgical Technology South Portland ME 27
Red River Technology Center Duncan OK 35
Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing Cape Girardeau MO 47
Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital Johnstown PA 68
Sentara School of Health Professions Chesapeake VA 71
William Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak MI 76
Everest College - Merrillville Merrillville IN 85
Wes Watkins Technology Center Wetumka OK 99
Tennessee Technology Center at Mcminnville Mcminnville TN 101
Premiere Career College Irwindale CA 105
Monongalia County Technical Education Center Morgantown WV 108
Columbia Area Vocational Technical School Columbia MO 111
Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing Bridgeport CT 119
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Western Suffolk Boces Northport NY 130
California Paramedical and Technical College Long Beach CA 169
Nevada Career Institute Las Vegas NV 178
Connelley Technical Institute and Adult Educ Ctr Pittsburgh PA 191
Lancaster General Hospital - Lancaster Institute for Health Education Lancaster PA 197
Canadian Valley Technology Center El Reno OK 198
Tennessee Technology Center at Crossville Crossville TN 205
Autry Technology Center Enid OK 208
Moore Norman Technology Center Norman OK 209
Carver Career Center Charleston WV 212
American Center for Technical Arts and Sciences Philadelphia PA 217
Carolinas College of Health Sciences Charlotte NC 226
Great Plains Technology Center Lawton OK 234
Tulsa Technology Center - Lemley Campus Tulsa OK 243
Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Concord NC 259
Great Lakes Institute of Technology Erie PA 277
Olympia Career Training Institute - Grand Rapids Grand Rapids MI 279
Louisiana Technical College - Bastrop Campus Bastrop LA 280
Tennessee Technology Center at Hohenwald Hohenwald TN 281
Baptist Health System School of Health Professions San Antonio TX 282
Georgia Medical Institute - Marietta Campus Marietta GA 288
Stevens - Henager College - Ogden Ogden UT 298
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
South Piedmont Community College Polkton NC 323
High - Tech Institute - Sacramento Sacramento CA 338
Gallia Jackson Vinton Joint Vocational School District Rio Grande OH 355
Newbridge College Santa Ana CA 383
National School of Technology Inc Miami FL 393
California Business Institute El Monte CA 398
Sanford - Brown Institute - Iselin Iselin NJ 404
Mercy College of Health Sciences Des Moines IA 409
Cambridge College - Aurora Aurora CO 426
Metro Technology Centers Oklahoma City OK 434
Concorde Career College North Hollywood CA 444
High - Tech Institute - Orlando Orlando FL 453
Choffin Career and Technical Center Youngstown OH 453
Presentation College Aberdeen SD 468
Lamar State College - Port Arthur Port Arthur TX 482
National School of Technology Inc Hialeah FL 502
O C Collins Career Center Chesapeake OH 502
Ashland Technical College Ashland KY 503
Tennessee Technology Center at Jackson Jackson TN 515
Cumberland Valley Technical College Pineville KY 516
Louisiana Technical College - Lafayette Campus Lafayette LA 519
National School of Technology Inc Miami FL 544
Madisonville Technical College Madisonville KY 556
Baptist Health Schools of Nursing and Allied Health Little Rock AR 567
Chi Institute Southampton PA 594
Eastern Idaho Technical College Idaho Falls ID 595
Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis Memphis TN 604
Flint River Technical College Thomaston GA 605
Orlando Tech Orlando FL 636
Mt Diablo Adult Education Concord CA 637
Trocaire College Buffalo NY 681
Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk VA 699
San Joaquin Valley College - Bakersfield Bakersfield CA 742
Tennessee Technology Center at Knoxville Knoxville TN 779
Owensboro Technical College Owensboro KY 802
D G Erwin Technical Center Tampa FL 853
Bowling Green Technical College Bowling Green KY 854
Baker College of Cadillac Cadillac MI 864
Lee County High Tech Center Central Fort Myers FL 874
Career Centers of Texas - El Paso El Paso TX 883
Sarasota County Technical Institute Sarasota FL 963
Kaw Area Technical School Topeka KS 1013
University of Arkansas Community College - Batesville Batesville AR 1024
Baker College of Jackson Jackson MI 1027
Our Lady of the Lake College Baton Rouge LA 1053
Harry M Ayers State Technical College Anniston AL 1112
Glendale Career Schools Glendale CA 1128
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport LA 1176
Okefenokee Technical College Waycross GA 1263
International Academy of Design and Technology Pittsburgh PA 1296
Mount Aloysius College Cresson PA 1297
Pinellas Technical Education Center - Clearwater Clearwater FL 1417
Southwest Georgia Technical College Thomasville GA 1465
Sheridan Technical Center Hollywood FL 1487
Northwestern Technical College Rock Spring GA 1500
Central Kentucky Technical College Lexington KY 1501
Jefferson Technical College Louisville KY 1512
West Kentucky Technical College Paducah KY 1518
University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne IN 1570
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