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
Bevill State Community College Sumiton AL 3558
Community College of the Air Force Montgomery AL 378162
Harry M Ayers State Technical College Anniston AL 1112
Southern Union State Community College Wadley AL 4017
Baptist Health Schools of Nursing and Allied Health Little Rock AR 567
North Arkansas College Harrison AR 1817
Northwest Technical Institute Springdale AR 1755
Southeast Arkansas College Pine Bluff AR 1955
University of Arkansas Community College - Batesville Batesville AR 1024
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock AR 1855
Gateway Community College Phoenix AZ 7895
Pima Community College Tucson AZ 28078
California Business Institute El Monte CA 398
California Paramedical and Technical College Long Beach CA 169
Concorde Career College North Hollywood CA 444
Glendale Career Schools Glendale CA 1128
High - Tech Institute - Sacramento Sacramento CA 338
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA 3153
Mt Diablo Adult Education Concord CA 637
Newbridge College Santa Ana CA 383
Premiere Career College Irwindale CA 105
San Joaquin Valley College - Bakersfield Bakersfield CA 742
Simi Valley Adult School and Career Institute Simi Valley CA 5902
Skyline College San Bruno CA 8689
Southwestern College Chula Vista CA 17994
Cambridge College - Aurora Aurora CO 426
Concorde Career Institute Aurora CO 321
Community College of Denver Denver CO 6635
Pueblo Community College Pueblo CO 4654
Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing Bridgeport CT 119
Manchester Community College Manchester CT 5135
High - Tech Institute - Orlando Orlando FL 453
National School of Technology Inc Hialeah FL 502
National School of Technology Inc Miami FL 393
National School of Technology Inc Miami FL 544
Central Florida Community College Ocala FL 5230
Brevard Community College Cocoa FL 13265
D G Erwin Technical Center Tampa FL 853
Daytona Beach Community College Daytona Beach FL 10420
Lee County High Tech Center Central Fort Myers FL 874
Florida Community College at Jacksonville Jacksonville FL 20838
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology Naples FL 1607
Orlando Tech Orlando FL 636
Pinellas Technical Education Center - Clearwater Clearwater FL 1417
Santa Fe Community College Gainesville FL 12464
Sarasota County Technical Institute Sarasota FL 963
Sheridan Technical Center Hollywood FL 1487
Traviss Career Center Lakeland FL 4380
Georgia Medical Institute - Marietta Campus Marietta GA 288
Albany Technical College Albany GA 2444
Athens Technical College Athens GA 2747
Central Georgia Technical College Macon GA 3787
Augusta Technical College Augusta GA 3265
Chattahoochee Technical College Marietta GA 3287
Coastal Georgia Community College Brunswick GA 1912
Columbus Technical College Columbus GA 1754
Dekalb Technical College Clarkston GA 3315
Flint River Technical College Thomaston GA 605
Georgia Perimeter College Decatur GA 13708
Macon State College Macon GA 4116
Gwinnett Technical College Lawrenceville GA 4814
Middle Georgia Technical College Warner Robins GA 2124
Northwestern Technical College Rock Spring GA 1500
Okefenokee Technical College Waycross GA 1263
Southwest Georgia Technical College Thomasville GA 1465
Savannah Technical College Savannah GA 2048
Valdosta Technical College Valdosta GA 2049
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Marshalltown Community College Marshalltown IA 2198
Mercy College of Health Sciences Des Moines IA 409
Western Iowa Tech Community College Sioux City IA 4365
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls ID 5452
Eastern Idaho Technical College Idaho Falls ID 595
Boise State University Boise ID 16287
Trinity School of Surgical Technology Moline IL 3
College of Dupage Glen Ellyn IL 28862
Elgin Community College Elgin IL 10174
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
Parkland College Champaign IL 8026
Richland Community College Decatur IL 3243
Rock Valley College Rockford IL 7699
Triton College River Grove IL 16927
Everest College - Merrillville Merrillville IN 85
Ivy Tech Community College - Central Indiana Indianapolis IN 6748
Ivy Tech Community College - Lafayette Lafayette IN 3013
Ivy Tech Community College - Northwest Gary IN 4675
Ivy Tech Community College - Southwest Evansville IN 3448
University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne IN 1570
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson KS 3466
Kaw Area Technical School Topeka KS 1013
Seward County Community College Liberal KS 1750
Wichita Area Technical College Wichita KS 3373
Ashland Technical College Ashland KY 503
Bowling Green Technical College Bowling Green KY 854
Central Kentucky Technical College Lexington KY 1501
Cumberland Valley Technical College Pineville KY 516
Jefferson Technical College Louisville KY 1512
Madisonville Technical College Madisonville KY 556
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