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
Holmes Community College Goodman MS 3022
Houston Community College System Houston TX 40929
Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson KS 3466
Illinois Central College East Peoria IL 11053
International Academy of Design and Technology Pittsburgh PA 1296
Itawamba Community College Fulton MS 3467
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
Jefferson Community College Watertown NY 3652
Jefferson Technical College Louisville KY 1512
Kalamazoo Valley Community College Kalamazoo MI 9319
Kaw Area Technical School Topeka KS 1013
Kilgore College Kilgore TX 4000
Kirkwood Community College Cedar Rapids IA 11645
Lake Superior College Duluth MN 3972
Lamar State College - Port Arthur Port Arthur TX 482
Lancaster General Hospital - Lancaster Institute for Health Education Lancaster PA 197
Lansing Community College Lansing MI 16011
Lee County High Tech Center Central Fort Myers FL 874
Lee County High Tech Center North Cape Coral FL 120
Lenoir Community College Kinston NC 2057
Loma Linda University Loma Linda CA 3153
Lorain County Community College Elyria OH 10521
Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology Naples FL 1607
Louisiana Technical College - Bastrop Campus Bastrop LA 280
Louisiana Technical College - Lafayette Campus Lafayette LA 519
Luzerne County Community College Nanticoke PA 5920
Macon State College Macon GA 4116
Madison Area Technical College Madison WI 14474
Madisonville Technical College Madisonville KY 556
Maine Medical Center School of Surgical Technology South Portland ME 27
Manchester Community College Manchester CT 5135
Marshalltown Community College Marshalltown IA 2198
Massachusetts Bay Community College Wellesley Hills MA 4458
Mercy College of Health Sciences Des Moines IA 409
Metro Technology Centers Oklahoma City OK 434
Metropolitan Community College Area Omaha NE 11534
Mid - State Technical College Wisconsin Rapids WI 2584
Middle Georgia Technical College Warner Robins GA 2124
Midlands Technical College West Columbia SC 9702
Milwaukee Area Technical College Milwaukee WI 14296
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Perkinston MS 8768
Monongalia County Technical Education Center Morgantown WV 108
Moore Norman Technology Center Norman OK 209
Mount Aloysius College Cresson PA 1297
Mt Diablo Adult Education Concord CA 637
Mt Hood Community College Gresham OR 8556
Nashville State Technical Community College Nashville TN 7315
Nassau Community College Garden City NY 19621
National School of Technology Inc Hialeah FL 502
National School of Technology Inc Miami FL 393
National School of Technology Inc Miami FL 544
Nevada Career Institute Las Vegas NV 178
New England Institute of Technology Warwick RI 2712
New Hampshire Community Technical College - Manchester/stratham Stratham NH 4024
New York University Medical Center Allied Hlth Ed New York NY 25
Newbridge College Santa Ana CA 383
Niagara County Community College Sanborn NY 4641
Nnps Rrmc School of Surgical Technology Newport News VA 9
North Arkansas College Harrison AR 1817
North Shore Community College Danvers MA 6285
Northcentral Technical College Wausau WI 3821
Northeast Community College Norfolk NE 4520
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay WI 7500
Northeastern Oklahoma A&m College Miami OK 1947
Northern Michigan University Marquette MI 8427
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale VA 37073
Northwest Technical Institute Springdale AR 1755
Northwestern Technical College Rock Spring GA 1500
O C Collins Career Center Chesapeake OH 502
Okefenokee Technical College Waycross GA 1263
Oklahoma City Community College Oklahoma City OK 9358
Olympia Career Training Institute - Grand Rapids Grand Rapids MI 279
Onondaga Community College Syracuse NY 7848
Orlando Tech Orlando FL 636
Our Lady of the Lake College Baton Rouge LA 1053
Owens Community College Perrysburg OH 15845
Owensboro Technical College Owensboro KY 802
Ozarks Technical Community College Springfield MO 6343
Parkland College Champaign IL 8026
Pearl River Community College Poplarville MS 2800
Penn Valley Community College Kansas City MO 4366
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport PA 5320
Piedmont Technical College Greenwood SC 4104
Pima Community College Tucson AZ 28078
Pinellas Technical Education Center - Clearwater Clearwater FL 1417
Premiere Career College Irwindale CA 105
Presentation College Aberdeen SD 468
Pueblo Community College Pueblo CO 4654
Quincy College Quincy MA 4508
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester MA 5617
Red River Technology Center Duncan OK 35
Renton Technical College Renton WA 5065
Richland Community College Decatur IL 3243
Rochester Community and Technical College Rochester MN 4778
Rochester Educ Opportunity Center Suny Brockport Rochester NY No Data
Rock Valley College Rockford IL 7699
Rockingham Community College Wentworth NC 1964
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