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
Saint Cloud Technical College Saint Cloud MN 2949
Saint Louis Community College - Forest Park Saint Louis MO 6749
Salt Lake Community College Salt Lake City UT 21596
San Jacinto College - Central Campus Pasadena TX 10507
San Joaquin Valley College - Bakersfield Bakersfield CA 742
Sandhills Community College Pinehurst NC 2933
Sanford - Brown Institute - Iselin Iselin NJ 404
Santa Fe Community College Gainesville FL 12464
Sarasota County Technical Institute Sarasota FL 963
Savannah Technical College Savannah GA 2048
Seattle Community College - Central Campus Seattle WA 6567
Sentara School of Health Professions Chesapeake VA 71
Seward County Community College Liberal KS 1750
Sheridan Technical Center Hollywood FL 1487
Simi Valley Adult School and Career Institute Simi Valley CA 5902
Sinclair Community College Dayton OH 19026
Skyline College San Bruno CA 8689
South Piedmont Community College Polkton NC 323
South Plains College Levelland TX 6731
Southeast Arkansas College Pine Bluff AR 1955
Southeast Community College Area Lincoln NE 7396
Southeast Missouri Hospital College of Nursing Cape Girardeau MO 47
Southeast Technical Institute Sioux Falls SD 2283
Southern Maine Community College South Portland ME 2334
Southern Union State Community College Wadley AL 4017
Southern University at Shreveport Shreveport LA 1176
Southwest Georgia Technical College Thomasville GA 1465
Southwestern College Chula Vista CA 17994
Spartanburg Technical College Spartanburg SC 3030
Spokane Community College Spokane WA 7767
Springfield Technical Community College Springfield MA 6705
St Philips College San Antonio TX 7921
Stevens - Henager College - Ogden Ogden UT 298
Tarrant County College Fort Worth TX 26868
Temple College Temple TX 3404
Tennessee Technology Center at Crossville Crossville TN 205
Tennessee Technology Center at Hohenwald Hohenwald TN 281
Tennessee Technology Center at Jackson Jackson TN 515
Tennessee Technology Center at Knoxville Knoxville TN 779
Tennessee Technology Center at Mcminnville Mcminnville TN 101
Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis Memphis TN 604
Texas State Technical College - Harlingen Harlingen TX 3265
Traviss Career Center Lakeland FL 4380
Tri - County Technical College Pendleton SC 3612
Trinity School of Surgical Technology Moline IL 3
Trinity Valley Community College Athens TX 4780
Triton College River Grove IL 16927
Trocaire College Buffalo NY 681
Tulsa Community College Tulsa OK 16270
Tulsa Technology Center - Lemley Campus Tulsa OK 243
Tyler Junior College Tyler TX 8319
University of Akron Main Campus Akron OH 21363
University of Arkansas Community College - Batesville Batesville AR 1024
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Little Rock AR 1855
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Newark NJ 4666
University of Pittsburgh - Johnstown Johnstown PA 3031
University of Saint Francis Fort Wayne IN 1570
Valdosta Technical College Valdosta GA 2049
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor MI 11089
Wayne County Community College District Detroit MI 9008
Wes Watkins Technology Center Wetumka OK 99
West Kentucky Technical College Paducah KY 1518
West Virginia Northern Community College Wheeling WV 2486
West Virginia University at Parkersburg Parkersburg WV 3278
Western Iowa Tech Community College Sioux City IA 4365
Western Suffolk Boces Northport NY 130
Western Wisconsin Technical College La Crosse WI 4928
Westmoreland County Community College Youngwood PA 5272
Wichita Area Technical College Wichita KS 3373
William Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak MI 76
Wilson Technical Community College Wilson NC 1596
York Technical College Rock Hill SC 3597
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