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How to Become an Operating Room Technician (OR Tech)

What Does an Operating Room Technician Do?

operating room technician with sterile surgical tools

There’s a good reason why the operating room provides such compelling material for TV shows and films: in reality, surgery is a dramatic, high-stakes and intense field of medicine in which the importance of teamwork cannot be overstressed. The vital duties of operating room technicians place them in the operating room before, during and after the surgeons’ and nurses’ participation. Also known as surgical technicians or technologists, they directly contribute to the success of surgical operations.

An operating room technician enjoys the following duties:

  • Preparing the operating room
  • Making sure all necessary supplies and surgical tools are sterile and ready
  • Keeping track of all items used during surgery to make sure nothing gets misplaced
  • Providing other assistance during the operation
  • Delivering the patient to recovery
  • Cleaning up the operating room after surgery

Workplace Details

The work environment for an operating room technician (or ORT) is naturally the operating room - or “rooms”, to be more accurate, since hospitals and surgical centers commonly have several of them. Ideally there is one ORT per operating room. These technicians typically participate in a few surgical procedures each day, a schedule that keeps ORTs mostly on their feet - recently recognized as a true health benefit!

Most ORTs work full time, though their shifts may extend past the usual 8 hours. They may also have to be on call at night and during weekends and holidays.

ORTs may also take samples recovered during surgery to another part of the hospital, typically the pathology department.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
Texas
$46330
California
$59490
Florida
$42350
New York
$52380
Ohio
$42060

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$34,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$25,060$35,060$48,380

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$53,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$40,550$53,880$71,060

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$48,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $66,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$34,790$49,810$66,450
Tuscon$27,760$46,960$70,810

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$38,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $57,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$24,790$43,320$59,160
Fort Smith$26,810$36,160$49,320

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$58,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 250

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$40,420$56,720$76,300
San Francisco Bay$48,650$72,440$96,130
San Diego$40,960$55,000$76,180
Sacramento$42,170$62,840$79,060

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$48,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $64,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 45%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$35,720$47,660$61,960
Colorado Springs$34,220$46,230$60,540

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$52,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $36,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$43,440$56,850$72,870
Bridgeport$34,540$51,520$73,590
New Haven$35,570$49,140$69,950

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$44,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$34,370$45,360$59,660
Dover$32,100$44,430$61,390

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$56,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$37,490$55,440$76,220

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$40,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 240

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$29,650$42,920$58,920
Orlando$30,710$40,430$49,410
Tampa$30,840$41,480$52,690
Jacksonville$31,430$38,680$49,120

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$39,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$32,010$41,400$53,250
Augusta$31,670$39,050$49,970

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$52,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$33,430$54,910$77,020

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$42,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 180

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$32,720$43,170$59,870
Idaho Falls$34,490$46,480$74,010

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$43,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$32,790$45,720$63,270

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$41,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$32,770$42,820$57,880
South Bend$32,050$43,050$59,330
Fort Wayne$29,880$39,180$49,840

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$38,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$31,990$41,630$54,380

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$37,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$29,380$36,370$46,850
Kansas City$32,240$43,660$58,810

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$38,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 32%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$31,670$41,930$53,910
Lexington$25,730$36,620$52,120

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$38,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$25,550$40,030$49,830
Baton Rouge$31,400$39,150$50,050
Lafayette$26,250$35,380$48,780

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$42,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$33,360$42,140$60,230
Lewiston$33,630$42,050$57,720

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$51,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $71,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$31,100$49,920$63,450
Frederick$43,250$59,480$76,640

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$49,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$34,300$48,760$76,720
Worcester$33,750$50,260$72,710
Springfield$29,270$50,210$63,920

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$43,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $56,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$32,360$44,060$57,350
Grand Rapids$31,850$41,340$55,470

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$50,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $63,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$41,550$52,530$62,660
Rochester$36,770$50,760$72,020

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$37,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$25,040$39,700$53,730
Gulfport$28,680$41,090$50,600

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$39,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $57,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$31,030$39,560$58,570
Kansas City$32,240$43,660$58,810

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$43,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,400

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$25,470$38,480$59,600
Missoula$40,020$48,300$61,350

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$41,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $54,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$33,160$42,470$56,160
Lincoln$33,360$41,110$56,680

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$61,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$42,220$63,340$80,530
Reno$38,770$56,180$73,350

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$47,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $62,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$39,790$50,980$61,980
Nashua$34,290$52,410$73,400

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$48,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $64,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$36,870$48,320$62,450
Trenton$32,970$43,590$57,490

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$41,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $57,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$34,060$45,300$58,820
Las Cruces$26,720$33,090$46,610

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$50,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$35,290$53,230$75,150
Buffalo$37,440$52,640$61,550
Rochester$31,940$38,290$49,120
Albany$27,370$37,210$51,150

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$39,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$32,610$40,150$49,370
Raleigh$33,580$42,820$57,710
Winston - Salem$32,330$39,880$48,290

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$39,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$31,140$38,610$48,830
Bismarck$25,400$38,000$48,940

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$40,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$25,040$39,260$57,120
Columbus$27,710$40,520$52,860
Cincinnati$32,580$43,260$59,050
Dayton$32,990$42,590$51,350

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$37,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $53,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$25,930$39,630$57,270
Tulsa$27,600$36,680$48,220

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$48,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $61,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$40,060$51,280$61,730

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$41,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $57,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$32,870$45,300$59,730
Pittsburgh$29,110$38,340$49,940
Harrisburg$29,070$44,040$59,550
Allentown$30,190$42,890$59,250

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$50,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $65,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$33,770$51,010$64,510

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$37,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$28,080$36,500$48,160
Columbia$19,030$35,880$49,140
Charleston$31,740$38,970$48,920

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$38,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Rapid City$32,640$42,110$53,820

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$38,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $51,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$32,060$40,740$56,780
Memphis$31,350$40,820$53,390
Knoxville$29,360$36,580$46,700
Chattanooga$31,580$37,350$48,810

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$44,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $60,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 390

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$33,120$45,840$60,500
Houston$34,640$46,830$60,850
San Antonio$19,560$39,340$55,070
Austin$33,170$44,450$60,240

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$37,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$27,580$38,650$51,120
Ogden$26,880$35,870$49,090

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$39,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $55,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$46,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$33,940$46,180$73,690
Richmond$32,400$43,660$59,520

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$52,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$40,670$54,090$72,340
Spokane$37,050$51,900$63,650

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$37,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $50,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$28,830$39,980$50,320
Charleston$25,250$35,980$48,230

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$49,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $68,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$38,690$56,160$75,910
Madison$34,850$49,550$62,470

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$45,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $63,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$36,910$48,770$67,930
Casper$28,520$40,330$58,520

The current median annual income of ORTs is calculated to be $44,330, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries range anywhere from $31,410 to $63,410. Pay of course varies with experience as well as geography. On average, outpatient facilities and doctors’ offices pay higher than hospitals.

There were roughly 99,800 ORT jobs in the U.S. in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With baby boomers aging, the number of ORT jobs is expected to grow 15% through 2024. This makes surgical technology one of the most rapidly growing professions in the country.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$53230 Per Year

$25.59 Per Hour

Houston TX Median Pay

$46830 Per Year

$22.51 Per Hour

Steps to Become an Operating Room Technician

1

Earn a high school diploma or equivalent.

A high school diploma or GED satisfies the qualifications for a candidate to enter the necessary educational programs to become an ORT.

2

Consider pursuing a degree.

Earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in surgical technology usually makes an operating room technician more desirable to employers, not to mention better positioned for opportunities that come along over the years. Students should aim to enroll in programs that the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accredit.

Show Me Schools »

3

If not pursuing a degree, enroll in an accredited certificate or diploma program.

Junior, community and vocational colleges all offer one-year programs in operating room technology. Large hospitals additionally offer training programs quite often. Training lasts for one or two years, sometimes including other aspects of medical technology. For ORT programs, students must learn medical terminology, physiology, and bacteriology including sterilization methods. Programs that include an internship or field placement can help the ORT gain not just knowledge but also experience. As with degrees, check with CAAHEP or ABHES to make sure the certificate program is accredited.

4

Become nationally certified.

Only a few states have certification requirements for operating room technicians, but gaining certification can make a candidate more appealing to an employer and command a higher pay rate. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) oversees all aspects of the surgical technology national certification examination, including developing the exams, administering the exams, and establishing the policies for eligibility to take the exam. Candidates who pass the exam are declared Certified Surgical Tech (CSTs).

5

Maintain certification with continuing education credits.

Certification is good for four years. If a CST earns at least 60 continuing education (CE) credits during those four years, their credential is automatically renewed for another four years. If not enough CE credits are accrued, a CST must re-take the national certification exam.

Continuing education is highly stressed in this occupation because surgical techniques and OR (operating room) practices are constantly evolving - a very appealing aspect of the career. The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) offers multiple opportunities for gaining CE credits, including forums, webinars, workshops and attendance at the annual AST national conference. Technicians must be members of AST to take advantage of these opportunities. In exchange, AST maintains a continuing education file for each of its members and communicates to the NBSTSA which members have earned renewal of their certification.

6

Consider opportunities for advancement.

CSTs with experience and leadership ability can become OR managers, or move into supervision of various medical technicians within a hospital or surgical center. Some move into managing the hospital central supply system or managing all sterile processing. They may also end up becoming surgical technician educators or being sales representatives for medical and surgical device manufacturers.

Explore Educational Paths

CERTIFICATE OR DIPLOMA PROGRAM

1 year

Becoming an operating room technician (now more commonly known as a surgical technologist) requires some post-secondary education.

When choosing a training program, make sure that surgical technology program itself (and not just the school) is accredited and in good standing. Graduates of non-accredited programs will have a harder time becoming certified after graduation.

Reputable accreditors include:

  • CAAHEP – Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  • ABHES – Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools

Certificate programs (also called diploma programs at some schools) offer you the basic skills you need to enter the surgical technology field. They can be found at many community colleges, technical schools, and career centers.

To find out whether a one-year program is right for you, check with potential employers in your area. Do they hire certificate-trained technologists? Are there certain programs that they prefer?

Also, if you plan to continue your education after completing your certificate, ask how many credits your will receive and whether these can be transferred to two- and four-year colleges in your area.

Common certificate-level coursework includes:

Medical terminology

Learn vocabulary related to anatomy, physiology, and the operating room setting.

Surgical technology

Covers OR procedures, surgical equipment, sterilization techniques, team communication, ethics, and record keeping.

Surgical procedures

Takes a closer look at specific operations in various surgical specialties, including outcomes and potential complications.

Pharmacology

An introduction to medications commonly used in the operating room, including documentation, dosage calculations, therapeutic effects, and safety precautions.

In addition to attending classes, surgical technology students also complete clinical rotations at a hospital or surgery center.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

An associate degree in surgical technology (typically an A.A.S.) prepares you for your chosen career while also providing you with a well-rounded education. You’ll have an opportunity to take courses in communications, math, science, and the humanities. This provides an excellent foundation if you later wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher.

An associate degree can also give you an advantage in recruiting, though its relative importance varies. It’s always a good idea to check with employers in your area to see what they’re looking for. As with certificate programs, choose a program that’s CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited to avoid certification hassles later.

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Associate-level surgical technology courses typically include:

Human anatomy and physiology

Spend two semesters studying the organs, tissues, and function of the human body (including cadaver lab).

Lab-based microbiology

Learn to identify, classify, and control microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria.

English composition

Research, organize, and write documents for a variety of purposes and audiences.

Internship and clinical rotations

Scrub in on and later assist with a variety of surgical cases under supervision.

MILITARY TRAINING

10 weeks of basic, 19 weeks of advanced individual training

Prospective operating room technicians can also gain the skills needed while serving in the military. After 10 weeks of basic military training, the soldier completes 19 weeks of Advanced Individual Training as an operating room specialist. Training is largely on-the-job and covers basic nursing care, emergency medical treatment, clinical laboratory procedures and human anatomy and physiology. Graduates are eligible for national certification.

Keys to Success as an OR Tech

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Precision

Even when a surgical operation is “routine”, it is never trivial. The standard for performance is set high, and there is quite understandably little to no tolerance in the OR for careless mistakes or inattentiveness - a patient’s life is in the hands of the surgical team.

Stress management skills

ORTs, along with all other operating room personnel, learn to manage stress, have level-headedness, and thrive within these expectations.

Attention to detail

While much of this is gained from experience, solid organizational skills are required from day one. The operating room technician always remains focused and attentive to details.

Desire to keep learning

Curiosity and a love of learning further help the ORT engage in their plentiful continuing education opportunities.

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