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Operating Room Technician Career Information and Requirements

Operating room technicians generally complete a surgical technology certificate program. Continue reading for an overview of these programs, as well as certification, career options and employment outlook for graduates.

Essential Information

Operating room technicians, or surgical technologists, help doctors and patients throughout surgical procedures. The majority of these professionals work in a hospital setting. Those who wish to pursue a career in this supportive field can find several training options that may result in a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. Voluntary professional certification could enhance an operating room technician's skillset and employment opportunities.

Education RequirementsCertificate or associate's degree
Additional Requirements Certification is required by many employers
Job Growth* (2012-2022)30%
Median Salary* (2013) $42,720 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Operating Room Technician Career Information

Operating room technicians take charge of ensuring the proper equipment is sterilized and available, prepare patients for procedures and help teams scrub up during surgical operations. The profession requires supervision of surgeons, registered nurses or other surgical team members. Technicians typically work 40 hours per week, but could need to be available or on-call if an emergency arises.

Operating room technicians are also called scrubs, surgical technicians or surgical technologists. They fulfill many duties before, during and after surgical procedures. They might set up and sterilize operating rooms, supply instruments for surgery and take inventory of surgical equipment. Some technicians deliver specimens to hospital labs for analysis or observe patients' vital signs during surgery. After an operation, technicians could transfer patients to a recovery room, clean the operating room and restock supplies.

Operating Room Technician Education Requirements

The BLS reported that operating room technicians usually need to complete some form of formal education in the field. Many colleges and universities offer short certificate and diploma programs, though some also incorporate the training into an associate degree program. Non-traditional training options might include teaching hospitals or a branch of the military.

Operating room technology programs generally consist of 9-24 months of study. Students learn and train in classroom settings and clinical environments. Students learn infection prevention and control, sterilization techniques and proper handling of drugs, supplies and solutions. Additionally, they learn surgical procedures and how to maintain patient safety in the operating room. Common course topics include:

  • Aseptic procedures
  • Anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Physiology
  • Medical ethics

Certification Requirements

Surgical technology is not a state-regulated profession. However, the BLS stated that many employers look for certified operating room technicians. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers the Certified Surgical Technologist designation. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) also offers the Tech in Surgery-Certified credential to qualified applicants.

Both NBSTSA and NCCT certifications require passage of a competency exam. Candidates must have graduated from an accredited program, completed on-the-job training or accumulated a minimum amount of work experience. Certified technicians can renew their credentials every 4-5 years by completing continuing education.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for operating room technicians was expected to grow by 30% from 2012-2022, primarily due to the increased aging population. Most operating room technicians are employed in hospitals. In 2013, operating room technicians earned a median annual salary of $42,720, according to the BLS.

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