Operating Room Technician: Educational Requirements and Career Summary

Sep 13, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an operating room technician. Get an overview of the requirements as well as details about education, certification and job duties to determine if this is the career for you.

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Operating room technicians work in hospitals and other surgical settings assisting surgeons before, during and after surgery. Completion of an accredited postsecondary training program is required, and professional certifications are available. They have a much faster job growth outlook than the job market as a whole and have an average salaries of around $46,000.

Essential Information

Operating room technicians assist doctors and patients before, during and after surgical procedures. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent and complete an accredited postsecondary surgical technology program. Optional certifications are available through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent and completion of an accredited postsecondary surgical technology program
Optional Certifications Available through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or the National Center for Competency Testing
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 15% for surgical technologists*
Average Annual Salary (2018) $49,040 for surgical technologists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for an Operating Room Technician

According to the Association of Surgical Technologists, potential operating room technicians must complete an accredited program at a postsecondary school to comply with surgical and clinically accepted practices (www.ast.org). This training establishes them as professionals who understand the foundations of surgical technology and medical principles. As of September 2016, there were 436 accredited training programs in the U.S., according to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (www.caahep.org).

Aspiring operating room technicians must complete classroom learning in conjunction with career training in a clinical environment. The clinical portion teaches students how to keep their environment and equipment sterile, handle supplies and provide proper patient care. Students receive career training in basic medicine and medical ethics during these education programs, which must be completed in three years' time but can often be finished sooner.

Surgical technology programs or their equivalent are available at community colleges and vocational schools. Some hospitals may also offer acceptable training programs. Graduates of surgical technology programs receive a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. Common courses include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Surgical procedures
  • Pharmacology

Career Summary

Operating room technicians, also known as surgical technologists or scrubs, are part of a burgeoning medical industry. Career opportunities for operating room technicians are expected to grow by 9% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The same source states that, as of May 2018, the career offers an average annual salary of $49,040, and most employers provide vacation and sick days as well as health benefits.

All scrubs work directly under the supervision and management of surgeons in sterile, well-lit operating chambers. In addition to assisting surgeons, they complete a variety of duties before, during and after a surgery. Beforehand, they may need to prepare patients for surgery and ready operating room instruments, fluids and machines. During surgery, they may operate equipment, hand off tools and observe patients' vital signs. Afterward, they transfer patients out of the room, restock supplies and deliver specimens to hospital labs.


The BLS suggests that operating room technicians who are certified may have the best job prospects (www.bls.gov). Certification can be achieved via the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Both require passing an exam and completing continuing education in order to achieve and retain certification.

Operating room technicians require a high school diploma or equivalent and must complete an accredited program in this specialty. Certification is available, but not always required, although candidates with certification increase their job prospects. Job growth in this field is projected to be faster than average through 2028.

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