Certified Operating Room Technician: Job Description & Required Skills

Sep 09, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a certified operating room technician. Get a quick view of the requirements - such as degree programs, certification and job responsibilities - to find out if this is the right career for you.

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If you're interested in helping people, working in a professional capacity in a surgical environment, and are willing to put in hours of education and training, then a career as a certified operating room technician may be your ideal fit. These professionals learn about sterilization procedures and surgical instrumentation through degree, diploma and certificate programs in surgical technology.

Essential Information

Certified operating room technicians, also known as certified surgical technologists, are responsible for various pre-, intra- and post-surgery duties within a hospital. Surgeons and registered nurses supervise their work. The majority of certified operating room technicians are employed in hospitals, but some also work in outpatient care centers, ambulatory surgical care centers and in the offices of doctors and dentists who do outpatient surgery. In addition to certification, operating room technicians typically need some postsecondary education.

Required Education Postsecondary non-degree award
Certification Options National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or National Center for Competency Testing
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 9% for all surgical technologists
Average Salary (2018)* $47,300 for all surgical technologists

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for Certified Operating Room Technicians

Certified surgical technologists function in non-sterile and sterile capacities by creating an optimal environment for surgical patients. According to the Association of Surgical Technologists, there are three types of operating room technicians or surgical technologists ( These positions are scrub surgical technologist, circulating surgical technologist and second assisting technologist. Each post is responsible for different duties and requires separate skills.

Scrub Surgical Technologist

A scrub surgical technologist assists a surgeon by handling all the instruments, supplies and equipment during surgery. These operating room technicians know the procedure and can anticipate what the surgeon may need during it. Part of their job is to put the gowns and gloves on the surgeon and surgical assistants. Scrub surgical technologists set up a sterile operating room environment and are responsible for maintaining that field. Their chief job is to make sure the patient has the best possible care throughout the surgery.

Circulating Surgical Technologist

The tasks of a circulating surgical technologist include obtaining additional supplies, instruments and any equipment that is needed while a surgery is in progress. These surgical technologists monitor what's going on in the operating room and continually assess what the patient or operating team needs at any given moment. Preparing the patient's skin prior to draping and reassuring the patient are part of the job description. Additional duties include using consent forms to verify the surgical procedure that is going to be performed, checking patients' charts and assisting anesthesiologists.

Second Assisting Technologist

The role of the second assisting technologist is to help the surgeon and first assistant with various technical tasks during a surgery. Their jobs may include holding instruments under the direction of a surgeon, sponging or suctioning the site of an operation, cutting suture material and applying wound dressings. They do not cut, clamp or suture tissue.

Required Skills

Technicians working in an operating room environment need to be emotionally stable and quickly respond to a surgeon's needs during an operation without being told what to do. Certified operating room technicians also need to be conscientious, organized and orderly, and have the manual dexterity to manipulate surgical instruments. Professionals are expected to be familiar with surgical procedures and keep current on advances in the field.


Graduation from an accredited surgical technology program is necessary to become initially certified as a surgical technologist. Surgical technology programs are accredited by the Accreditation Review Committee on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Training programs are available through a variety of educational settings, including community and junior colleges, vocational and technical schools, military institutions, universities and hospitals. Surgical technology programs can be 9-15 month certificate or diploma programs or two-year associate degree programs. Courses for surgical technology typically include broad medical training in anatomy, physiology and pharmacology, in addition to more direct clinical courses in sterilization techniques and surgical instrumentation.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers prefer to hire operating room technicians or surgical technologists who have been certified ( Certification as a surgical technologist or first assistant may be obtained from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting ( Surgical technologists can also obtain certification through the National Center for Competency Testing ( After graduating from an accredited program, candidates pass a national exam. Certification must be renewed periodically by taking continuing education credits or exams.

Certified operating room technicians are professionals who've completed an accredited program and passed an exam. These positions are in high demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as employment growth is expected to outpace the job market as a whole.

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