How do I Become a Surgical Technician?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Those who want to become a surgical technician will need to complete some specialized training. Similar training and education is available for people in the UK who would like to become an operating department practitioner or ODP. The first requirement in either profession is usually graduation from high school or equivalent. Most programs for surgical technicians will not admit students who do not posses a high school diploma or who have passed the GED. Some programs might admit students who have passed high school proficiency examinations.

A surgical tech manages equipment during surgical procedures.
A surgical tech manages equipment during surgical procedures.

In high school, people can start their training to become a surgical technician by taking math and science courses. These will be emphasized again in most surgical tech programs, and it can give people a running start if they have already mastered certain subjects. Taking up to second year algebra and studying the life sciences and chemistry are great places to start.

Once out of high school, people can usually find programs to become a surgical technician at trade schools, some nursing/medical schools, and at many junior or community colleges. Some of these programs require one year of study (though the UK program takes two for ODP training). Other programs result in the student gaining an Associate degree (AA). There is great benefit in staying in a program that will result in an AA. People with AAs tend to be preferred and may have a higher starting salary than those who have only completed one year programs. AA programs usually take two years with full time school attendance.

In the US, once a student has completed the surgical technician training program they are at a great advantage if they apply for certification. Taking and passing a certifying examination offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) can achieve this, but it is not required to become a surgical technician. The exam is difficult and has a relatively low pass rate. This means that many surgical techs aren’t certified, and the growing demand for these employees suggests that numerous uncertified workers will find jobs. However, certification may translate to being considered over other less qualified applicants for available jobs and higher salary.

In rare circumstances, a person may become a surgical technician through in-hospital training programs or may be independently trained by a physician. This was a common practice many years ago, but it is now seldom the way a person becomes a surgical tech, though there are some countries that may train by this method. It should also be understood that in many cases a registered nurse occupies the position in the UK called surgical tech. People interested in surgical tech employment in the UK should look at jobs for operating department practitioners.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@rundocuri- That would be important to make sure you are a good match for this type of job before you pursue it. I think that one good way to find out is to look online for training sources for becoming a surgical technician. Understanding what training is involved would help people who are looking into this type of career to decide if the job is for them.


If you are thinking about becoming a surgical technician, it is important to make sure that you are not squeamish about what goes on in the operating room. I have a niece that started training as a surgical technician just to find out that she felt like she would faint at the sight of blood. Obviously, this career choice was not going to work for her!

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