Operating Room Assistant: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue as an operating room assistant. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Operating Room Assistant?

Operating room assistants, also known as surgical technologists, work in hospitals or outpatient facilities, where they assist surgeons during surgical procedures. They work under the supervision of surgeons and anesthesiologists. Prior to an operation, they help prepare the operation room and make sure all operation equipment is sterilized and in order. During an operation they hand surgeons equipment. Following an operation they sterilize equipment and take inventory. Review the table below for more information about this career:

Degree RequiredCertificate, diploma or associate's (2-year) degree
Education Field of StudySurgical technology
Key ResponsibilitiesAssist doctors and nurses as requested
Take charge of all surgical equipment to see it is working properly and complete
Make sure all needed surgical supplies are readily available
Handle pre- and post-op surgical procedures with patient
Licensure/CertificationCertification not required, but preferred by most employers
Job Growth (2014-2024)15% (for surgical technologists)*
Median Salary (2015)$44,330 (for surgical technologists)*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Work as an Operating Room Assistant?

To become an operating room assistant, you'll need training from an accredited college, vocational institute or hospital program. Programs typically cover courses such as anatomy and physiology, medical terminology and pharmacology. Your program may take from nine months to two years to complete and may award a certificate, diploma or an associate's degree in surgical technology.

What Would My Job Duties Be?

As an operating room assistant, you'd work under the supervision of surgical personnel, including anesthesiologists and surgeons. Your job title may be scrub surgical technologist, circulating surgical technologist or first or second assistant technologist.

As a scrub surgical technologist, you'd prepare the operating room with the proper equipment, instruments and medications, as well as ensure instruments are sterilized. You'd help surgeons and other assistants put on gowns and gloves. During surgery, you hand instruments to surgeons and sterilize the operating room after surgery to prepare for other patients.

Working as a circulating surgical technologist involves verifying patient information and the surgery to be performed, keeping records throughout the surgery, ensuring that the patient is comfortable, collecting specimens and transporting the patient to and from the recovery room. In a first or second assistant role, you duties would include applying clamps to stop bleeding, connecting suction devices, dressing wounds and following the surgeon's directions in cutting sutures.

Do I Need Certification?

Although certification is not required, most employers prefer candidates who have it. You may obtain certification by graduating from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and passing a national certification exam.

Certifications include the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) and the Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA). Both are provided by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). These certifications require continuing education credits for renewal every four years. You also have the option to retake these exams to remain certified.

What's the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for surgical technologists are expected to increase by 15% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). This growth surpasses the average for other occupations and is due to an increase in surgical procedures required by an aging population. The BLS also reported that surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of $44,330 as of May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Dental assistants perform similar tasks to an operating room assistant, just in a dental setting and not a surgical one. They also take x rays, maintain records and schedule appointments. Under the supervision of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses provide basic nursing care in medical facilities. Medical and clinical laboratory technologists maintain laboratory equipment and run clinical tests. Medical assistants are people who complete both clinical and administrative duties in medical facilities.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Walden University

    Walden University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Walden University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Herzing University

    Herzing University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Herzing University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Independence University

    Independence University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Independence University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Associate Programs

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Florida: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie
    • Indiana: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis
    • Ohio: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Cuyahoga Falls
    • South Carolina: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Cuyahoga Falls, Columbia
    • Tennessee: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Cuyahoga Falls, Columbia, Nashville
    • Utah: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Cuyahoga Falls, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City
    • Virginia: Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Cuyahoga Falls, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Norfolk
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »