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Degree Overview: Associate of Science (A.S.) Degree in Surgical Technology

Majors Overview March 3, 2014

Surgical technologists, also called operating room technicians or scrubs, work alongside a sterile surgical team that prepares operating rooms and patients during surgical procedures. Associate of Science (A.S.) degree programs in surgical technology provides students with classroom instruction and hands-on experience to help them obtain entry-level work in the field.

A.S. Programs in Surgical Technology

Graduates of an Associate of Science in Surgical Technology program can expect to develop the skills necessary to providing assistance before and during surgery. These skills can include providing care to the patient, maintaining equipment and assisting doctors during the actual operation. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), which provides guidelines for the program coursework, accredits most surgical technology programs.

An externship or practicum is included in most programs thereby allowing the application of students’ knowledge to real-life situations. Technical schools and community colleges typically provide these 2-year programs whose admission criteria require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.


Apart from general education courses, core coursework includes subject areas such as surgical technology and microbiology, surgical technology and rudimentary and advanced anatomy, and may include other topic areas such as:

•Surgical techniques
•Medical law and ethics
•Medical terminology

Job and Wage Outlook

A faster-than-average job growth rate of 30% has been projected for surgical technologists during the decade from 2012 to 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, surgical technologists took home an average annual wage of $41,790.

Certification and Continuing Education Choices

Graduates can seek to join the workforce immediately on completion of the program or choose to educate themselves further by earning a bachelor’s degree in surgical technology whose coursework usually expands on that of the associate’s degree program and additionally includes classes in health sciences. However, the most commonly offered courses are surgical technology programs that students can complete in 9-24 months (BLS).

Employers of surgical technologists may prefer candidates with professional certification that they can obtain through the National Center for Competency Testing or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. Completion of continuing education and passage of additional exams are typically required for certification.

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In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma.*
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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