How to Become a Surgical Tech in California

How to Become a Surgical Tech in California

In California, the surgical team in the operating room is always prepared to respond swiftly, particularly in emergencies.

This team comprises various essential roles, such as:

  • Surgeons
  • Anesthesia specialists
  • Surgical nurses
  • Surgical technicians

Their collaboration commences prior to the surgery’s initiation and continues through its completion.

Furthermore, these professionals may go by alternative names, including operating room (OR) technicians and scrub techs.

Job Description and Responsibilities of Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists are responsible for a multitude of tasks during their shifts, including:

  • Preparing patients for surgery
  • Assisting in the transportation of patients to and from the operating room
  • Equipping the operating room with surgical equipment and supplies
  • Vigilantly monitoring the count of surgical instruments throughout the procedure
  • Providing surgeons with the necessary medical instruments
  • Participating in wound closure and the application of patient bandages

It’s crucial to note that this list does not encompass all the responsibilities associated with this medical profession.

Training and Education for Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists in California are generally not affiliated with a particular institution, as their regulation falls under the purview of their employing organizations.

But, this does not imply that obtaining this profession is uncomplicated.

Your journey to become a surgical technologist typically begins with completing high school or obtaining a GED.

The subsequent step involves enrolling in a specialized training program tailored to this occupation.

It is vital to recognize that both educational and clinical training are essential for this role.

Several institutions in California offer such training programs, and while the admission criteria may vary slightly, there are common courses required.

These are:

  • Microbiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • CPR and/or BLS and/or AED certification

MiraCosta College

This college provides students with the opportunity to pursue a Certificate of Achievement in the field of surgical technology.

This one-year program encompasses a total of 39 credit hours.

To gain admission, prospective students are required to complete courses in:

  • Human Anatomy
  • Basic Medical Terminology
  • Basic Pharmacology

Upon successful program completion, students are eligible to undertake the national examination conveniently held on campus.

San Joaquin Valley College

The school extends its Associate in Science degree program in surgical technology across multiple campuses.

This comprehensive 15-month program covers a spectrum of topics.

These include:

  • Surgical case management,
  • Basic surgical procedures,
  • AAdvanced surgical procedures

Graduates of the program meet the criteria for the national certification examination and also attain CPR certification upon successful program conclusion.

Skyline College

Located in San Bruno, it offers both a certificate program and an Associate of Science degree in surgical technology.

The certificate program, achievable in approximately one year, consists of 34 credit hours specific to the program.

Pursuing an associate degree necessitates two years of study, with a minimum requirement of 60 credit hours for graduation.

These credits encompass the 34 credit hours from the certificate program and include additional general education coursework.

Bevill State Community College

At Bevill State Community College, the program covers various subjects, like:

  • Sterile processing
  • Infection control
  • Sterilization
  • Instrumentation identification
  • Safety

Prospective students must meet specific prerequisites, including:

  • Having a high school diploma or GED,
  • Passing the Accuplacer placement exam,
  • Having prior medical-related experience.
School Name Address
MiraCosta College 1 Barnard Dr, Oceanside, CA 92056
San Joaquin Valley College 9331 Mariposa Rd, Hesperia, CA 92344
Skyline College 3300 College Dr, San Bruno, CA 94066
Bevill State Community College online

Certification for Surgical Technologists in California

Although certification is not a legal requirement, many employers in California prefer to hire certified surgical technologists.

A few different certifying bodies offer certifications for this profession, including:

  • National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA)
    • Provides the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) qualification
  • National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
    • Provides the Certified Surgical Technologist/Certified First Assistant credential
  • National Center for Competency Training (NCCT)
    • Provides the Tech in Surgery Certification

Among these, the NBSTSA certification holds the most prestige and enjoys national recognition.

Testing centers can be found in various cities across California.

The certification exam consists of 200 questions, with a passing threshold of a minimum of 119 correct answers.

Taking the exam necessitates the payment of an associated fee, with different rates for members and non-members of the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST).

Certification renewal typically transpires every four years.

It can be achieved in 2 ways:

  • Retaking the certification exam – it involves paying the exam fee once again
  • Accumulating 60 education credits through continuing education during the renewal period.

Renewal also necessitates the payment of a renewal fee.

Surgical Technologist Salary in California

While this profession may not be the most glamorous, it is important to be aware of the potential income in this field.

In California, an OR technician can earn an average annual salary of around $56,600.

The following table highlights cities within California where these professionals earn higher salaries compared to the state average:

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
San Jose $64,400
San Francisco $64,100
Alamo $62,400
Santa Monica $57,500
Topanga $57,400
Acton $57,300
Westminster $57,200
Tustin $57,200
Sacramento $55,600
San Diego $55,400

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA240$64,120$30.83$81,790$48,080
El Centro, CA50$54,380$26.15$77,520$32,600
Fresno, CA290$69,480$33.41$96,700$46,130
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA3,630$68,580$32.97$85,300$42,840
Modesto, CA190$74,580$35.86$107,650$47,930
Napa, CA40$82,840$39.83$120,130$51,650
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA220$65,000$31.25$81,600$48,770
Redding, CA70$71,470$34.36$81,770$48,230
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA1,040$62,570$30.08$81,620$39,920
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA610$81,090$38.99$109,090$50,580
Salinas, CA120$67,490$32.45$86,050$49,030
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA800$70,660$33.97$84,370$49,130
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA1,590$87,200$41.92$109,000$58,870
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA680$85,030$40.88$111,180$59,200
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA130$60,010$28.85$78,360$39,920
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA60$79,830$38.38$103,440$60,310
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA140$66,880$32.15$85,100$48,460
Santa Rosa, CA120$82,140$39.49$105,280$55,560
Stockton-Lodi, CA150$74,230$35.69$107,030$48,760
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA120$85,910$41.31$108,220$59,700
Visalia-Porterville, CA90$56,140$26.99$76,500$42,050
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Surgical Technologists, OCC Code 29-2055, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Sills Do I Need To Work As A Surgical Tech in California?

Here are the most important skills this profession requires:

  • Able to work as part of a team
  • Detail-oriented
  • Take direction
  • Understanding medical terms
  • Understanding medical methodology
  • Good communication skills

Where Do Surgical Technologists from California Find Work?

These technologists usually work in a hospital’s surgery wing.

Furthermore, these other places also hire such specialists:

  • Children’s hospitals
  • Cosmetic surgery centers
  • Specialty clinics for surgical procedures

Can a Surgical Tech From California Choose a Speciality?


Just like surgeons can choose to operate on a specific body part, so can these techs.

Here are the most commonly chosen surgery niches:

  • General surgery,
  • Ob/gyn,
  • Urology,
  • Plastics,
  • Neurology

USA Surgical Tech Programs by State

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