OR techs preparing surgical instruments in a modern operating room, representing high-paying states for this profession

The 4 states OR techs make the most money

May Baker
June 13, 2023

During an operation, surgeons and other medical professionals rely on OR techs to prepare the sterile field and medical equipment prior to surgery. Operating room (OR) techs fulfill this role and many others in a hospital or outpatient setting. Whether you’re pursuing an education to become an OR tech or advance your current OR tech career, understanding salary expectations is important. Keep reading to learn where OR techs earn the most money and the factors that determine competitive compensation.  

In this article, you will learn:

  • The responsibilities of an OR tech
  • The average OR tech salary
  • Highest-paying states for travel OR techs
  • Factors that influence an OR tech’s salary

What is an Operating Room Technician?

OR techs are healthcare professionals who work alongside the surgical team to:

  • Prepare the sterile field and set up surgical equipment and instruments
  • Assist nurses and surgeons in putting on their gowns and gloves
  • Track and count sponges and supplies used during surgery
  • Transport patients to the operating room and prep them for surgery (draping and disinfecting the surgical site)
  • Check a patient’s vital signs, medical history, and chart before surgery  
  • Manage surgical specimens and send them to a laboratory for analysis  
  • Clean and disinfect the operating room following procedures

This position is also referred to as a surgical technologist. While they have similar position descriptions, OR techs have job responsibilities preceding, during, and following procedures.  

What is The Average OR Tech Salary?

As of May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage as $48,510 for surgical assistants and technologists, an umbrella term including different types of tech positions — including OR techs. ZipRecruiter reports a much higher average as of 2023, at $68,494, or $33.00 per hour. OR tech salaries vary significantly, but the majority range between $48,000 to $76,000.  

Salaries vary drastically by location. According to the table below, California boasts some of the highest wages for OR techs, but overall is below the national average at $60,554. On the East Coast, New Jersey is competitive with the national average at $66,915, with Atlantic City as the highest-paying city at $73,285. Both states require a higher salary to afford housing and other expenses, so wages reflect that.  

City and State Annual Salary
San Francisco, CA $83,978
Fremont, CA $81,908
San Jose, CA $78,997
Oakland, CA $78,404
Jackson, WY $78,193
New York, NY $78,069
Vallejo, CA $76,815
Hayward, CA $76,761
Seattle, WA $76,603
Sunnyvale, CA $76,536

*Accurate as of 04/13/2023

High-Paying States For Traveling OR Techs

According to ZipRecruiter, travel surgical techs (similar to OR techs) receive the highest pay in northeast states. If you’re looking for your next spring or summer assignment, consider these states:

State Annual Salary
New York $91,609
New Hampshire $85,144
Vermont $83,968
Maine $83,173

*Accurate as of 04/20/2023

Advantis Medical has OR tech assignments in New York, paying over 3K per week, and over 2K per week in California.

What Factors Influence an OR Tech’s Salary?

Years of experience, certification, and specialization are often the best ways to increase your pay. The following are some key factors employers tend to consider when calculating salaries. Use this information to your advantage when applying for and negotiating positions to lock in the highest rates.

Job Growth  

Between 2021 and 2031, the BLS predicts a 6% growth for surgical assistants and technologists. Because of the expected rise in demand for positions like OR techs (over 9,000 job openings per year), new graduates and those looking to transition into a new career can expect a competitive job market.  

The BLS suspects many retirees will exit the field within the next decade, opening up even more positions. Also, as the baby boomer generation ages, they will seek surgical procedures to support an active lifestyle. The higher the demand for a job, the higher the average salary you can expect.  

Place of Employment  

OR techs work in many different healthcare settings, but predominantly hospitals. Each work environment has its own unique salary. In 2021, the BLS figured that surgical technologists (including OR techs) held 110,700 jobs in the medical field. Some of the most common places they worked were:  

  • Hospitals (state, local, and private) - 72%  
  • Physician’s offices - 11%  
  • Outpatient care centers - 11%
  • Dentist’s offices - 2%
  • Administrative and support services - 1%

Your shift requirements also influence your pay. Typically, OR tech shifts last between 8-12 hours. Trauma hospitals that perform emergent surgeries require staff 24/7, and working night shifts or on-call rotations will increase your pay.

Education, Accreditation, and Certification  

OR techs are classified as surgical technicians or technologists, so they have similar education and credential requirements. You first need a degree from an accredited university. Usually, OR techs have an Associate’s degree in surgical technology or have completed a similar program. Prospective students can locate an accredited program through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Once you’ve completed your degree, most employers look for certification from an organization like the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting or the National Center for Competency Testing.  

Surgical techs are not required to obtain state licensure. Employers require CPR certification for all medical professionals, and if working in a specialized setting or with a specific population, they may seek additional certifications. For example, an OR tech working with pediatric patients may be required to possess Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification.


Most OR techs assist in general surgery and may have experience in specialty areas. Specialization, such as in cardiovascular surgery (CVOR), neurosurgery, or bariatric surgery, often equates to higher pay.

Prior Work Experience  

An impressive work history will set you apart from other candidates. Experienced OR techs with advanced knowledge, skills, and expertise from years of practice are paid more than newer graduates. Their level of experience enables them to handle complex surgical procedures and high-stress situations with ease and confidence. An OR tech that requires minimal training or supervision is preferred by hiring managers, ultimately leading to a higher salary.  

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some benefits of becoming an OR tech?

  • High job security due to increasing demand  
  • A fast-paced, dynamic, and diverse working environment  
  • Plenty of opportunities for professional growth  
  • Options to work in different settings, from hospitals to dental clinics  
  • Additional areas to specialize in  
  • Competitive salary and benefits packages  

How do I become an OR tech?

To become an OR tech, you need an Associate’s degree — specifically, completion of a surgical technology program. Certifications and relevant training in operating room procedures and techniques are also useful.  

What is the average OR tech salary?

The average OR tech salary is $68,494.

What are similar careers to OR techs?

Because operating room technicians can specialize in many areas, they have multiple options for a career that utilizes similar skills. These include dental assistants, clinical laboratory technologists or technicians, medical assistants, or registered nurses.  

Are you an OR tech seeking a travel assignment at the beach, in the mountains, or in a major city? Advantis Medical has top-paying travel assignments nationwide. Log into AdvantisConnect for more details and to apply today.  

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