Becoming a Surgical Technologist: Education and Career Pathways

Surgical Tech Certification Programs: An Overview

A surgical technologist, also known as a surgical tech or operating room technician, plays a crucial role in the healthcare system by assisting in surgical operations. To become a certified surgical technologist, individuals typically need to complete a specialized training program and pass a certification exam. Here’s a detailed look at what these programs entail.3 Things To Know Before Becoming a Surgical Technologist - MedCerts

1. Educational Requirements

High School Diploma or GED: Before enrolling in a surgical tech program, you need a high school diploma or equivalent. High school courses in biology, chemistry, and health can be beneficial.

Accredited Programs: Surgical tech programs are accelerated surgical tech program offered by community colleges, vocational schools, and some universities. Ensure the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

2. Program Curriculum

Duration: Programs typically last from 9 months to 2 years, leading to a certificate, diploma, or associate degree.

Coursework: The curriculum covers topics such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, sterilization techniques, surgical procedures, patient care, and medical terminology.

Clinical Experience: Hands-on training in a clinical setting is a critical component, allowing students to gain real-world experience.

3. Certification

Certification Bodies: The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential. Another option is the Tech in Surgery – Certified (TS-C) offered by the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).

Examination: To become certified, graduates must pass a rigorous exam that tests their knowledge and skills. The CST exam includes questions on perioperative care, surgical procedures, and patient care concepts.

4. Career Opportunities

Employment Settings: Surgical technologists can work in hospitals, outpatient surgical centers, physicians’ offices, and dental offices.

Job Outlook: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of surgical technologists is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations, driven by advances in medical technology and an increase in surgical procedures.

Continuing Education: Certified surgical technologists need to complete continuing education to maintain their certification. This ensures they stay updated with the latest advancements and practices in the field.

5. Benefits of Certification

Professional Recognition: Certification demonstrates a commitment to the profession and adherence to national standards.

Better Job Prospects: Certified technologists often have better job opportunities and may command higher salaries.

Skill Validation: Certification validates your skills and knowledge, giving employers confidence in your abilities.


Becoming a certified surgical technologist is a rewarding career path that offers stability, growth opportunities, and the satisfaction of contributing to patient care during critical moments. By completing an accredited program and obtaining certification, you position yourself for success in this vital healthcare role.