What Education Do You Need to Be a Surgical Tech?

Surgical techs are in high demand! Check out our blog post to learn what education you need to be a surgical tech and start your new career today!

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Surgical Technician Job Description

To become a surgical tech, you need to have at least a high school diploma or GED. You will also need to complete a surgical technology program, which can be done at a community college, technical school, or hospital. After you complete your education, you will need to pass the Certified Surgical Technologist exam.


A surgical technician, also called a scrub, scrubs in before an operation. Once the surgeon and other medical staff members are scrubbed in, the surgical technician hands the surgeon the instruments he or she will need during the operation. He or she also may prepare the patient for surgery by shaving and cleaning the incision site. During surgery, the surgical technician is responsible for counting sponges and needles and passing instruments to the surgeon.


In order to be successful in this roles, surgical techs must have excellent communication, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills. They must be able to work well under pressure and follow instructions carefully. In addition, surgical techs should have good manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination. Those interested in this career should also be detail oriented and organized.

Surgical Technician Training

A surgical tech, also called a scrub tech, works in the operating room with the surgeon, nurses and other surgical personnel. Surgical techs are an important part of the surgical team. They prepare the operating room, equipment and instruments for surgery. They also may assist during surgery.

On-the-job training

In most cases, surgical technologists receive on-the-job training rather than formal education. Training typically lasts about a year, although it may take longer for some technologists to gain the necessary skills. On-the-job training generally includes both classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience. Classroom instruction may cover topics such as medical terminology, sterile processing and surgical procedures. Clinical experience gives technologists the opportunity to work with patients and see firsthand how to perform their duties.


Although it is possible to find apprenticeship programs that last up to four years, most surgical tech apprenticeships only last one year. During this time, you will work with a surgeon or another medical professional in order to learn the skills and knowledge necessary to become a surgical tech.


Although a certificate may be all that is required in some states, most employers prefer job applicants who have completed an accredited surgical technologist program. These programs typically last 9 to 24 months and lead to a certificate, diploma, or associate degree, although some hospitals may offer on-the-job training for entry-level positions.

Associate’s degree

While a certificate or diploma may be sufficient for some entry-level surgical tech positions, most employers prefer to hire candidates who have completed an accredited associate’s degree program in surgical technology. These programs typically take two years to complete and include coursework in anatomy, physiology and medical terminology, as well as hands-on clinical experience. Some programs also offer the opportunity to earn credentials in other medical specialties, such as operating room nursing, which can make graduates more attractive to employers.

Surgical Technician Certification

To work as a surgical tech, you will need at least a certificate from an accredited program, although many employers prefer candidates who have an associate’s degree. You will also need to pass a certification exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting. In some states, you may also need to have a license.

National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)

The NBSTSA is a non-profit organization that provides certification for surgical technologists and surgical first assistants in the United States.

To be eligible for the NBSTSA Certification Examination, an applicant must:
– Be a high school graduate or have a GED
– Complete an accredited surgical technology or surgical first assisting program
– Submit a completed application form with the application fee

After meeting these eligibility requirements, an applicant may register for the certification examination. The examination Fee is $300 for surgical technologists and $325 for surgical first assistants.

The NBSTSA also offers specialty certifications in ophthalmology, podiatry, and cardiovascular technology. To be eligible for these examinations, an applicant must:
– Meet all of the eligibility requirements for the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) or Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA)
– Have completed a minimum of one year full-time work experience as a CST or CSFA in the specialty area
– Submit a completed application form with the appropriate fee

National Healthcare Association (NHA)

Earning a surgical tech certification from the National Healthcare Association (NHA) requires taking an exam. To be eligible to take the exam, you must have completed a surgical technologist program that has been accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). You must also have completed a minimum of 400 clinical hours. Once you have passed the exam, you will need to renew your certification every four years.

National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)

The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) is a not-for-profit certification organization that has been providing allied health certification exams since 1989. The NCCT provides multiple qualifications for surgical technologists. You must have graduated from an accredited surgical technology program or have completed a minimum of one year of full-time work as a surgical technologist within the last five years to be eligible for any of the following NCCT certifications:

– Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)
– Tech in Surgery – Certified (TS-C)
– Tech in Surgery – Passing (TS-P)

Surgical Technician Salary and Job Outlook

Surgical techs are in high demand with a projected job growth of 12% from 2018-2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. with a median annual salary of $47,300 in 2018. Though you can find jobs with just a certificate, most surgical techs have an associate degree from an accredited surgical technology program.


The average pay for a Surgical Technician is $24.98 per hour. The median pay for Surgical Technicians represents about a 4% increase from rates in 2012. The top 10% of Surgical Technicians can expect to earn more than $39.58 per hour, while the bottom 10% make less than $16.57.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for surgical techs is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of surgical technologists to grow much faster than average, by 12% from 2018 to 2028. This growth is due to the large Baby Boomer population reaching retirement age and needing more medical procedures, as well as advances in medical technology that require trained staff to operate new equipment.

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