The best way to become a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) is to earn a degree or certificate through a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).
Accredited surgical technology programs make graduates more competitive in the job market by providing them with a solid medical background, thorough understanding of surgical procedures and the technical skills needed in an operating room. Programs may include the following courses:
- Hands-on training in sterilization techniques
- Surgery procedures
- Equipment handling
- Patient care and safety
Earning Your Surgical Technologist Certification
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the majority of employers seek surgical technologists who have passed a national certification exam, such as the one administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
This comprehensive certification exam, a multiple-choice test taken on a computer, is open to anyone who has earned a CAAHEP- or ABHES-accredited degree from an institution. It covers the medical knowledge and skills required of competent entry-level technologists, including specific techniques in perioperative care, intra-operative care, post-operative care and basic science.
A passing grade on this exam qualifies you as a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).
Earning Your Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) Credential
Like the CST, this certification indicates knowledge in several science and medical topics, safety procedures and surgical skill areas. The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) offers this credential and tests for mastery medical terminology, infection control, antiseptic procedures and other key competencies.
Candidates can qualify to take this exam in one of three ways:
- Be enrolled in or complete an accredited surgical technology program
- Demonstrate three years of full-time experience as a surgical technologist within the past five years
- Complete surgical technology training or its equivalent during U.S. military service within the past five years
Those who pass the NCCT exam are designated as Tech in Surgery–Certified (TS-C).
Renewing Your Certification as a Surgical Technologist
After becoming a CST or TS-C, a certified surgical technician must keep her credential current. Mandatory renewal of CST certification involves the following:
✔ Enrolling in continuing education classes
✔ Re-taking the certification exam every four years
TS-C certification is renewed in the same manner every five years.
Surgical Tech Schools
Dozens of schools around the country, from Florida to Idaho, offer accredited programs in surgical technology. The credential generally requires 12 to 24 months to complete.
To gain admission to a surgical technologist program, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED. Depending on the school, you may also need to complete some classes in advance, such as basic math, biology and English classes. Other schools may have fewer or no prerequisites; be sure to ask the college you’re considering.
Because you’ll be interning in a patient care setting, surgical tech schools will require you to undergo a confidential background check and health screening after you’ve enrolled.
Surgical Tech School Coursework
The course of study for surgical technologists includes classroom instruction in the sciences, patient care, anatomy and surgical procedures. You’ll also get hands-on practice in clinical settings that prepare you to join a surgical team of doctors and registered nurses in an operating theater. As a student, you’ll get to see first-hand how surgery is performed, and learn how an operating team works together.
During your clinical internships, expect to assist in preparing the operating rooms prior to surgical procedures; sterilize the room both before and after procedures; and learn how to assist surgeons and nurses during actual operations.
Most programs will also include academic courses in communication, social sciences and quantitative reasoning. These skills provide a foundation for the technical prowess that you’ll gain in a surgical tech program.
Surgical Tech School Accreditation
A quality program will prepare you to sit for a national certification examination, such as the one offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
To sit for that exam, you’ll need to earn a surgical tech credential offered by either of these two institutions:
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs – AAHEP
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools – ABHES
Before you enroll in any surgical technology school, confirm that it is accredited by one of these two agencies.
When calculating the cost of school, be sure to include fees for books and supplies as well as tuition. Depending on the surgical tech program you choose, the tuition can range from $6500 for a one-year course to double that cost for longer programs. Expect to spend more if you enroll as an out-of-state student.