Surgical Technician Programs
Surgical tech schools prepare enrollees to work as surgical technologists. These professionals clean operating rooms and prepare patients for surgery. They also help other healthcare professionals with operating equipment. Surgical tech schools offer associate degrees that graduates can use to enter the workforce or enroll in bachelor's-completion programs.
Most surgical tech programs limit applicants to those ages 18 and older. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma. Some schools also accept the HiSET. First-year students meet with enrollment advisors to take a placement test. Schools use test results to determine learners' first English and math courses.View Our Rankings List Here
Frequently Asked Questions About Surgical Tech Programs
Surgical tech programs take full-time students 18 months to complete. Part-time learners may take longer. Academic advisors can help students create a graduation timeline.
Surgical technologists perform many roles in the operating room. They create a sterile environment and hand surgical tools to physicians.
Registered nurses specializing in surgery earn significantly more than surgical technologists. However, both career paths feature a salary higher than the U.S. median.
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Why Enter a Surgical Tech Program?
Surgical techs positively impact patient outcomes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for surgical techs to grow 9% from 2020-2030, which is about as fast as average for all occupations.
Online surgical tech programs and schools provide flexibility. Students can choose the most affordable programs without relocating. Many online programs feature asynchronous courses. Enrollees can view lectures and complete assignments when convenient. However, some programs require learners to complete praticums and clinical rotations at specific times.
How Much Does a Surgical Tech Program Cost?
Program costs vary by school. According to EducationData.org, associate degree-seekers attending in-state, public schools spend an average of $3,370 in tuition each year. Learners at private institutions spend much more.
Prospective enrollees should budget for additional expenses such as lab fees. Other costs include drug tests and criminal background checks. Some programs require learners to buy memberships for professional organizations.
Students can reduce their out-of-pocket expenses by applying for scholarships and grants. Eligibility requirements and deadlines vary by award. They should also complete the FAFSA to check their eligibility for federal grants and loans.
How Much Do Surgical Technologists Make?
Surgical technologists earn a median annual salary of $49,710, according to the BLS. This exceeds the U.S. median salary for all occupations by about $8,000. BLS data show that workers in Alaska, Nevada, and California earn much more than their peers in other states. However, professionals in these states experience a higher cost of living.
Surgical technologists with an associate degree earn more than workers with only a college certificate or diploma. Professionals can increase their salary potential by earning professional certifications. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) awards certifications to eligible candidates.
Courses in a Surgical Tech Program
Students learn how to operate equipment, sterilize tools, and work with other healthcare workers in surgical tech programs. A broad core curriculum prepares learners for many careers. Graduates may work as laser technologists or private surgical technologists. Students complete general education courses to hone transferable communication and analytical skills.
The following three courses provide learners with foundational knowledge. Students use what they learn in these courses in their clinical rotations and careers. Keep in mind that not all schools use the same curricula. Students should check with their prospective schools on program offerings.
This introductory course covers hospital operations, healthcare careers, and patient rights. Assignments also cover surgical technicians' roles in operating rooms. Enrollees explore sanitation, patient interaction, and teamwork best practices. Students also learn how to work with patients with special needs. Top surgical tech schools require at least two theory courses.
Enrollees build upon what they learned in surgical theory. The curriculum covers sanitation techniques, such as spotting contamination risks. Students gain hands-on experience with different surgical tools and memorize their names. Coursework emphasizes pre- and post-operative procedures and routines. Learners master these skills during their clinical rotations.
Surgical tech programs require 2-3 surgical technology practicums. Learners complete these experiences in hospitals. Students work under experienced surgical techs to sterilize operating rooms and equipment. Supervisors provide feedback. Learners take on additional responsibilities in the second or third practicum. Benefits include mastering typical job duties and networking with prospective employers.
Surgical Technology Practicum
How to Become a Surgical Technologist
Surgical technologists need a college certificate, diploma, or associate degree. Community colleges and trade schools offer these programs. The curriculum provides the required content knowledge and hands-on experience.
Experienced surgical techs may work as surgical first assistants. These professionals take on extra tasks, including suturing wounds and operating some surgical equipment.
Certification for Surgical Technologists
Most states do not require surgical technologists to earn a license. However, many employers prefer candidates with one or more professional certifications. The NBSTSA awards the certified surgical technologist (CST) certification to workers with a diploma, certificate, or degree. Candidates with relevant military training also qualify.
The NBSTSA requires candidates to pass a 175-question multiple-choice exam. Authorized testing centers offer this computer-based exam. The CST Candidate Handbook explains the exam's content requirements and format. The handbook also features helpful study tips. Test-takers with disabilities may request accommodations. Those who pass the exam earn the CST credential and may pursue other NBSTSA certifications.
CSTs renew their certification by earning 30 continuing education (CE) credits every two years. The Association of Surgical Technologists lists CE providers and courses. CSTs submit CE documentation, the renewal form, and a fee. Renewal processing takes 4-6 weeks.
Surgical Tech Schools and Programs
An applied technology college based in Williamsport, Penn College offers technical education at the associate and bachelor's level. The school's associate of applied science in surgical technology trains students to serve as part of an operating room team, providing care before, during, and after surgical procedures. The program explores the procedures, protocols, and specialty instrumentation of surgery, preparing graduates for jobs in hospitals, surgery centers, and physicians' offices.
The surgical tech program covers three major areas: foundations, perspectives, and specialization. Foundation courses build basic skills in composition, speech, and information technology, while perspectives courses explore general health science topics like human anatomy and microbiology. The specialization section builds comprehensive surgical tech knowledge, with courses including pathology and disease, pharmacology, and surgical technology practice.
Penn College stresses hands-on learning. Surgical tech students complete at least 700 hours of experiential practice, including 200 lab hours and 500 clinical placement hours.
A Catholic liberal arts college based in Reading, Pennsylvania, Alvernia offers a dual-enrollment surgical tech program in partnership with Reading Hospital's School of Health Sciences. The program enables candidates to earn an associate of science in surgical technology through courses at Alvernia and clinical practice hours at Reading Hospital. Most candidates complete the program in 20 months.
The 74-credit program includes a 44-credit surgical technology section and a 30-credit liberal arts core. Typical courses include human anatomy and physiology, foundations of surgical technology, introduction to patient care, and medical moral theology. Program graduates earn an associate of science and a surgical technology diploma.
Alvernia's surgical tech program offers small class sizes, with a typical faculty-to-student ratio of just 1-to-5. Candidates complete an array of clinical experiences, building surgical practice skills in professional healthcare environments. Graduates can also transition seamlessly into Alvernia's bachelor's in healthcare science or healthcare administration.
Based in Lancaster, PA College offers one of Pennsylvania's top programs for surgical techs. The school's associate of science in surgical technology builds comprehensive skills through practical learning experiences, including advanced simulations and clinical labs. The program prepares students for surgical assistant positions in a variety of acute care settings, including general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, and neurosurgery.
The 65-credit program typically takes two years to complete. Common courses include medical terminology, perioperative services, intraoperative patient care, and surgical procedures and pathophysiology. To graduate in two years, candidates must enroll in courses during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. The summer semester features a lighter course load.
The surgical tech program prepares graduates for the surgical technology certification exam, and the program reports a 90% pass rate for graduates. Recent students also indicate a 100% job placement rate within six months of graduation.
A center of healthcare education in Nebraska, NMC serves both undergraduates and graduate students from its campus in Omaha. The school offers one of the state's top surgical tech programs, training students to work alongside surgeons and assume critical roles in the operating room. The program prepares candidates to sit for the certified surgical technology national exam during the final semester.
All candidates complete a minimum of 66 credits, divided between core courses and required surgical tech courses. The core builds foundational health science skills in areas such as microbiology, language and culture in healthcare, medical law and ethics, and medical terminology. The required section builds specialized skills in areas including surgical instrumentation and equipment, surgical procedures, and surgical technology.
Candidates can complete the surgical tech program in 22 months. For learners who desire further education, NMC offers the opportunity to seamlessly transfer into its bachelor of science in health science program.
Located in Topeka, Kansas, WU ranks among the state's top surgical tech schools. WU's surgical technology certificate builds the basic skills needed to maintain operating rooms and assist surgeons in various surgical procedures. The program prepares candidates to take the certified surgical technologist national exam upon graduation.
The surgical tech certificate includes 47 credits total, divided among 13 courses. The curriculum covers major topics including surgical medical terminology, surgical procedures, pharmacology, and principles and practices of surgical technology. The program concludes with a surgical technology certification review course, which offers a comprehensive overview of key surgery principles and practices.
The program starts in August each year and typically takes one year to complete. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma and must test at appropriate levels in math and reading on WU's entry assessment exam. Surgical tech applicants must also submit three recommendation letters, ideally with at least one letter from a healthcare professional.
Focused on career and technology education, Great Plains Technology Center operates campuses throughout Oklahoma, with locations in Frederick and Lawton. The school's surgery tech program trains students to handle instruments and assist surgeons during a variety of medical procedures. Combining classroom instruction, clinical experience, and laboratory practice, the program prepares graduates to serve as effective members of surgery teams.
Candidates complete 1,185 educational hours total, divided between 555 hours of theory courses and 630 lab or clinical hours. Typical courses include core medical terminology, microbiology and wound healing, disaster and emergency preparedness, surgical case management, and surgical patient care.
All candidates complete a three-part surgical tech practicum that builds hands-on skills in a healthcare environment. Encompassing both observation and practice, the practicum stresses core surgical procedures.
A private Christian college associated with the Sisters of Mercy, MAC operates a main campus in Cresson, Pennsylvania. The school offers one of the state's top surgical tech programs, preparing candidates for the pace and complexity of modern surgical operating rooms. MAC's associate of science in surgical technology features a low student-to-faculty ratio and a 100% job placement rate among recent graduates.
Candidates complete 23 credits of surgical tech major courses, covering major topics such as basic patient care, aseptic technique, surgical procedures, instrumentation, and equipment. The program also includes 11 credits of foundation courses that introduce topics in anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and medical terminology.
The program typically takes two years to complete. The first year focuses on theoretical concepts and simulated lab exercises, while the second year covers clinical practice, enabling students to assist in real-life clinical surgical procedures.
Dedicated to technical and vocational education, CTC operates campuses in Chesapeake and Coral Grove, Ohio. The school offers one of the state's top programs for surgical techs, training candidates to provide seamless, efficient, and safe patient care. The program prepares students to sit for the initial surgical tech certification offered through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
The surgical tech program takes about 10 months to complete, beginning each year in August and concluding the following June. The curriculum covers topics like operating room procedures, human anatomy, antiseptic techniques, and the use of surgical tools and technologies. Candidates also complete courses in medical terminology, pharmacology, and microbiology.
All enrollees complete a surgical rotation that includes a minimum of 120 surgical cases. The rotation features 30 general surgery cases and 90 specialty surgery cases. Learners must complete at least 80 cases in the rotation in the first scrub role.
The flagship college of the University of Montana system, UM serves around 10,000 students annually from its campus in Missoula. The school's Department of Health Professions offers an associate of applied science in surgical technology, training students to serve as part of a team of medical practitioners in surgery environments.
The 64-credit program includes 16 credits of prerequisite courses and 48 credits of surgical technology courses. Prerequisites introduce key medical topics such as human anatomy, mathematics, technical writing, and medical terminology. The surgery tech core covers major concepts including medical ethics, surgical procedures, and operating room techniques.
The surgical tech curriculum includes multiple experiential learning components, including two lab courses, two clinical courses, and a surgical internship. Candidates build experience through observations and clinical participation in real surgical procedures.
Located in Long Island, New York, Western Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) offers technical and career training to high school students and traditional learners. The school's surgical tech program trains students to assist doctors, nurses, and anesthesiologists in many types of surgical procedures. The program prepares graduates for the surgical technologist national certifying examination.
The program comprises 1,200 instructional hours. Candidates can choose from start dates in either April or October. Full-time learners typically graduate in one year. Courses occur year-round, and enrollees must attend summer courses.
The surgical tech curriculum highlights conceptual and clinical topics, including human body, microbiology, fundamentals of surgical care, and pharmacology. Candidates complete a significant number of clinical hours. Western Suffolk BOCES maintains connections with many clinical affiliates throughout Long Island, including Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital.
A public college located about 70 miles east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, UPJ is a satellite campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The school offers degrees exclusively at the bachelor's level, including a surgical tech program that enables candidates to earn an associate degree and a professional certificate. Recent graduates report a 95% pass rate on the national certified surgical technologist exam.
Surgical tech candidates complete a total of 74 credits, typically graduating in two years. The program covers topics including anatomy and physiology, medical microbiology, and operating room techniques. Candidates also complete a liberal arts core that includes topics such as composition, psychology, and algebra.
The final three semesters focus on experiential learning. Candidates complete 12 hours of orientation, 315 hours of classroom instruction in operating techniques, and 1,035 hours of a clinical practicum.
A fully accredited career college based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Southeast Tech hosts one of the state's top programs for surgical techs. Training students to serve as operating room technicians, the associate degree in surgical technology teaches students how to prep patients and operating rooms, handle instruments and equipment, and pass instruments to surgeons during procedures.
The 63-credit program covers topics such as medical language, surgical asepsis, patient care techniques, and healthcare/human relations. The curriculum prepares graduates to serve as primary scrubs in surgical environments, anticipating the needs of surgeons and facilitating effective patient care.
All candidates complete multiple semesters of clinical practice, gaining hands-on experience in various surgery environments. Southeast Tech assigns clinical placements through a lottery system, and candidates perform clinical hours at many different sites around South Dakota and the Midwest.
One of Nebraska's top surgical tech schools, Northeast operates a main campus in Norfolk. The school offers an associate of applied science in surgical technology in conjunction with Southeast Community College in Lincoln, combining online education with in-person clinical experiences. Program graduates can test for the national certified surgical technologist credential.
Candidates complete surgical technology courses online through Southeast Community College, building key skills in operating room techniques and asepsis. Northeast provides 30 credits of support courses on topics such as microbiology and comprehensive medical terminology. Enrollees also complete general education courses in behavioral science, math, oral communication, science or technology, and written communication.
Clinical experiences form another major section of the surgical technology curriculum, enabling candidates to build skills through hands-on learning. Northeast students complete clinical hours with Faith Regional Health Services and other Nebraska hospitals.
A public community college based in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Western also operates several regional campuses in cities including Black River Falls, Independence, Mauston, Tomah, and Viroqua. The school hosts one of the Midwest's top surgical tech programs, training students to assist in operating rooms with diagnostic, therapeutic, and invasive surgical procedures. The associate of applied science in surgical technology also prepares graduates for national certification.
Surgical tech candidates complete a minimum of 68 credits, typically taking five academic terms to graduate. The curriculum features courses such as exploring surgical issues, surgical tech fundamentals, surgical skills applications, and surgical interventions. Candidates also perform four surgical tech clinical courses for a total of 12 credits.
Clinical and lab courses occur in person, but Western also offers some courses online through its regional campuses. Distance courses build general surgical and medical knowledge, preparing candidates for clinical courses in later semesters.
A private Florida college, Keiser operates a main campus in Fort Lauderdale along with several regional campuses throughout the state. The school's Clearwater campus hosts one of the state's top programs for surgical techs, giving students the technical skills and knowledge needed to serve as surgical technologists. The associate of science in surgical technology covers the use of surgical instruments and supplies, patient positions and preparation, and principles of asepsis in surgical operating room settings.
The 74-credit program includes general education courses, surgical tech major courses, and externship courses. General education courses build foundational knowledge in areas including behavioral science, communications, natural science, and mathematics.
The surgical tech major features 48 credits of courses on topics like surgical techniques and procedures, surgical specialties, and anatomy and physiology. Externship courses occur at the end of the program, building clinical experience in a surgery setting.
One of Maryland's major community colleges, FCC serves more than 6,100 students annually from its campus in Frederick. The school offers a surgical tech program with two enrollment options: an associate of science in arts and sciences with a pre-surgical technology concentration and an associate of applied science in surgical technology.
The pre-surgical tech concentration prepares candidates for the associate of applied science degree, building foundational knowledge and skills over three semesters. These three semesters serve as an admissions evaluation. Candidates can apply to the applied science program after completing all required courses.
The associate of applied science program includes 60-65 credits, with significant portions dedicated to lab and clinical work. The program typically takes six semesters to complete (including the three initial evaluation semesters).
Operating three campus locations in Bradenton, Florida, MTC offers a surgical technology certificate program that combines classroom learning, simulation exercises, and clinical operating room experiences. The program reports a 100% on-time completion rate and an 89% pass rate among graduates on the national surgical technologist certification exam.
Operating in accordance with the Florida Statutes for Surgical Technology, the program covers key topics including anatomy and physiology, aseptic techniques, use and care of equipment and supplies, patient care procedures, and surgical technology procedures. The curriculum also stresses the legal and ethical responsibilities of surgical technologists. The program requires a total of 1,330 clock hours and typically takes about 11 months to complete.
Course credit earned through the surgical tech program may transfer toward bachelor's programs at other Florida colleges. MTC maintains articulation agreements with many schools around the state. Transfer counselors can advise students on course selections and credit equivalencies.
One of 16 members of the Wisconsin Technical College System, CVTC operates a main campus in Eau Claire along with satellite campuses in Chippewa Falls, Menomonie, Neillsville, and River Falls. The school's surgical technologist technical diploma trains students to organize and handle equipment, prepare operating room suites, drape surgical patients, and assist surgeons with various procedures. The diploma prepares graduates for careers including surgical technologist, sterilization technician, and oral surgery technician.
The 35-credit program highlights the theory and application of surgical technology, covering topics such as human anatomy, sterile and aseptic techniques, and the implementation of tools and technologies in surgical procedures. All course content occurs in person, and most full-time enrollees complete the certificate in just one year. Program graduates are prepared to sit for the national surgical technologist certification examination.
Located on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in the city of Marquette, NMU enrolls around 7,700 students annually. The school's surgical tech program builds the knowledge and abilities necessary to maintain sterile surgical environments and promote patient care. Recent program graduates report an 89% pass rate on the national certified surgical technologist exam.
The associate of applied science in surgical technology comprises 64 credits. Learners complete 16 credits of general education courses, 32 credits of major courses, and 16 credits of additional required courses. The core explores key topics including clinical assisting, clinical practice, and general surgical procedures. Other required courses include medical terminology and emergency medical care.
Graduates can enter professional practice or continue on to NMU's bachelor's in clinical health science program. The 120-credit bachelor's program builds on skills developed in the associate program, preparing graduates for supervisory positions.
A technical and career training center based in Enid, Oklahoma, Autry Technology Center offers a surgical tech program that serves students of all backgrounds. The program prepares candidates for a variety of professional certifications, including certified tech in surgery, central sterile processing technician, and Oklahoma's surgical technologist competency certification.
Candidates complete a total of 1,481 clock hours, divided between classroom courses and practicum hours. The curriculum covers topics like surgical asepsis, microbiology and wound healing, surgical patient care, and surgical case management. Candidates also complete three sections of a surgical tech practicum, building professional experience in a surgery setting.
The program takes full-time enrollees 11 months to complete, beginning in August and concluding the following July. Candidates attend regular weekday classroom sessions, moving into eight-hour clinical shifts later in the program. While most classes and clinical hours occur during the daytime, the program includes some evening assignments.
A major Wyoming community college based in Laramie, LCCC serves around 6,000 students annually. The school's associate of applied science in surgical technology focuses on the knowledge, skills, and behavior necessary for effective patient care and sterile conscience in surgical environments. Using classroom, laboratory, and clinical courses, the program trains students to serve as key members of surgical teams. Most full-time enrollees graduate in 11 months.
LCCC offers an accelerated/alternate delivery pathway for applicants with professional experience or previous training in surgical technology. These candidates can demonstrate mastery of program content through proficiency exams or a professional portfolio. Accelerated candidates skip over some required courses, enabling them to graduate faster.
Focusing on technical and professional education, New England Tech serves around 3,000 students from its campus in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. The school's associate of science in surgical technology is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and trains students for the scrub role on surgical teams. Graduates can pursue positions in obstetrical departments, outpatient surgical centers, and hospital operating rooms.
The program lasts six academic terms and requires 101 quarter credits. Common course topics include medical ethics and bioethics, surgical procedures, and advanced applications of surgical technology.
All candidates complete surgical simulations and a comprehensive clinical externship. Lasting 160 hours, the surgical simulation occurs at two different surgical tech labs. The 20-week externship places students in a professional surgery environment, enabling them to work alongside other assistants and surgeons.
A public college based in Bismarck, North Dakota, BSC enrolls around 4,000 students annually. The school's associate of applied science in surgical technology highlights the application and theory of sterile techniques in surgical settings.
The program begins during the spring semester and offers two-year and three-year enrollment options. Candidates complete a minimum of 65 credits, including courses in specialty surgical procedures, operating room materials, and medical terminology for surgical technology.
The surgical tech program is highly selective. Many applicants hold a background in the biological sciences, including training in anatomy and physiology. Candidates must first complete one full-time semester at BSC with at least a 2.0 GPA. After satisfactory completion of the first semester, candidates can apply to the surgical tech program, which also requires an admissions interview.
A career and technology education center based in Oklahoma City, Metro Tech offers technical education to high school and traditional students. The school's surgical tech program trains enrollees to prepare instruments, equipment, and supplies for surgical procedures. The program prepares graduates for the national surgical tech certification examination.
The program combines classroom instruction, lab sessions, and clinical practice. The curriculum includes topics such as surgical case management, essentials of surgical asepsis, microbiology and wound healing, and surgical patient care.
Program applicants must be at least 18 and hold a high school or GED diploma. Metro Tech recommends prior training in anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology, though these courses are not required to enroll.
A community college based in Grayslake, Illinois, CLC offers one of the top surgical technology programs in the Midwest. Candidates can choose from a certificate or an associate of applied science in surgical technology, training for positions in hospital operating rooms, surgery centers, physicians' offices, and emergency rooms. The program prepares graduates for the national certified surgical technologist exam.
The certificate program typically lasts four semesters and includes 43-49 credits. The associate degree lasts six semesters and includes 62-68 credits. Both programs feature courses such as principles of biology, anatomy and physiology, and principles and practices of surgical procedures. The associate degree includes additional general education courses along with a course in advanced surgical procedures.
Candidates in both programs complete significant lab and clinical practice hours. All students complete three courses in surgical procedures and a three-credit surgical technology internship.