Surgical Tech Schools

Surgical tech programs are a great way to enter the medical field. Here, we outline top surgical tech schools.

Updated September 9, 2022 • 6 Min Read

edited by Veronica Freeman

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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.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Surgical Tech Programs

How long does it take to become a surgical tech?

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.

What does a surgical tech do?

Surgical technologists perform many roles in the operating room. They create a sterile environment and hand surgical tools to physicians.

Do surgical techs make more than nurses?

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.

  • Surgical Theory

    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.
  • Surgical Procedures

    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 Technology Practicum

    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.

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.

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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

  1. Pennsylvania College of Technology
    Location

    Williamsport, PA

    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.

  2. Alvernia University
    Location

    Reading, PA

    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.

  3. Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences
    Location

    Lancaster, PA

    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.

  4. Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health
    Location

    Omaha, NE

    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.

  5. Washburn University
    Location

    Topeka, KS

    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.

  6. Great Plains Technology Center
    Location

    Lawton, OK

    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.

  7. Mount Aloysius College
    Location

    Cresson, PA

    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.

  8. Collins Career Technical Center
    Location

    Chesapeake, OH

    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.

  9. The University of Montana
    Location

    Missoula, MT

    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.

  10. Western Suffolk BOCES
    Location

    Northport, NY

    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.

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