Surgical Tech Schools and Programs 2021

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Surgical technology programs prepare learners to support surgeons during medical operations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), surgical technologists earn a median annual salary of $48,300. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 7% from 2019 to 2029.

Surgical technology programs focus on anatomy, sterile technique, surgical procedure, and surgical tools and technologies. Full-time students usually earn their bachelor’s in surgical technology in about four years. However, learners with an associate degree or transferable credits often graduate in two years. Enrolling in an accelerated program, many of which feature up to six terms per year, can also reduce degree-completion time.

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Applicants to surgical tech programs must typically submit immunization documentation, proof of CPR certification, application essays, and official transcripts. Applicants usually need a satisfactory GPA and at least a high school diploma. Some bachelor’s programs require applicants to have completed prerequisite coursework and to hold an associate degree and professional licensure or certification. The application process may also involve an interview and a surgical observation.

Top Surgical Tech Programs

What Can I Do as a Surgical Tech?



Programs for surgical techs help learners develop the knowledge and skills necessary to assist surgery patients, nurses, and doctors. The responsibilities of surgical technicians typically include surgical assisting, instrument sterilization, medication checking, and operating room preparation and cleaning. Surgical technicians can work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, ambulatory surgical centers, and physicians’ offices.

Online surgical technology bachelor’s programs prepare surgical technicians to pursue career advancement and supervisory positions. Additionally, allied health professionals in other fields can complete a surgical tech program to effect a career transition. Bachelor’s-level surgical tech programs often prepare students to obtain professional certification from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), which can help individuals stand out in the job market.

Many surgical tech programs offer specializations in cardiothoracic, neurosurgery, orthopedic, and endovascular surgery. Other niche areas include ophthalmic, podiatric, urologic, and daVinci Robot surgery. Students can improve their hireability by specializing in an in-demand surgical technology subfield.

Accreditation for a Surgical Tech Program



The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes seven regional accrediting agencies, which formally evaluate and certify higher education quality in specific geographic areas. Career and religious schools often receive national accreditation. Only students at accredited schools can qualify for federal financial aid.

Since regional accreditation requires schools to meet higher academic standards than national accreditation, regionally accredited institutions typically only accept degrees and credits from other regionally accredited schools. Prospective surgical technology students should choose a regionally accredited school to ensure that employers and other institutions will recognize their degree. Learners can consult the U.S. Department of Education’s database to verify a school’s accreditation status.

To qualify for NBSTSA certification, candidates need a degree from a program with accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. The top surgical technology programs may also hold programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.

FAQ


  • How long does it take to become a certified surgical technician?

    Learners can typically complete a surgical technician certificate or associate degree in 1-2 years. Bachelor’s in surgical technology programs take up to four years. However, accelerated program formats can reduce the timeline.


  • What education do you need to be a surgical tech?

    Many surgical technicians qualify for positions in the field by earning a certification or associate degree. Aspiring supervisors and program directors, such as medical and health services managers, usually need a bachelor’s degree.


  • Can a registered nurse (RN) be a surgical tech?

    Surgical and perioperative RNs can serve as surgical technicians. However, nursing practice typically involves a wider variety of responsibilities.


  • Does a licensed practical nurse (LPN) make more than a surgical tech?

    LPNs and surgical technicians often earn similar salaries. Earning potential depends on employees’ professional experience, credentials, employer, and specialization.


What Are the Requirements for a Surgical Tech Program?



Incoming freshmen applying to bachelor’s programs in surgery technology usually need a high school diploma, a decent GPA (often 2.0-3.0 minimum), and good standardized test scores. Some schools also require recommendation letters. To gain official admission to the major, students usually apply during or after their sophomore year of college and must demonstrate successful performance in prerequisite coursework.

Surgical technology programs consist of both core and elective courses that may include a mixture of clinical rotations, labwork, and classroom work. To graduate, students often complete a capstone experience, which may include a research project or internship.

Courses in a Surgical Tech Program



Bachelor’s degrees typically require at least 120 total credits, including about 60 general education credits and 60 major credits. Surgical technology coursework generally covers anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology, microbiology, and asepsis and aseptic technique. Enrollees also complete classes in medical terminology, surgical procedure, and surgical pharmacology.

During clinical rotations and internship experiences, learners cultivate core skills in sterilization, surgical assisting, operation preparation, and disinfection. Many programs offer specialization options in areas such as pediatric, cardiovascular, and gynecological surgery assisting. Although specific courses vary, many surgical tech programs include the courses below.

Microbiology
This core course explores the microorganism structure and pathogenicity, microbiology principles, and infectious disease. Enrollees learn how microorganisms can affect humans, considering factors such as genetics and immunity. Coursework may also address issues such as dual-use biological research, antibiotic resistance, and the anti-vaccination movement. The class examines practical applications and helps learners develop skills in aseptic technique, culture and identification methods, staining, and microscopy. This course may require biology and chemistry prerequisites.
Anatomy and Physiology
This core surgical technology course surveys anatomical structures and functions. Learners study the body’s major systems, including the neurological, skeletal, integumentary, and immune system. Students complete laboratory work, engaging in dissection and tissue observation. Degree-seekers learn about biological molecules, cell and tissue function, biochemical processes, and homeostasis mechanisms. Programs may also offer a concentration in anatomy and physiology.
Surgical Procedures
This course explores core and specialized surgery procedures, preparing enrollees to assist surgeons and patients before, during, and after surgery. Students learn about diagnostic and surgical interventions, equipment, and instruments. Coursework also covers pathophysiology, surgical complications, and postoperative care. Surgery tech programs often require a sequence of courses on surgical procedures to help learners develop foundational skills.
Pathophysiology
Most surgical technology programs require a course on pathophysiology. The class surveys various pathological processes and effects, including disruptions of homeostasis. Learners gain knowledge of etiologies, symptoms, diagnoses, and prognoses of various diseases. The course examines the body’s pathophysiological responses to phenomena such as stress, infection, and carcinogenesis. Degree-seekers study how the organ systems interrelate and respond to threats and stressors.
Clinical Experience
Essential components of surgical technology programs, clinical experiences usually entail supervised practice at approved facilities. Learners work with an assigned preceptor as they practice surgical technician duties, such as equipment selection and sterilization. Ideally, clinical experiences focus on the student’s specific interest area. Clinical hours may count toward experience requirements for professional certification.

Certifications and Licensure for Surgical Tech Majors



A surgical technology bachelor’s degree meets the education requirement for most surgical technician and assistant positions. However, surgical tech jobs in many states require professional certification. Candidates for certification must typically pass an exam. Surgical technology professionals commonly earn the following certifications to improve their job prospects.

Certified Surgical Technologist


Surgical technologists in many states need this national certification to practice. Candidates must have completed an accredited surgical technology program and must pass the CST examination. Administered by the NBSTSA, the exam comprises 175 questions that evaluate candidates’ expertise in areas such as surgical procedure assistance, patient care, and aseptic techniques.

Certified Surgical First Assistant


This certification demonstrates that graduates are prepared to work directly with surgery patients. Candidates must have completed a two-year or four-year surgical technology program that included coursework in science, microbiology, and human anatomy. Additional requirements include operating room experience and a passing score on the CSFA examination.

Certified Operating Room/Surgical Technician


The National Healthcare Workers Association administers the CORST certification. Candidates must either have completed an allied health vocational training program, have one year of relevant professional or military experience or training, or hold reciprocity from another agency. Current and aspiring surgical technicians can obtain CORST certification.

Professional Organizations for Surgical Tech Majors



The following professional organizations offer career development resources for professionals and students in the surgical technology field. Members often receive access to continuing education opportunities, networking events, certification programs, and field publications. Some professional organizations provide scholarships and discounted student membership rates.


  • Association of Surgical Technologists The field's leading professional organization, AST serves more than 40,000 members. Committed to improving patient care, AST promotes surgical technician education and advocates for practitioners at the state and national levels. AST also posts public policy information and publishes The Surgical Technologist.

  • The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting Founded to help ensure quality care, the NBSTSA provides professional certifications for surgical technologists and surgical first assistants. This organization also offers educator resources, publications, and job postings.

  • Association of Surgical Assistants ASA connects surgical assistants and technicians focused on improving patient care. The organization advocates for legislative strategies and offers continuing education for surgical technology professionals. ASA hosts events, offers leadership and volunteer opportunities, and publishes a code of ethics.

  • American Medical Women's Association Created to advance gender equity in medicine, AMWA provides career development resources, education, mentoring, and networking opportunities. The organization focuses on women's health improvement and funds an initiative to combat human trafficking.

Scholarships for Surgical Tech Students

Students pursuing a surgical technician degree can qualify for various scholarships. Many organizations award scholarships based on applicants’ academic performance, financial need, or identity. Scholarships do not require repayment and can help learners minimize debt. Students in surgery tech programs can explore the scholarships below.

The Future of Bariatric Surgery Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time students pursuing a degree or certification related to the medical field can apply. Applicants submit official transcripts and two recommendation letters. Candidates also provide a 2,000-word essay describing how they expect the bariatric surgery field to evolve during the next five years.
Amount: $2,000 annually

AMSN Higher Education Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports learners at accredited schools who have at least one year of membership with the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses. Scholarship recipients cannot reapply for two years.
Amount: $3,000

AvaCare Medical Scholarship

Who Can Apply: AvaCare Medical awards this scholarship to students in healthcare-related fields, including nursing, dentistry, medicine, and laboratory science. Candidates need U.S. citizenship or an alien registration card. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must submit an original project describing an inspirational act of kindness.
Amount: $1,000

Surgical Tech Schools and Programs 2021



  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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