You want to become a Surgical Tech but are wondering if certification is necessary, or not. You might also wonder which certifications to opt for since there are a few widely recognized options. 

While certification is not mandatory. But in this competitive era, it is definitely encouraged for it validates your skills and helps you stand apart from the rest. 

Moreover, besides certification, you are also required to pursue formal training and try to acquire as much hands-on clinical experience as possible to feel confident about the job.

So, in this article, we will discuss what exactly you need to become a surgical tech, if you can become a surgical tech without certification, why you need to be certified, and much more.

Let’s begin –

Concentrated Surgical team operating a patient in an operation theater.

What do You Need to be a Surgical Tech?

Surgical techs are essential members of the healthcare team, responsible for preparing operating rooms, sterilizing equipment, and assisting during surgical procedures.

If you need to start your career as a surgical tech then these 3 requirements are not only important but also most hospitals in the US are likely to demand these 3 things.

Let’s discuss them in detail –


-> What is a Surgical Tech?

-> What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

-> How to Become a Surgical Tech?

Formal Training

One of the foundational requirements to embark on a career as a Surgical Tech is formal training. This you can do through on-campus or online programs. We recommend you opt for the online programs.

Formal training is very important. You’ll learn about everything you need in this training period. These programs will provide you with the essential knowledge and skills needed to excel in the operating room.

The curriculum equips you with a solid understanding of the intricacies of surgical technology. You’ll delve into topics like surgical procedures, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, infection control, and patient care.

However, to pursue formal education, you need a high school diploma or its equivalent, which is the basic requisite to qualify for most surgical technology programs.

Read More:

-> Online Surgical Tech Programs

-> Surgical Tech Classes & Courses

-> Surgical Tech Program & Training

Clinical Experience

You are supposed to work in the OR setting and you have just finished your formal education. So, getting some real-world experience would be very beneficial.

During this period, you’ll become familiar with the operating room environment, various surgical procedures, and the use of surgical instruments and equipment.

You’ll also develop essential skills such as sterile technique, surgical instrument handling, anticipating the needs of the surgical team, and patient care in a real-world context.  

Post-completion of the externship, you will feel really confident about the job since you have already performed all the duties during that period.

Read More:

-> Surgical Tech Salary

-> Surgical Tech Requirements


Surgical Tech Salary

Obtaining professional certifications is the final step in your journey to becoming a Surgical Tech. While not always legally required, certification offers formal recognition of your expertise and enhances your credibility in the field.

There are two widely recognized organizations that offer certification for Surgical Techs. They are NBSTSA and NCST by AAH. To become certified, you’ll need to pass their comprehensive exam that assesses your knowledge and skills in surgical technology.  

We recommend the NCST (Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist) certification program offered by AAH (American Allied Health) since it is more suitable for first-timers. It offers many features like – unlimited retests without any cool-off period and more.

As you gain more experience you can then try to acquire NBSTSA or NCCT certifications. Besides national certification, you can also gain other basic certifications like BLS (Basic Life Support), CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), etc. These certifications will further help you in the long run.

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Why Do You Need to be Certified? 

Before delving into the certification aspect, it’s essential to understand the role of a surgical tech. These professionals are instrumental in maintaining a sterile field, passing instruments to surgeons, and ensuring the operating room functions efficiently. They also play a vital part in patient care, including positioning and preparing patients for surgery.

So, considering the nature of the work a certified professional would be more confident about the job and would be trusted by his team and employer as well.

However, certification as a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) or Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist (NCST) is not always a strict requirement to work as a surgical tech. But the importance of certification also cannot be overstated.  

Here’s why you need to be certified –

Enhanced Credibility

Certification formally recognizes your knowledge and skills, which can enhance your credibility as a surgical tech.

Increased Job Opportunities

Although one could become a Surgical Tech without certification, but today many employers prefer or require certification, giving certified techs a broader range of job options.

Higher Earning Potential

This is true for any career. Certified professionals often earn higher salaries compared to non-certified counterparts. CSTs annually earn around $55,960.

Continuing Education

Certification encourages ongoing professional development through continuing education requirements. This would again help in recertification.

Also Read:

-> AST Surgical Tech 

-> NCCT Surgical Tech

-> Surgical Tech Study Guide

Can You Become a Surgical Tech Without Certification?

scrub nurse vs surgical tech

Becoming a Surgical Tech without formal education and certification might be possible, but its worth largely depends on employers and patient preferences.

Currently, there are no strict educational or certification requirements for becoming a Surgical Tech. However, the healthcare industry is increasingly leaning towards employing certified professionals.

Moreover, even if an employer allows you to gain experience and work without formal education or certification, you might encounter some challenges. Patients may specifically request treatment by certified professionals. Also, in the near future, there could be state laws passed for mandatory certified professionals. These factors need to be considered as you are about to begin your career.

Given these considerations, we don’t strongly recommend freshers like you to pursue a career as a Surgical Tech without education, clinical experience, and certification.

These 3 aspects not only align you with industry standards but also ensure that you can offer the best possible care to patients while increasing your chances of employment in the field.


While it’s possible to work as a surgical tech without education or certification, it’s essential to recognize the advantages of becoming certified.  

So, to become a Surgical Tech, you’ll need a strong educational foundation, hands-on clinical experience, and the option to pursue certifications. This combination will equip you to excel in the operating room and provide exceptional care to patients in need.

Moreover, many employers prefer to hire certified Surgical Techs, since certifications are the credential that demonstrate your commitment and dedication to your profession thus making it an asset for your career.


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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.