If you aspire to get into the field of Surgical Tech and assist the surgeons and surgical teams in surgeries, then you need to get certified.

A certification doesn’t only help you validate your skills but helps you in employment and to leap above the competition, as well.

In this article, we will be discussing Certified Surgical Techs, why you need certification, the requisites, the providers, how long it takes, and importantly how you become one.

So, let’s begin –

How to Become a Certified Surgical Tech?

Certified Surgical Tech

A CST is a Certified Surgical Tech that has earned the certification by passing the national certification exam like NBSTSA, NCST, OR NCCT.

They are crucial members of a surgical team in healthcare settings. They assist surgeons, nurses, and other medical professionals in the operating room before, after, and during the surgical procedures. 


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Why do you need certifications?

You need to acquire certification because it validates your expertise and skills. It is also beneficial for finding employment since most employers only seek to hire certified professionals because they have proven their skills.

From a patient’s point of view, they too want to be treated by certified professionals only. This is natural for we all love our lives and would never endanger it by undergoing procedures through unskilled professionals.  

So, a Surgical Tech with a certification status, signifies that they have met established standards of education and competence, providing assurance to patients and employers of their qualifications and commitment to safe and effective surgical care.

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You may earn your certification through credentialing organizations, let’s discuss them below. 

Certifications Providers

There are three main certification providers for surgical technologists. Also, it is to be noted that the regulations may vary per state, so you should check it first.

The certification providers are –

NBSTSA – National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting

NCCT – National Center for Competency Testing  

NCST – Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist through AAH (American Allied Health)

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Certification Requirements  

To be eligible for CST certification, you must meet certain requirements –

  • High School or GED equivalent 
  • You need to complete an accredited (CAAHEP or ABHES) surgical technologist program
  • Or, verifiable work experience (3 years) as a Surgical Technology practitioner 
  • Or undergo a military training program
  • You need to pass the Certified Surgical Technologist exam
  • You need to possess certain skills like communication, organization, teamwork, dexterity, and flexibility


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How to Become a Certified Surgical Tech?

Pros And Cons Of Being A Surgical Tech

If you wish to get certified as a Surgical tech, you need to undergo formal education through an associate degree, certificate and diploma programs, or online surgical tech programs. To enroll in a Surgical Tech program, all you need is a High School completion certificate.

The traditional programs are often offered through on-campus mode by community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, or universities. But we only recommend you to go after the online Surgical Tech programs.

Becoming a Certified Surgical Tech offers a fast entry into a rewarding healthcare career where you’ll be an integral part of surgical teams.

So, if you believe this career might be the perfect fit for you, then let’s proceed ahead to learn how exactly you can become one. 

Here is the step-by-step guide –

Step 1 – Enroll in a Surgical Tech Program  

As discussed earlier, the only requirement to enroll in a surgical tech program is passing high school. Also, you have just 3 options – Associate Degree, Certificate Program, and Online Surgical Tech Program. But we recommend you to go after online programs.

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Step 2 – Earn University Certificate

During the program, you’ll be learning topics like – Surgical Procedures, Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, Sterilization Techniques, Patient Care, and so on.

After you finish these and clear the exams, you’ll receive a university certificate that will help you a lot in your career.

Step 3 – Acquire Clinical Experience Through an Externship

After attaining the certificate of completion, you need to aim for externship opportunities, as well. Clinical training in healthcare is a crucial part as you’ll gain hands-on experience in a real healthcare setting, often in an operating room.

You’ll work alongside experienced Surgical Technologists and healthcare professionals to apply your knowledge and skills. This would again help you to get job opportunities as well. So, going through externships is a win-win for aspirants.

Step 4 – Apply for the CST Exam

After completing the program, you are eligible to apply for the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam, which is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

Or, you can also choose a certification like – Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist (NCST) which is offered through the American Allied Health (AAH).

You’ll need to provide documentation of your education and clinical training.

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Step 5 – Study and Pass the Exam

Now, you need to prepare thoroughly for the CST exam. Consider using study guides, practice exams, and resources provided by the NBSTSA to enhance your chances of success.

Schedule and take the CST exam. It consists of questions that assess your knowledge and skills in surgical technology.

The exam contains 175 questions, with only 150 scored questions, and out of those you are required to answer 102 questions correctly.

Once certified, you’ll be well-prepared to excel in the operating room as an essential member of the surgical team.

Step 6 – Maintain Certification

After becoming a CST, you’ll need to maintain your certification through continuing education. This involves earning 75 hours of Continuing Education (CE) credits. You need to renew it in 2 years or 4 years period.


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How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified Surgical Technologist?

What is a Surgical Tech

To become a CST, you first need to acquire a surgical tech certificate, and you can do it in 3 ways.

  • You can opt for an Associate degree, it will take you 2 years to get it.
  • You may also opt for Certificate or Diploma programs that require almost 1 year to complete.
  • But if you opt for online programs, it would only take you around 6 months.

Now, after acquiring the program, you need to go for the certification to become a Certified Surgical Tech, CST.  

Getting a certification would again depend on you, so consider 1 to 3 months for preparation, and then if you can pass the exam in one go, you could be certified.

Ultimately, if you have chosen the online route, then it would hardly take you around 1 year to become a certified surgical tech.


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In Conclusion,

To become a certified surgical tech, you need to enroll in an online program that holds accreditation from either the CAAHEP – Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs or ABHES – Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools.

Only then, you can be eligible to go for the certification. Don’t think otherwise, because Certified Surgical Techs, CSTs, hold more value than uncertified ones, and are sought after by employers as well.   

However, for Surgical Techs there are no such requirements in education or certification, as of now. Since employers prefer it, you should aim to acquire the education and certifications to be on the safer side.


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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com 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.