You want to become a surgical tech and must be wondering about which program to choose as there are a few options available. The respective options hold merit in their own way but choosing the right program that suits you could be tricky.

In this article, we have tried to discuss all the types of Surgical Tech Programs available, their merits and demerits, the costs you need to invest in, the time each type takes, and discuss if on-the-job training is recommended or not.

Besides that, we did some research for you and have found an ideal Surgical Tech Program that is ultra-modern, full of features, and is gaining a lot of traction among surgical tech aspirants.

Let’s find out – 

Surgical Tech Program & Training

Types of Surgical Tech Program

If you’ve set your sights on a career as a surgical technologist, you’ve chosen a profession that plays a crucial role in the operating room. The first step toward achieving this goal is to select the right educational path to prepare you for this rewarding and vital healthcare role.

There are several types of surgical tech programs available, each with its own unique characteristics, merits, and demerits. They are –

  • Associate Degree
  • Certificate Program
  • 6-Week Surgical Tech Program
  • Online Surgical Tech Program

To enroll in any program, you need to possess a high school diploma or equivalent. That is the only requisite. However, when it comes to career-oriented courses, it’s essential to select a program that holds accreditation from reputable bodies such as CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or ABHES (Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools).

Additionally, you should prioritize obtaining your certification. Certified Surgical Technologists (CSTs) are highly regarded and in demand among employers, making it a valuable step in your career journey.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these options to help you make an informed decision. 


-> What is a Surgical Tech?

-> What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

-> How to Become a Surgical Tech?

Associate Degree Program

An Associate Degree Program in Surgical Technology offers a comprehensive two-year education, covering surgical procedures, patient care, and equipment operation. Subjects include anatomy, sterilization techniques, and more. It combines classroom and clinical training for a deep understanding. However, it demands a longer time commitment and can be more costly compared to shorter programs.  


Let’s discuss the merits of an Associate Degree –

Well-Rounded Education

The Associate Degree Program offers a deep and comprehensive understanding of surgical technology. You’ll delve into subjects like anatomy, sterilization techniques, and surgical procedures, providing you with a well-rounded education.

Strong Foundation

The two-year duration of the program allows you to build a strong foundation in surgical technology, which can serve as a platform for continuous learning and skill development throughout your career.

Career Advancement

With this degree, you not only become job-ready but also position yourself for career advancement. This program lays the foundation for leadership roles, education, and transitioning into other healthcare fields.


This program combines classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience, ensuring that you gain both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, which are vital for your future role as a surgical technologist.


However, this educational path does come with some drawbacks –

Longer Duration

The primary drawback of the Associate Degree Program is its duration. It typically takes two years to complete, which can be a longer time commitment than some other options. This can be a disadvantage if you’re eager to start working as a surgical technologist.

Higher Costs

Pursuing an associate degree can be more expensive than shorter programs. Tuition, textbooks, and other related expenses can add up over the two-year period.

Limited Flexibility

The program’s structured nature may not be suitable for busy individuals with other time constraints. There are strict schedules, traveling, and other factors that don’t offer any flexibility.

Read More:

-> Online Surgical Tech Programs

-> Surgical Tech Classes & Courses

Certificate Program

Surgical Tech Study Guide

A Certificate Program in Surgical Technology provides a quick path to becoming a surgical technologist, usually completed in 9 to 12 months. It focuses on essential knowledge and skills for entry-level positions through classroom instruction, lab practice, and clinical internships. These programs offer a faster entry into the job market and are cost-effective compared to associate degree programs.


Here are the advantages of this program –

Quick Entry

A Certificate Program can be completed in a shorter time, typically in 9 to 12 months. This means you can start working as a surgical technologist sooner, which is a major advantage.


Certificate programs are often more affordable than associate degree programs. They provide essential knowledge and skills at a lower cost, making them an attractive choice for many students.

Basic Skills

These programs focus on providing you with the essential knowledge and skills required for entry-level positions. This streamlined approach ensures you acquire the core competencies needed for the job.

Ideal for Career Changers

If you’re looking to make a swift career change, a Certificate Program can help you achieve this goal without an extended educational commitment. You also get a clinical internship, offering you practical training and real-world experience, making it ideal for career changers.


Let’s discuss the disadvantages of this program –

Limited Advancement

One of the primary drawbacks is that Certificate Programs may limit your career advancement opportunities. Entry-level roles may be readily available, but achieving higher positions can be more challenging without further education.

Not as Comprehensive

The depth of knowledge and skills in a certificate program can be less compared to an associate degree program. While you gain the basics, you may not be as well-prepared for complex surgical procedures or advanced roles.

Some Employer Preferences

Employers prefer candidates with comprehensive education. Because of the shorter program duration, you might not receive as in-depth training as you would in longer programs. Thus, narrowing your job prospects in certain healthcare settings.

Competitive Job Market

The demand for surgical technologist positions can be high, leading to competitive job hunting even with a certificate. This competition can be a disadvantage for job seekers.

Read More:

-> Surgical Tech Salary

-> Surgical Tech Requirements

6-Week Surgical Tech Program

AST Surgical Tech

A 6-week program is a quick path to a surgical tech career, focusing on essential skills for entry-level positions. It offers daily rigorous training, but the downside is limited depth in knowledge and skills. Some employers may hesitate to hire graduates from such brief programs.


Let’s discuss the merits of this program –  

Fastest Entry

One of the most significant advantages of a 6-week program is the swift entry it offers into the world of surgical technology. Graduates can become job-ready in just over a month, which is incredibly appealing for those who are eager to start their careers immediately.

Quick Career Change

This program is ideal for individuals seeking a rapid career change. Whether you’re transitioning from a different field or looking to enter the job market swiftly, a 6-week program caters to these needs.

Hands-On Training

6-week programs provide intensive daily training sessions that focus on both theoretical knowledge and practical skills. The emphasis on hands-on training ensures that you gain real-world experience, which is invaluable for a surgical technologist’s role.

Short Program Duration

The condensed timeline of a 6-week program minimizes the time commitment for education. It’s an efficient way to acquire the basic skills and knowledge required for entry-level surgical technologist positions without a prolonged academic journey.  


Here are the disadvantages of this program –  

Limited Knowledge Depth

The major drawback of 6-week programs is the limited depth of knowledge and skill development. While they provide essential skills, the condensed nature of the program means that you may not receive the same level of in-depth training that longer programs offer.

Challenging Job Hunt

Graduates from 6-week programs may face difficulties when searching for employment. Some employers may be cautious about hiring candidates with such brief training, as they may question the depth and breadth of their education.

Reduced Advancement Opportunities

While these programs prepare you for entry-level surgical technologist roles, they may not provide the knowledge and skills required for more complex surgical procedures or advanced positions within the field. This can limit your career growth potential.

Intense Workload

The program can be academically and physically demanding due to the short timeframe. You’ll need to absorb a significant amount of information and practical experience quickly, which can be challenging for some individuals.

More On -> 6-Week Surgical Tech Program

Online Programs

In the digital age, online educational options have gained popularity. Online Surgical Tech Programs offer flexibility and convenience, with coursework delivered through online modules and the ability to complete clinical requirements in your local area.

If you have other commitments, such as a job or family, online programs allow you to pursue your education without uprooting your life. Additionally, you can often save on commuting and accommodation costs.


Let’s discuss the advantages of this program –  

Flexible Learning

Online programs offer flexibility in terms of scheduling. You can study at your own pace and choose when and where you study. This is ideal for individuals with work, family, or other commitments, as it allows you to tailor your education to your own schedule.

Cost Savings

Online programs can be cost-effective as they eliminate the need for commuting or relocating. You can save money on transportation, accommodation, and other associated costs, making education more affordable.

Access to Quality Programs

Online education provides access to reputable institutions and programs that may not be geographically accessible to you. This means you can choose from a wider range of high-quality options.

Local Clinical Experience

Many online programs allow students to complete their clinical requirements at local healthcare facilities. This provides practical, real-world experience while minimizing the need for extensive travel.

Also Read:

-> AST Surgical Tech 

-> NCCT Surgical Tech

-> Surgical Tech Study Guide


Let’s discuss the demerits of this program –  

Sterile Processing Technician vs Surgical Technologist

Quality Varies

Only some online programs are of the same quality, and some may need proper accreditation. Research is crucial to ensure you choose a reputable institution with a well-structured program.

Self-Discipline Required

Online learning demands a high level of self-motivation and discipline. Without the structure of in-person classes, you need to manage your time effectively to stay on track with coursework and assignments.

Reduced Interaction

Online programs may limit interaction with instructors and peers. This can impact your ability to ask questions, engage in discussions, and collaborate with fellow students, potentially affecting the overall learning experience.


-> Challenges of Surgical Tech School

How Long Is a Surgical Tech Program?

Typically, Surgical Tech programs have varying durations, ranging from 6 weeks to 2 years. However, we believe that an optimal Surgical Tech program should span a period of approximately 4 to 5 months. This duration allows ample time for comprehensive learning and honing all the required skills required as a Surgical Tech for a solid career.

Let’s take a quick look –

  • Associate Degree – 2 years
  • Certificate Programs – 1 year
  • 6-week Programs – 6 Weeks
  • Online Programs – 3 to 6 Months

Is On-the-job training for Surgical Tech Recommended?

No! It is not recommended. You need education and certification to succeed in the role of a surgical tech.

While the idea of learning directly in a clinical setting may seem appealing, but they don’t provide a comprehensive understanding of surgical technology. It often focuses on specific tasks and procedures, which may not cover the full spectrum of knowledge required.

They don’t prepare you for certifications. We all know that certification is a critical aspect of a surgical tech’s career. The educational programs are designed to prepare students for certification exams. Becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist enhances career prospects and validates your competence in the field.

Many healthcare facilities prefer to hire surgical techs with formal education and certification, as it ensures that candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills. Also, with a solid educational background and certification, you open the door to leadership roles.

Surgical Tech Training Cost

It is a worthwhile expense to invest in formal education and certification, as it can lead to better job opportunities and long-term career advancement in the field. The cost of Surgical Tech training can vary widely based on the type of program, location, and institution.

Here are some general cost considerations for different types of programs –

Associate Degree Programs

Associate degree programs, typically offered by community colleges and universities, can cost anywhere around $20,000 or more. The cost depends on factors like the institution’s location and whether it is a public or private school.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are often more affordable, with tuition costs ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Public community colleges or vocational schools tend to offer lower-cost options.

6-Week Programs

These accelerated programs can cost between $1,000 to $5,000, making them a cost-effective choice for those looking for a quick entry into the field.

Online Programs

Online programs may offer cost savings on commuting and housing. Tuition costs for online Surgical Tech programs vary but are often in the range of $2,000 to $7,000.

Recommended Surgical Tech Program -> Preppy

Preppy is a dedicated organization with a mission to simplify the process of obtaining career certifications. You name the essential features that your Surgical Tech program should include – Preppy has it all.

Let’s take a quick look at Preppy’s Surgical Tech program –

100% Online & Self-Paced

Preppy’s program offers the utmost convenience by being fully online, on-demand, and self-paced. You have the flexibility to access your lessons from any location, at any time, and using any device. There are no fixed schedules, allowing you to learn at your own pace and style.

University Certificate

The prestige and recognition associated with a university certificate are invaluable. With Preppy, you can obtain a university certificate of completion from Auburn University, a renowned non-profit institution with 150 years of history, all without the need to attend a university campus or incur high tuition costs.

Externship Opportunity

Preppy recognizes the importance of gaining clinical experience through externships. It not only enhances your resume but also adds practical experience to your skill set. After completing their surgical tech program, Preppy offers you an externship opportunity at a nearby facility, providing you with real-world experience. Thus, you feel confident about the job.  

Preparation for Certification

Certifications hold significant value in your career as they validate your competence. Preppy equips you for the NCST certification exam conducted by the AAH, ensuring that you are prepared for certification faster. Once certified, you become job-ready.

Faster Completion

With Preppy’s Surgical Tech program, you don’t need to dedicate years of your life. Depending on your pace and by allocating 3 to 4 hours from your busy schedule, you can complete the program in just 4 months.


Preppy’s programs are designed to be affordable, sparing you from the burden of student debt. Unlike traditional Surgical Tech programs that may cost around $20,000, Preppy’s program is available for just $1599, ensuring cost-effective and stress-free learning.

Bonus -> Laptop

As of the time of writing this article, Preppy offers an exclusive bonus – FREE LAPTOP – for those who choose the $1599 plan that is yours to keep even after completing the program.  

You May Also Like: 

-> Surgical Tech License

-> Surgical Tech Certification

-> How to Become a Certified Surgical Tech?

-> Can You Be a Surgical Tech Without Certification?


We hope you understand that formal education and certification provide a comprehensive understanding of the field, better career prospects, and the foundation for a successful and fulfilling career as a surgical tech.

So, you should only aim for education and certification instead of on-the-job training for surgical tech, since they don’t educate you well, and thus can’t prepare for the certification as well. 

Lastly, there are typically 4 major Types of Surgical Tech Program, but online programs, mainly Preppy simplifies the process of obtaining your Surgical Tech program with all the essential features that you truly deserve. 


-> CVOR Tech

-> Surgical Vet Tech

-> Traveling Surgical Tech

-> Scrub Nurse vs Surgical Tech

-> Surgical Tech vs Surgical Assistant

-> Pros And Cons Of Being A Surgical Tech

-> How Long Does It Take to Become a Surgical Tech?

-> Sterile Processing Technician vs Surgical Technologist

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.