How Does Surgical Tech Certification Work?

In order to work as a surgical tech in the United States, you don’t need to be certified, but if you are, you’ll earn more money, have an easier time finding a job, and qualify for promotions more easily. This process is overseen by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) and is available in every state. Students interested in a surgical tech career should start learning about this licensing process earn, so you’re prepared to get through it as quickly and seamlessly as possible and start working in your field.


Before you qualify to go through surgical tech certification, you need to earn your degree or diploma/certificate at an accredited school. Accreditation ensures that the program you attend, whether online or at a traditional brick and mortar college, is adequately preparing you to work in this field. Before you attend any school, check to see if it is accredited by an agency that’s nationally recognized. Your state’s surgical tech board should be able to provide you with a list of all the accredited schools in your area, as well as online options.

Educational programs in this field typically last nine months to two years. If you go to school for less than two years, you’ll earn a diploma or certificate which, although enough to qualify you for certification, is not preferred by many employers. Getting your associate’s degree in this field is recommended.


If you don’t complete a degree program, you need experience before you qualify to become a certified surgical tech. Students can either go through a two-year hospital program, which will cover the information that a degree program did not, or gain experience working as a full-time surgical tech over the course of seven years. If you complete you associate’s degree, you’ll get hands-on experience while in the program and qualify to take the test as soon as you graduate.


The first and more important part of the surgical tech certification process is the testing. This national exam is administered by your state, and is typically done by appointment throughout the year, rather than on specific testing dates. You’ll take the test via computer and have to answer a number of multiple choice questions to pass. There are actually two separate programs: Tech in Surgery – Certified (TS-C) and Certified Surgical Technologist (CST). The exams are similar, but proctored by different governing bodies. Make sure to do some research about the different between these designations and which one gives you the most opportunities for jobs in your area.

Continuing Education

If you want to keep your certification up to date, you must renew it. TS-C certification expires every five years, while CST certification expires every four years. To keep your certification up to date, you must either participate in a minimum number of continuing education classes as approved by your state or retake the certification exam.

You can also go through classes or gain experience to become a first surgical assistant. This is a separate, advanced certification program which requires you to pass not just a written test, but also oral and practical tests.

Online Surgical Technician Degree Programs

Ultimate Medical Academy Ultimate Medical Academy — Ultimate Medical Academy offers several online programs in the healthcare industry. These programs include Health Science specializations in Healthcare Technology & Systems and Pharmacy Technician as well as programs designed for administrative rolls in healthcare like Medical Billing and Coding. Students will be prepared to work as technicians in a variety of settings. Click Here
Purdue University Purdue University — Apply for this school's associate degree in Health Sciences: Surgical Technologist to achieve a strong foundation in surgical technology. This course is ideal for a fast and flexible solution to your online degree as you earn an entry-level education that concentrates on helping students acquire knowledge and develop skills in performing laboratory, clinical, and medical office procedures. Purdue also offers degrees in Medical Assisting and Health Science. Click Here

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