How to Become a Certified Surgical Tech: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Are you passionate about healthcare and interested in a rewarding career in the operating room? Becoming a certified surgical tech might be the perfect path for you. In this article, we will guide you through the process of becoming a certified surgical tech, outlining the requirements, steps, and benefits of pursuing this profession.

Requirements for Becoming a Certified Surgical Tech

To embark on the journey of becoming a certified surgical tech, you must meet certain requirements. First and foremost, completing an accredited surgical technology program is crucial. These programs provide the necessary education and training to excel in this field. Additionally, some states may require additional certifications or licenses, so it’s important to research and understand the specific requirements in your area.

Steps to Become a Certified Surgical Tech

Step 1: Research and Choose an Accredited Surgical Technology Program

Start by researching accredited surgical technology programs in your area. Look for programs that offer comprehensive curriculum, hands-on training, and opportunities for clinical rotations or internships. Choose a program that aligns with your career goals and fits your schedule.

Step 2: Complete the Necessary Educational Requirements

Once you’ve selected a program, you will need to complete the educational requirements. This typically involves attending classes, participating in laboratory sessions, and studying various aspects of surgical technology, including anatomy, medical terminology, and sterile techniques. Be prepared to invest time and effort into your studies to gain a solid foundation of knowledge.

Step 3: Gain Practical Experience through Clinical Rotations or Internships

Clinical rotations or internships are essential for honing your skills as a surgical tech. These hands-on experiences provide you with the opportunity to work in real operating room environments, assisting surgeons and nurses during procedures. It’s during this phase that you’ll gain valuable practical knowledge and develop crucial technical skills.

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Step 4: Prepare for the Certification Exam

To become a certified surgical tech, you must pass a certification exam. This exam evaluates your understanding of surgical technology principles, procedures, and best practices. To prepare, consider enrolling in exam preparation courses or utilizing study materials specifically designed for this purpose. Dedicate ample time to review and practice, ensuring you are well-prepared for success.

Step 5: Register and Take the Certification Exam

Once you feel confident in your knowledge and skills, it’s time to register for the certification exam. The exam is typically administered by professional organizations, such as the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). Follow the registration process and schedule your exam at a convenient location.

Step 6: Maintain Certification through Continuing Education and Recertification Processes

Congratulations! You’ve passed the certification exam and are now a certified surgical tech. However, the journey doesn’t end here. To maintain your certification, you must participate in continuing education activities to stay updated on the latest advancements in surgical technology. Additionally, you’ll need to undergo periodic recertification to ensure your skills and knowledge remain current.

Benefits of Becoming a Certified Surgical Tech

Becoming a certified surgical tech opens up a world of opportunities and rewards. Here are some of the key benefits:

  1. Career Opportunities and Advancement: Certification enhances your employability and opens doors to a wide range of career options. You can work in hospitals, surgical centers, or even in specialized fields such as cardiovascular or neurosurgery. Moreover, certification can lead to advancement opportunities, such as becoming a surgical first assistant or a supervisor.

  2. Higher Salaries: Certified surgical techs generally earn higher salaries compared to their non-certified counterparts. The certification serves as evidence of your expertise and dedication, making you a valuable asset to employers.

  3. Professional Recognition and Credibility: Certification showcases your commitment to professionalism and patient care. It establishes you as a trusted and competent surgical tech, earning the respect and recognition of colleagues, patients, and employers.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Becoming a Certified Surgical Tech

How long does it take to become certified?

The duration of the certification process varies depending on several factors. Typically, completing an accredited surgical technology program takes around 9-24 months. Afterward, you’ll need to pass the certification exam and fulfill any additional requirements in your state.

What is the average salary of a certified surgical tech?

The average salary of a certified surgical tech can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and specialization. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for surgical technologists in the United States was $48,300 in May 2020.

Are there any specific prerequisites for entering a surgical technology program?

While prerequisites may vary among programs, most require a high school diploma or equivalent. Some programs may also have additional requirements, such as completion of specific courses or prerequisites related to healthcare or biology.

Can I become certified if I have prior medical experience but no formal education?

If you have prior medical experience but lack formal education in surgical technology, you may still be eligible to pursue certification. Consider researching programs that offer credit for prior experience or explore options for bridging programs that can help you meet the educational requirements.

What resources are available to help with exam preparation?

Numerous resources are available to help you prepare for the certification exam. Consider utilizing study guides, practice exams, online courses, and review materials provided by reputable organizations or educational institutions. Joining study groups or seeking guidance from experienced surgical techs can also be beneficial.

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How often do I need to renew my certification?

Certification renewal requirements vary by certifying organizations. Typically, you are required to complete continuing education credits and submit renewal applications every few years. Stay updated with the specific renewal requirements of the organization that granted your certification.


Becoming a certified surgical tech is an exciting and fulfilling career choice. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can embark on this journey with confidence and purpose. Remember, obtaining certification not only validates your skills and knowledge but also opens doors to a world of opportunities. So, take that crucial first step, invest in your education, and watch your career as a certified surgical tech soar to new heights.

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