How to Become a Surgical Tech in 3 Simple Steps


Degree Level






What is a Surgical Tech?

If your dream career is in a surgical room but you don’t want to study for years or didn’t managed to get accepted at a medical school you maybe consider a career as a surgical technologist.

Keep reading this article and learn how to become a surgical tech.

Surgical techs are the unsung heroes of a surgical team and their work is to assist surgeons before, during and after a surgical operation.

The daily duties of a surgical tech are:

  • ​Making a list with the supplies needed for a surgical operation
  • ​Sterilizing medical instruments
  • ​Transporting supplies to the operation room and arrange them in proper positions
  • ​Handing proper instruments to the surgeon
  • ​Applying bandages to the patient
  • ​Cleaning the operation room

As their name indicates surgical technologists need to have strong technical skills.

They must be able to troubleshoot, operate and adjust a wide variety of technical equipment.

They also need to have strong knowledge of all surgical instruments as they need to pass them to the surgeons.

The need to apply the sterile techniques with detail as the minor mistake can harm the patient.

They also need to pay attention during the operation as the majority of medical instruments are similar and they need to know what they are passing to the surgeon.

There are a thousand ways an operation can go wrong and surgical techs need to be focused, not panic and assist surgeons in their difficult task.

Surgical techs work at all health care facilities where an operation can take place including hospitals, private clinics and other.

Their work hours can vary depending on the facility’s schedule and more often than not they will be working late at night and weekends.

What is a Surgical Tech

Becoming a Surgical Tech

Step 1 High School Preparation

High School Courses for Surgical Techs

Science courses

Courses like chemistry and biology are a great choice for high school students that want to follow a surgical tech’s career.

Taking these courses will help them get prepared for their surgical tech courses later and understand basic human anatomy and physiology which is crucial for their job.

Technology and computer courses

During an operation there are several electronic machines measuring patients’ vital signals. If they stop functioning surgical technologists need to know how to troubleshoot them.

In order to do so they need to know how they operate them so taking computer based courses during high school is a good idea.

Math courses

Basic math courses like algebra and calculus will also help aspiring surgical techs.

Like all healthcare professionals surgical techs will have a lot of math courses during their studies so getting prepared from high school is something smart to do.

Step 2 Complete a Surgical Technician Accredited Program

Surgical Technician Certificate Program 1 year

Surgical technician certificate programs are 37 to 49 semester credit hours that can be completed either online or on campus.

In most cases the admission requirements for these programs are a high school diploma or GED.

At certain cases you might be asked for an overall cumulative average of at least 2.6.


The cost of a surgical technician certificate program is between $5,450 and $16,500.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited surgical technician certificate Degree programs near you.

Surgical Technician Associate's Degree Program 2 years

Surgical technician associate's degree programs are 45 to 92 semester credit hours and can be completed mostly on campus.

The admission requirements for an associate’s degree program in surgical technology is a high school diploma or a GED with a GPA over 2, 5.

At some cases prerequisite courses are required.


The cost of a Surgical Technician Associate's Degree program is between $16,048 and $43,350.

When deciding which college or university to attend, we strongly recommend contacting them for further information and details.

Click the button below to get free info about accredited Surgical Technician Associate's Degree programs near you.

How to become a surgical tech

Step 3 Get Certified


Although being certified is not mandatory for surgical technicians, there are some benefits to becoming certified and it’s going to be worth the time and financial investment.

Studies have shown that employers are more likely to seek out and employ surgical technologists who have passed a national certification exam over those who have not.

Not only is being certified important for your career prospects in any industry, in the medical industry it’s something that carries more weight.

Being certified shows that you have solid knowledge of several medical and scientific topics, surgical skills, and safety procedures.

Think of it like this, if you’re putting yourself forward as a candidate for a position alongside someone else who is certificated, who has the edge going in or if all other variables are even?

By completing one of the certification programs as detailed below you will develop a solid understanding of:

  • Surgical Procedures
  • How to handle equipment
  • Sterilization techniques
  • Patient safety

As well as medical fundamentals, such as anatomy, physiology, and microbiology.

There is some depth to the study material, but as I mentioned it’s an invaluable investment.

It’s also worth noting that you’ll need to keep up-to-date with the latest industry advancements and best practices by taking continuing education classes.

As well as renewing your certification every four years by taking an exam.

There are plenty of places to take your schooling across the country as I cover in this article, so you won’t struggle to find a place that works for you.

​Tech in Surgery - Certified TS-C

​​Certified Surgical Technologist

Overview of Surgical Tech Degrees

​Certificate Program

As a certified surgical tech you will be fully equipped to handle all the role has to offer and hit the floor running as a valuable part of any team.

You’ll have an in-depth understanding of how to handle all the instruments, where you fit in the team roll, how to prepare the patient and surrounds for an operation, and how to carry out your work professionally.

It’s the small details that make a huge difference in the role of a surgical tech. From preparing the operating table, updating patient charts, to passing the instruments.

Certification programs are tailored to fully prepare you outside of what working experience can do.

​Associate’s Degree Program

​A surgical tech associate’s degree covers a larger body of work than the certificate programs, although you can complete them in the same time-frame.

You will typically have to cover some topics in math, writing, and other general education as well as completing all the relevant modules that cover surgical tech work.

Associate degrees are favored by employers. Not only do they increase your employability, the body of work you cover better prepares you for working as a surgical tech and being a valued team member.

Which Is Better: Certification or Associate Degree?

While both certification and associate degrees in surgical tech will give you the foundations and knowledge to help you perform your role to the best of your abilities, we recommend an associate degree over certification.

There is often some confusion about the differences between the two. The main differences and reasons to pursue a degree over certification are:

  • Higher earning potential
  • More employment opportunities
  • Broader study material
  • Further career potential

Surgical techs with an associate degree are more likely to earn more than those with just a certification. Making it worth the time and financial investment to completing a degree.

This also opens up more employment opportunities. Some employers will seek candidates with a degree, this narrows the number of applicants which raises the salary and increases your own chances.

The broader study material is also a huge plus to taking a degree. In the medical profession knowledge and experience is vital to continuing improvement in the role and staying ahead of the curve with new technologies and procedures.

All of these benefits set you up for furthering your career in the medical field. Having a degree gives you the foundation to build on a study towards a specific area in the medical field if you want to change roles.

If time is your main concern look into accelerated programs. Or, on the other hand you can choose to complete an associate degree over a longer time period if you’re working and other commitments.

There is plenty of flexibility if you find the right school and the program for you. An associate degree is a great investment in your future, and one that you start seeing the rewards for as soon as you start working towards it.

Surgical Tech Job Growth, Salary and Outlook



​The growth, salary, and outlook for surgical technicians has historically been above the average for all occupations, and the future is also very positive.

The median salary for 2016 was $45,160. This is a decent amount above the average for all workers across the US which was $37,040 for the same period.

The salary is expected to carry on increasing above the national average baseline. This is mostly due to the increased demand for technicians as there are always advances in technology and a growing number of patients.

The job outlook is also very positive. It’s expected to increase at a rate of 12% between 2016-26. This is much faster than the national average for all occupations which is 7%.

This is due to a number of factors. The main reasons being the increase in the ageing population, along with advances in medical technology and availability of operations.

As you can see from the projected salary and growth numbers, the outlook is very good if you’re looking to train as a surgical technician.

Constant advancements in technology mean there are always new and safer ways to carry out surgical procedures, increasing the number of operations being carried out.

While this does often mean more training for career progression, this also comes with added job security and increased opportunities to earn more.

How Long Does it take to Become a Surgical Tech and How Much ​Does it Cost?

Option1: Certificate

Degree Time Cost
Certificate 1 year$5,450- $16,500
Certification 1 month$155 - $290
Total 1 year $5,605 - $16,790

Option 2: Associate's Degree

Degree Time Cost
Associates Degree2 years$16,048 to $43,350
Certification 1 month $155 - $290
Total 2 years & 1 month $16,203 - $43,640

Surgical Tech Training Video


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