technologists receive their training in formal programs offered by
community and junior colleges, vocational schools, universities,
hospitals, and the military. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied
Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) currently recognizes more than
accredited training programs. Programs last from 9 to 24 months and
lead to a certificate, diploma, or associate degree. High school
graduation normally is required for admission. Recommended high school
courses include health, biology, chemistry, and mathematics.
classroom education and supervised clinical experience. Students take
courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, professional
ethics, and medical terminology. Other topics covered include the care
and safety of patients during surgery, sterile techniques, and surgical
procedures. Students also learn to sterilize instruments; prevent and
control infection; and handle special drugs, solutions, supplies, and
Most employers prefer to hire certified
technologists. Technologists may obtain voluntary professional
certification from the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical
Technologist by graduating from a CAAHEP-accredited program and passing
a national certification examination. They may then use the Certified
Surgical Technologist (CST) designation. Continuing education or
reexamination is required to maintain certification, which must be
renewed every 4 years. Certification
also may be obtained from the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).
To qualify to take the exam, candidates follow one of three paths:
complete an accredited training program; undergo a 2-year hospital
on-the-job training program; or acquire 7 years of experience working in
the field. After passing the exam, individuals may use the designation
Tech in Surgery-Certified, TS-C (NCCT). This certification must be
renewed every 5 years through either continuing education or
need manual dexterity to handle instruments quickly. They also must be
conscientious, orderly, and emotionally stable to handle the demands of
the operating room environment. Technologists must respond quickly and
must be familiar with operating procedures in order to have instruments
ready for surgeons without having to be told. They are expected to keep
abreast of new developments in the field.
by specializing in a particular area of surgery, such as neurosurgery or
open heart surgery. They also may work as circulating technologists.
With additional training, some technologists advance to first assistant.
Some surgical technologists manage central supply departments in
hospitals, or take positions with insurance companies, sterile supply
services, and operating equipment firms.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.