Postsecondary programs in surgical technology are available in technical schools, colleges, universities and hospitals. The major prepares students to become surgical technologists, assisting doctors and nurses in the operating room. A surgical technologist gets patients ready, prepares the operating room, sterilizes equipment and hands instruments to doctors during surgery. Study programs with a major in surgical technology are available at the certificate and associate degree levels.

Program Basics

Programs in surgical technology are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, and most require a high school diploma or the equivalent for admission. Other prerequisites depend on the school or college, but some require classes in medical terminology and the sciences, including biology and chemistry.

Certificate in Surgical Technology

According to the Explore Health Careers website, 60 percent of surgical tech programs lead to a certificate. Certificate programs vary in length from less than a year to a year or more. The certificate program at Piedmont Virgina Community College, for example, requires 42 units over three semesters. During the first two semesters, students study English composition, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, surgical procedures and pharmacology. For the final semester, students take a course in professional issues and complete a clinical practicum.

Associate Degree Major

An associate degree in surgical technology takes approximately two years and includes more in-depth courses and more general studies than a certificate. For example, an associate degree at Pennsylvania College of Technology requires four semesters plus two summers. In addition to foundational classes such as anatomy, surgical procedures, microbiology and pharmacology, students study specialty procedures and pathology and disease. The program also requires general studies sections in math, fitness, speech, sociology and psychology. In addition, students receive more experience because they take five sections of practicum.


Surgical technologists who complete accredited training and pass required exams can qualify for various professional certifications. Certifications are available from the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting, the National Center for Competency Testing and the National Healthcare Association. In some states and the District of Columbia, surgical technologists must have professional certification, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Considerations

Positions for surgical technologists will grow 19 percent up to 2020, predicts the BLS, compared to 14 percent on average for all jobs. An increased use of technologists to contain costs will contribute to this growth. As of 2012, the average surgical tech earned $20.91 hourly or $43,480 annually full time, according to the BLS. An experienced technologist can advance to surgical assistant by completing a bachelor's degree in a related subject.

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