You can earn a surgical technologist certificate after completing an accredited program through a community college, technical school or university. Surgical techs work in operating rooms and assist during surgeries. Techs must understand sterilization methods, patient care and medical terminology. Both the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) and the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT) administer certification exams.

Determine whether you qualify to take an exam. For instance, you must have seven years of experience or complete an adequate program (two-year hospital training) to take the NCCT exam. Most schools run background checks to determine if you have a criminal record, such as if you are a registered sex offender.

Identify the exam format (multiple choice). The CST exam includes 200 questions from which you must correctly answer at least 119 to pass. Practice using past exams so that you become certified after your first exam attempt.

Understand exam subjects like the Patient's Bill of Rights and surgical scrubbing. Major topics include anatomy, physiology and procedure considerations. You should be able to identify clamping, grasping and dissecting instruments.

Find an appropriate place to study. You might review materials at a library or a quiet area at your home. You could also visit a school laboratory to identify tools.

Create flashcards to help you review substantive material. For instance, cards could highlight six areas where you must initiate counts or define the term pathogen.

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  • After passing the NBSTSA exam, you are a certified surgical technologist (CST). After passing the NCCT exam, you are a tech in surgery-certified (TS-C).
  • Renew your certification as needed (every four years for CST, every five years for TS-C).

About the Author

Maggie Gebremichael has been a freelance writer since 2002. She speaks Spanish fluently and resides in Texas. When she is not writing articles for, Gebremichael loves to travel internationally and learn about different cultures. She obtained an undergraduate degree with a focus on anthropology and business from the University of Texas and enjoys writing about her various interests.