Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) Career and Certification

Becoming a certified surgical assistant (CSA) requires experience in a related area, such as nursing or physician assisting, often combined with college coursework. Read more about the education and certification requirements for CSAs. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

As a surgical assistant, you will help surgeons with different tasks during an operation, like positioning patients, controlling bleeding, applying sutures and identifying both anatomy and surgical instruments. Becoming a certified surgical assistant (CSA) requires having previous allied healthcare experience, completing an approved program and meeting the required number of clinical hours.

Program Options Surgical First Assistant Certificate, Associate in Applied Science in Surgical Assisting, Master of Surgical Assisting
Licensing In states that require licensure, candidates must be board certified
Career Outlook* 12% growth between 2016 and 2026, faster than average job growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Get Admitted to a Surgical Assistant Program?

There are many training programs approved by the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA). These are mostly certificate programs and may take 1 to 2 years to complete. The entrance requirements for these programs generally include experience as a certified surgical technologist (CST), operation room nurse (CNOR) or physician assistant (PA-C) or having military medical training. A bachelor's degree in a science-related field along with CPR certification are also common requirements.

Do CSAs Need to Be Certified?

Once you graduate from an NSAA-approved surgical assisting training program, you will become eligible to take the examination to earn the Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) designation. If you are a practicing allied health professional, you can also sit for the examination if you meet the right qualifications. Requirements for certification include 2,250 hours of rotation as a surgical assistant and letters of recommendation from surgeons. You can also qualify to take the examination if you have received military medical training with an emphasis on surgical assisting.

Continuing education in surgical assisting is necessary for maintaining your CSA designation. Every two years as a CSA, you must complete 50 education credits in order to re-certify. You can earn continuing education credits through a variety of means, such as attending conferences, taking job-related college courses and teaching related subjects.

What is the Employment Outlook for This Career Field?

As a CSA, you'll have many different career options available to you. Certified surgical assistants are employed in:

  • Hospitals
  • Independent clinics
  • Doctor's offices

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that roughly 120,300 surgical technologists will be employed by 2026. This is a 12% increase in jobs from 2016, during which time about 107,700 of these professionals were employed. As of May 2017, the median salary for surgical technologists was $46,310.

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