Certified Surgical Assistant: Career Summary, Job Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Research what it takes to become a certified surgical assistant. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Surgical Assistant?

Certified surgical assistants help surgeons with the technical tasks before, during and after an operation. Prior to surgery they help prepare patients and the operating room for surgery by preparing incision sites and gathering all necessary equipment. During surgery they help with hemostasis (stoppage of bleeding) and assist with basic surgical cuts and sutures. After a surgery they clean up all equipment and take inventory. At all times they ensure that the surgical field and equipment are sterile.

Learn more about becoming a certified surgical assistant from the table below:

Degree RequiredCertificate or associate's degree
Education Field of StudySurgical assisting, surgical technology or related field
Key ResponsibilitiesPerform duties and procedures as directed by the surgeon,
Close wound layers as per surgeon's direction,
Maintain integrity of sterile field,
Dress wounds,
Insert drainage tubes
CertificationCertification is required by only a few states, but it's preferred by employers
Job Growth (2014-2024)15% (for surgical technologists)*
Median Salary (2015)$44,330 (for surgical technologists)*

Source:*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Surgical Assistant Do?

A certified surgical assistant is involved with many aspects of the surgical procedure before it takes place, as it is performed and after it is completed. They also help with medical emergencies that can arise during surgery, such as cardiac arrest.

What Is the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), surgical technologists, which include assistants, were expected to have an excellent job outlook, with a job growth rate of 15% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). If you have earned recognized certification, you may have the best employment opportunities since employers seek experienced candidates. An aging populace needing surgical procedures is the primary contributor to this growth. Secondly, new technologies and surgical procedures should also spur growth in the near future. In May 2015, the BLS reported that surgical technologists earned an average annual wage of $45,940.

What Are the Career Requirements?

Certified surgical assisting is an advanced career and involves two major educational steps. Step one requires you to first become a certified surgical technologist or CST. A typical surgical technology degree program involves completing courses in physiology, anatomy, microbiology, medical terminology and a number of surgical seminars and training courses. Once you are a CST, you can move on to step two, which involves taking advanced courses in surgical techniques such as surgical pharmacology, anesthesia techniques, wound closure and human diseases.

Although certification for non-physician surgical assistants is available from several certifying bodies, the most widely accepted is that of the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). The NBSTA certification requires prospective assistants to have completed a recognized pre-professional college program and a later comprehensive exam (www.nbstsa.org). If you successfully meet the criteria and pass the exam, you are NBSTA certified as a Surgical First Assistant.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few careers related to surgical assistants include dental assistants, licensed practical nurses, medical laboratory technologists and medical assistants. Dental assistants help dentists perform procedures in much the same way as surgical assistants assist surgeons with operations. Licensed practical nurses work alongside registered nurses to keep track of patients' health. Medical laboratory technologists conduct tests on patients' lab specimens, such as blood and tissue samples, while medical assistants help ensure the front office of a healthcare facility runs smoothly. They might also collect lab samples and record patient vital signs. Each of these occupations requires training in the form of a postsecondary certificate or diploma program.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Purdue University Global

    Purdue University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Purdue University Global:

    Online Programs Available

  • Grand Canyon University

    Grand Canyon University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Grand Canyon University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Keiser University

    Keiser University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Keiser University:

    • Bachelor Degrees
    • Associate Programs

    Online Programs Available

  • The George Washington University

    The George Washington University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at The George Washington University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Herzing University

    Herzing University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Herzing University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Independence University

    Independence University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Independence University:

    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Associate Programs
    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Arizona: Phoenix
    • Florida: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie
    • Indiana: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis
    • Ohio: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls
    • Pennsylvania: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton
    • South Carolina: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia
    • Tennessee: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville
    • Utah: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City
    • Virginia: Phoenix, Cutler Bay, Orange Park, Port St Lucie, Indianapolis, Centerville, Cuyahoga Falls, Scranton, Columbia, Nashville, Salt Lake City, Norfolk
  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next »