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Surgical Technology Certificate and Diploma Programs

Learn about training options for a career in surgical technology. Find out about the classes these programs require and the skills they teach along with information about certification and employment outlook.

What Surgical Technology Certificate and Diploma Programs Are Available?

You will find both certificate and diploma programs at community and technical colleges. Both certificate and diploma programs can be completed within a year. The main differences between certificate and diploma programs are the amount of general education courses and clinical work. Diploma programs may require you to enroll in courses including sociology, mathematics, English composition, communications, human relations and medical terminology. You won't be able to find any distance education programs due to programs requiring hands-on training and clinical work.

Program DifferencesDiploma programs may require more general education courses
Common Course TopicsMicrobiology, surgical robotics, surgical pharmacology, blood flow, medical instrument identification
CertificationCertification is not required but available through NBSTSA or NCCT and may increase employment prospects
Salary$47,300* (median salary for surgical technologists in 2018)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Can I Expect?

Your program will educate you in medical ethics, instrument sterilization, medical instrument identification, surgery terminology, keeping blood flow under control, assisting with anesthesia and communicating with patients. You will learn how to communicate with everyone who works in the operating room, including anesthesiologists, surgeons and registered nurses. You may also be required to learn about different types of surgery procedures and how the operating room should be stocked.

Certificate and diploma programs offer similar courses. You can expect to take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, surgical procedures, surgical robotics, health science and surgical pharmacology. In order to complete your certificate or diploma program, you may need to participate in an externship at a clinical facility.

Do I Need Certification?

Certification is not required, but some employers may prefer if you obtain one through the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that in order to be certified through the NBSTSA, you must complete a program recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and pass a national exam (www.bls.gov). To be certified by the NCCT, you might have to work in your field for several years, complete a recognized program or train in a hospital for a few years before taking their exam. To renew your certification, both organizations may require you to continue your education or retake the certification exam.

What Is My Job Outlook?

If you would like to continue your education and advance in your career, associate's degree programs are available. Completing a certificate or diploma program may qualify you for a career as a surgical scrub technician, operating room technician, endoscopic technician, surgical technologist or surgical technician. According to the BLS, surgical technologist job openings are expected to grow 12% between 2016 and 2026. This increase may be due to advancing technologies and a greater need for surgery in the older population. The BLS also estimates that surgical technologists earned an estimated median salary of $47,300 in 2018.