States Requiring Surgical Tech Certification

Surgical techs assist in hospitals, surgery centers and other medical settings.
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Surgical techs assist in hospitals, surgery centers and other medical settings.

Whether going in for a routine appendix removal or more invasive mastectomy, many women fear undergoing surgery. Surgical techs help make patients comfortable before going into surgery, prepping them for the procedure and calming their nerves as much as possible. A surgical tech assists during the surgery, as well as afterward, applying dressings and transporting patients. Along with specialized training, a surgical tech may also have to earn certification before practicing in her state.

States with Certification Requirements

According to the Association of periOperative Nurses, as of 2012, only six states -- Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- required surgical techs to obtain national certification to work in that state. National certification for surgical techs comes from one main organization, the National Board of Surgical Technology. The remaining 44 states mandate that a surgical tech become registered or licensed to practice in that state. Each state has written the requirements into its state legislature codes, rules and regulations.


The NBSTSA sets its own eligibility requirements that candidates from any state must fulfill to earn the designation. Candidates for the NBSTSA certification must be either graduates of an accredited surgical technology or surgical first assisting program; graduates of a military program that includes surgical technology; or current Certified Techs in Surgery, with an associate degree or higher in any discipline. Depending on which pathway the applicant chooses, she must submit an application for certification that includes documentation, such as school transcripts, graduation certificate, certification documents and notarized letter from the school’s program director.


Along with eligibility requirements, applicants for the surgical tech certification must hit the books to take and pass a certification exam. The NBSTSA certification exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, and test-takers get four hours to complete the entire test. Applicants for certification take the exam at a third-party computer-testing center, which are located across the country. They must pay a processing and exam fee. The NBSTSA does not make test-takers go it alone; the organization offers study resources such as reference materials, practice tests and exam topic lists.


Once a candidate earns her designation as a Certified Surgical Technologist and member of the Association of Surgical Technologists, her work is not complete. She must maintain certification by recertifying every four years. During that four-year period, she must earn at least 60 continuing-education credits. The renewal process also consists of submitting a renewal application. For candidates that do not have enough CE credits, the NBSTSA allows renewal applicants to retake and pass the certification exam to fulfill the renewal requirements. The AST sponsors online CE credit courses and CE credit packages that make it easy for surgical techs to stay up-to-date on the renewal requirements.

2016 Salary Information for Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologists earned a median annual salary of $45,160 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, surgical technologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $36,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $55,030, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 107,700 people were employed in the U.S. as surgical technologists.

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