Surgical tech certification is an optional way for trained surgical technicians to demonstrate their expertise in the surgical tech profession. In general, surgical techs who are certified by one of the known certifying organizations are more attractive to employers and may experience several career benefits.
For most certifications, surgical technicians become certified by following three basic steps:
- Graduate from an accredited surgical technician training program
- Apply for certification through the appropriate organization
- Pass the appropriate certification exam
Training program requirements vary between certifications, and each have their own set of eligibility requirements. The most well-known surgical tech certification credentials are described below.
The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) Certification
The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers a surgical tech certification called the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST). This certification highlights expertise in areas such as pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative care, as well as other skill areas and medical knowledge.
Candidates for the CST certification must be one of the following:
- A surgical tech who graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited surgical tech school
- A surgical tech who graduated from a CAAHEP-accredited military surgical tech training program
- A surgical tech who possesses the Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) designation
The CST Examination
Once eligible, candidates of the CST designation complete a written exam. The exam covers three major areas: perioperative care, additional duties, and basic science. Certification candidates contact the NBSTSA trough their website to prepare for and schedule the exam and pay examination fees. Some surgical techs choose to take the exam within the last month of training or within one year of graduation.
After passing the exam, a surgical tech is free to use the CST designation. The certification requires continuing education and must be renewed every 5 years.
The Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C) Certification
Another surgical tech certification is called the Tech in Surgery-Certified (TS-C), offered through the National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). This certification demonstrates knowledge in several science and medical topics, surgical technician skill areas, and safety regulations.
Candidates for the TS-C certification must be one of the following:
- A surgical tech who graduated from an NCCT-approved surgical tech school within the last 10 years, with relevant work experience
- A surgical tech who graduated from a non-NCCT-approved training program within the last two years, with at least one year of work experience
- A surgical tech with seven years of qualifying experience within the last 10 years
- An MD, RN, LPN, or LVN with experience as a surgical technician
The TS-C Examination
The TS-C exam covers topics such as medical terminology, asepsis and infection control, pharmacology, OSHA regulations, surgical knowledge and other career skills. Candidates can prepare using NCCT review materials, and must pay exam fees.
After passing the exam and becoming certified, the TS-C certification must be renewed each year through continuing education, some of which is offered by the NCCT.
The Certified Operating Room and Surgical Technician (CORST) Certification
The National Healthcare Association (NHA) offers the Certified Operating Room and Surgical Technician (CORST) designation. This certification shows a surgical technician’s expertise in areas relating to general medical and surgical knowledge.
Candidates for the CORST certification must meet both of the following requirements:
- High-school graduation
- Graduation from a formal surgical tech training program, or one year of surgical technician work experience
The CORST Examination
The CORST exam contains 200 questions and covers 101 knowledge areas relating to work as a surgical technician, surgical and anatomical knowledge, and general safety. Study materials are available through the NHA.
Benefits of Certification for Surgical Techs
One benefit to gaining surgical technician certification is the fact that a national certification is a prestigious credential showing the holder meets rigorous surgical tech knowledge standards. Certified individuals can be safely assumed to understand a wide range of surgical procedures, aseptic techniques and patient care. Because certification is optional for surgical technicians, passing an exam demonstrates ambition and dedication that is respected by health care professionals of all types.
Surgical techs who are certified are also more competitive in the job market, as most facilities prefer to hire surgical techs who are certified. Certain states are even considering legislation that will make certification a basic requirement for employment. Certified surgical techs also have a higher earning potential in the long run, and can demand a higher salary.
For more information on surgical tech certification, visit the websites of the certifying organizations below:
- National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
- National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT)
- National Healthcare Association (NHA)