October 5, 2023

Top Surgical Technologist Programs

Top Surgical Technologist Programs

Certified surgical technologists (CSTs) are an invaluable part of the operating team at healthcare facilities. You may have heard them called surgical techs, surgical assistants, scrub techs, or operating room techs.

Before you become a certified surgical tech, you must attend an accredited program. And with hundreds of programs to choose from, this task can be intimidating.

So we've compiled the country's top ten best surgical technologist programs for your consideration. Keep reading to learn more about these programs and how to become a surgical technologist.

What Is a Surgical Technologist?

Certified surgical technologists work alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, and surgical nurses. But their work extends from pre-surgery to intra and post-surgical tasks. A surgical technologist's responsibilities include the following:

  • Preparing equipment
  • Sterilizing instruments
  • Providing an extra set of hands in surgery
  • Dressing wounds post-procedure
  • Maintaining a sterile environment throughout operations
  • Managing tools and instrument inventory
  • Ensuring no surgical equipment is left behind

Surgical techs earn associate degrees and complete formal training through accredited surgical technology programs. These programs generally take one and a half years to complete and include about 500 hours of clinical internship.

Graduates can take the Certified Surgical Technologist or Tech in Surgery exam upon completion. The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and the National Center for Competency Testing offer these tests.

Fast Facts About Surgical Techs 

Salary

The median surgical technologist salary is $56,350 per year or $27.09 per hour (BLS)

Program length

1-2 years

Requirements

Prerequisites with a specific grade point average (GPA) may be required

Program Ranking Methodology 

This list includes surgical technologist schools offering hybrid and entirely in-person classes. As we compiled and ranked the best surgical tech programs, we considered many decisive factors:

  • Program cost
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Flexibility
  • Graduation rate
  • Post-graduation job placement aid

Top 10 Certified Surgical Technologist Programs

1. Indiana University Health – Indianapolis, Indiana 

Graduates from this certification program are eligible to take the Certified Surgical Technologist exam (CST-ERC). The program had a 100 percent pass rate for the August 2021 to July 2022 session. Unfortunately, this CST school is not eligible for FAFSA funding.

Indiana Health University offers CST courses on a full-time basis, holding classes between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The surgical technologist program takes 11 months to complete over three semesters. The first semester alone covers surgical instrumentation, techniques and procedures, and clinical experience.

  • Tuition: $4,200 

  • Program length: 11 months 

  • Accreditation: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)

  • Application deadline: April 21st 

  • Requirements: 

    • High school diploma or GED equivalent

    • U.S. citizenship or permanent resident cardholder

    • Minimum 18 years of age

    • Pass a background check and drug screen

  • Program contact: Terry Myers, RN, Program Director 

  • Email: tmyers@iuhealth.org

  • Phone number: (317) 962-1864 

  • Online options available? No

2. University of Arkansas – Pulaski Tech – North Little Rock, Arkansas 

The University of Arkansas offers this program full-time, beginning each spring semester. It takes two semesters, consisting of 30 credits of prerequisite coursework and 30 credits in the surgical technology curriculum. Graduates will receive an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology degree at the end of the program.

  • Tuition: $138 per credit hour 

  • Program length: Two semesters 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: September 15th 

  • Requirements: 

    • Submit application

    • Provide relevant transcripts (high school and/or college)

    • ACT reading score of 13 or higher OR

    • Accuplacer reading score of 55 or higher

    • Submit immunization records

    • Complete admissions interview

  • Program Contact: Kacie Cummings, Director of Surgical Technology 

  • Email: surgicaltechnologyadmissions@uaptc.edu  

  • Phone number: (501) 812-2339 

  • Online options available? No 

3. University of Cincinnati – Clermont College – Batavia, Ohio 

The UC Clermont’s program leads to an Associate in Surgical Technology degree. It offers both classroom learning and clinical experience, placing students in hospitals throughout Cincinnati to provide hands-on skills.

Before getting accepted into this program, you must meet with a pre-surgical technology advisor. This meeting will place you on the CST associate degree program list. This surgical technologist program has 62 credits, and graduates achieved an 83% pass rate on the CST-ERC in 2018. 

  • Tuition: $3,182 per semester 

  • Program length: Two years 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: July 1st

  • Requirements: 

    • High school diploma or GED

    • 2.75 cumulative GPA

    • C or higher in biology and chemistry pre-reqs

    • Complete physical exam

    • Submit immunization records

    • Provide proof of health insurance

    • Pass a background check and drug screening

  • Email: Clermont.admissions@uc.edu 

  • Phone number: (513) 558-8316 

  • Online options available? No 

 

4. Gateway Community College – New Haven, CT 

Students who graduate from the Gateway Community College CST program earn an associate in science degree. They are also eligible to take the CST-ERC exam.

Gateway's program takes two years to complete, encompassing 62 total credits. The CST class of 2022 had a 93% graduation rate, with 100% of graduates finding employment. The school also had a high CST student retention rate in 2022, at 74%.

  • Tuition: $10,413 

  • Program length: Two years 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: Admission is offered on a first-come, first-served basis 

  • Requirements: 

    • High school transcript showing graduation date OR 

    • Copy of high school diploma or GED

    • $20 application fee

    • Placement examinations in reading, English, and mathematics

    • Proof of immunization status 

  • Program contact: Angel Pickett, Program Coordinator 

  • Email: Apickett@gwcc.commnet.edu 

  • Phone number: (203) 285-2070 

  • Online options available? No 

5. Rochester Community and Technical College – Rochester, Minnesota 

Rochester Community and Technical College CST graduates earn an associate of applied science degree. The program admits just 20 students each year. As part of the graduation requirements, students must pass the CST-ERC.

The graduating class of 2022 had an 86% pass rate on the NBSTSA certification test. That class had 100% graduate placement within one year of graduation.

  • Tuition: $210.55 per credit 

  • Program length: Two years 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: February 28th 

  • Requirements: 

    • C or higher grade in each prerequisite

    • Cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher

    • Priority admission for those who finished all first-year classes by spring semester

    • Basic life support (CPR and AED) certification

    • Complete health assessment and immunizations

    • Proof of health insurance

    • Complete criminal background check

    • Complete a national background study

  • Program contact: Jennifer Dahle, Program Advisor 

  • Email: Jennifer.dahle@rctc.edu

  • Phone number: (507) 280-3535 

  • Online options available? No

6. NYU Langone – New York, NY 

NYU Langone Health offers a one-year surgical technology program in two six-month semesters. The first semester, which begins in spring, is devoted to aseptic technique fundamentals of operating room technology and basic surgical procedures. The second semester is primarily spent in clinical settings at locations throughout the NYU Langone facilities.

Completion of the program qualifies graduates to take the national certifying examination. In 2019, graduates from this CST school had a 92% pass rate on the CST-ERC.  

  • Tuition: $16,500 

  • Program length: One year 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: Rolling 

  • Requirements: 

    • Application with personal essay

    • Application fee

    • High school transcript or GED with scores

    • Two references from employer or teacher, past or present 

  • Program contact: Luba Ashurov, Program Director 

  • Phone number: (212) 263-6644  

  • Online options available? No 

7. University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown – Johnstown, PA 

This 74-credit associate degree program is offered with Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Surgical Technology program. Students in this program must complete 74 credit hours to earn the Associate Degree in Allied Health. But, they need only 59 credits to earn a surgical technologist certification.

The University of Pittsburgh program includes a liberal arts component with electives in social sciences and the humanities. The final three terms focus on operating room techniques and clinical practice. Students get classroom instruction and 1,035 supervised clinical hours during the clinical phase.

The 2020-2021 graduating class had a 100 percent pass rate for the nationally certified surgical technologist exam. 

  • Tuition: $6,830 per term 

  • Program length: Two years 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP 

  • Application deadline: Rolling 

  • Requirements: 

    • High school diploma or GED equivalent

    • Submit transcripts (high school and/or college)

    • Gain admission to University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

    • Complete two out of four surgical tech pre-reqs with a 2.0 GPA or higher

    • Pass a background check, Act 33/34 clearance, and drug screening

  • Program contact: Patricia Pavlikowski, Program Director 

  • Email: ppavliko@conemaugh.org 

  • Phone number: (814) 534-9772 

  • Online options available? No

8. Utah Tech University – St. George, UT 

This limited CST school admits one class each fall and encompasses 63 total credits. Students take general education, elective, and core discipline classes. Graduates earn an associate of applied science degree. 

Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher throughout this surgical technologist program. They must earn a C or higher in all pre-reqs and core classes. When they graduate, they can sit the CST-ERC exam. 

  • Tuition: $2,633 per semester plus a $105 per credit tuition differential 

  • Program length: Nine months 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: May 15th 

  • Requirements*: 

    • Gain admission to Utah Tech University

    • Complete required prerequisite courses

    • Submit separate application for surgical technician program

    • Verify ability to perform essential functions of a surgical technologist

  • Program contact: Heather Osness, Program Director 

  • Email: Heather.Osness@utahtech.edu 

  • Phone number: (435) 879-4842 

  • Online options available? No 

*Admission to this program is based on cumulative grade point averages. Higher GPAs are prioritized until seats are full. Depending on availability, some students who meet these requirements may not get accepted into the program.

9. University of Montana – Missoula, Montana 

The University of Montana offers a 64-credit surgical tech program through the Missoula College of Health Professionals. The program’s outcomes in 2017 included:

  • 71% graduation rate

  • 100% exam participation rate

  • 100% employer satisfaction rate

  • 100% exam pass rate

Students become Association of Surgical Technologists members during the program's first year. During the clinical portion of their surgical technologist education, they rotate through various healthcare sites. They also take the CST-ERC before graduation, when they earn an Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology.

  • Tuition: $327.34 per credit 

  • Program length: Two years 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP

  • Application deadline: October 1st 

  • Requirements: 

    • Complete prerequisite courses within ten years of application

    • Score B or higher in Anatomy and Physiology

    • Score C or higher in all other pre-reqs

    • Submit application

  • Program contact: Jill Davis, Program Director 

  • Email: jill.davis@mso.umt.edu 

  • Phone number: (406) 243-7876 

  • Online options available? No 

10. Santa Fe College – Gainesville, FL 

The surgical technologist certificate program offered at Santa Fe College prepares graduates to take the Certified Surgical Technologist exam. The CST school spans four semesters, offering didactic coursework in person and online and clinical internships at local and regional hospitals. The 2021 program outcomes for this CST school were as follows:

  • 75% completion

  • 91.6% CST-ERC pass rate

  • 91.6% graduate employment rate

Students must be available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The first term begins in the summer and ends with a summer program.

  • Tuition: $3,383.28 

  • Program length: 4 semesters 

  • Accreditation: CAAHEP 

  • Application deadline: February 15th 

  • Requirements: 

    • High school diploma or GED equivalent

    • Immunization record signed by a physician

    • Background check and drug screening

    • Completion of all general education requirements

    • 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA  

  • Email: admissions@sfcollege.edu 

  • Phone number: (352) 395-7322 

  • Online options available? Yes

FAQs About Surgical Tech Programs

  • What is the highest certified surgical technologist salary?  

    • The highest-paid 10 percent of surgical techs earned more than $95,060, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Is surgical technology a hard major? 

    • Studying to become a surgical technologist requires dedication and hard work. Students are required to complete coursework, demonstrate knowledge of various surgical specialties, and participate in surgical cases. 
  • What are the requirements to be a surgical tech? 

    • Becoming a surgical tech requires around 60 credit hours of didactic classwork and one year of clinical, hands-on experience.
  • Can you be a surgical tech without certification? 

    • Depending on the state or employer, you may not need a certification to practice as a surgical tech. However, certification can help you become a competitive candidate for better positions.
  • Are there online surgical tech programs?

    • While some surgical technologist programs have hybrid coursework, you cannot earn your CST certification fully online. Your coursework must include hands-on clinical experience.
    Go to the top of page