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Surgical Technologist Certification

Surgical Technologist Certification

There is a voluntary national certification for surgical technologists offered through The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). This organization is responsible for all aspects of the national certification exam including the policies and development of the exams. Although this exam is not required in order to practice as a surgical technologist in most

What does the CST exam entail and who is eligible to take the exam?

The Certified Surgical Technologist exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions of which 175 are scored and test takers are given four hours to complete it. To pass the exam, the test taker must correctly answer 119 questions. There is a 75% pass rate on this exam. The individual must be a graduate of an accredited surgical technology program to be eligible to take the certification exam. The exam costs between $190 and $290 depending on whether you are a student or first time test taker and whether you are a member of the Association of Surgical Technologists.

Do surgical technologists have to obtain a state license in order to practice?

Currently there are no state licenses for this profession, only the national CST certification as mentioned previously.

What professional organizations exist for surgical technologists?

The Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) is a national membership association for surgical technologists and surgical first assistants, which is separate from the national board certification company (NBSTSA) the exam is offered through.

How many continuing education units are required to maintain a national certification?

If the person chooses to renew the CST credential through continuing education, he/she must earn sixty continuing education credits over a four-year certification cycle. A person can opt to retake the national certification exam every four years rather than earning continuing education requirements, but this involves paying all the testing fees. The majority of people in this profession renew the credential by completing continuing education credits.

Learn more about surgical technologist salary.

First Assistant Certification

The most direct route to becoming a Certified First Assistant (CFA) is attending a year long accredited surgical first assistant program. There are currently ten accredited surgical first assistant programs in the country. While this seems like a small number, only two to three years ago there were fewer than one third as many schools offering surgical assistant programs. So the number of accredited programs is growing. In order to be eligible to take the CFA exam, there are two options:

  • Option 1: Graduating from an accredited surgical first assistant program, which includes completing a clinical rotation.
  • Option 2: The clinical training option involves completing 350 cases working as a surgical first assistant as well as two years during the last four years of fulltime work experience in the field with two surgeons or surgical supervisors signing the notarized experience verification forms.


The CFA should have the knowledge level of a first year pre-med student. He/she should be knowledgeable in areas such as: anatomy and physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, histology, how to properly handle tissue, and wound closures just to name a few.

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            Degree - Surgical Technology
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