Becoming a Certified Surgical First Assistant/Surgical Assistant

If, after becoming a certified surgical technologist and working in the field for a period of time, you may want to advance in this allied health career. If this sounds like you, investigate becoming a Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA), or Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA).

Surgical assistants are medical professionals who assist both surgeons and nurses during surgical and other medical procedures. Like surgical technologists, they have specific responsibilities in the operating room, plus pre- and post-surgery duties.

A first assistant position is not an entry-level position. Because it is the next level up in skills and leadership, you must already work in the healthcare field as a surgical technologist, nurse or other health professional, preferably in a surgical capacity.

surgical assistantWhat does a surgical assistant do?

The primary duty of surgical assistant is assisting surgeons. You’re under their supervision when performing all tasks.

Typical duties include:

  • Administering needles.
  • Closing surgery sites.
  • Collaborating with doctors, consultants and other surgical team members to ensure the proper post-operative care of patients.
  • Controlling bleeding.
  • Dressing wounds.
  • Monitoring electronic medical equipment.
  • Performing minor surgical procedures.
  • Positioning and prepping patients prior to surgery.
  • Resuscitating patients.

Responsibilities of a surgical assistant can be broken down into four different areas which align with most surgical assistant education programs.

Preoperative

  • Facilitate positioning of the patient, taking into consideration:
    • Patient’s anatomical and physiological limits.
    • Surgeon’s preference.
    • Surgical procedure to be performed.
    • Surgical site.
  • Assist circulator and anesthesia provider in some of the following ways:
    • Catheter placement.
    • Tourniquet application.
  • Other procedures as needed.

Intraoperative

  • Perform specific tasks utilizing appropriate techniques.
    • Achieve hemostasis by means of injection.
    • Aide in implanting, securing, and/or removal of devices and drains.
    • Apply appropriate dressing material(s).
    • Incision and layered closure of surgical sites.
    • Manipulation and dissection/removal of tissues.

Postoperative

  • Aid in transfer of the patient.
  • Apply specific dressing material such as splints or casts.
  • Assess skin integrity.
  • Follow patient to recovery as needed.

Specialty Procedures

  • With appropriate training and supervision:
    • Graft and implant preparation.
    • Vein and graft harvesting,

The responsibilities of a surgical assistant help surgeons perform safe operations resulting in optimal results for the patient. Tasks are more expanded and elevated than those of a surgical technologist. The pressure is also higher, so when considering this professional career, you will have to decide if you want to deal with this type of stress on a daily basis.

Work environment

The work of a surgical assistant is every bit as physically demanding as that of a surgical technologist. You’re on your feet most of the day, and are expected to stand throughout all procedures regardless of length. You must always be attentive, anticipating what tools the surgeon may need and respond quickly when she or he asks for them.

Like surgical technologists, surgical assistants wear scrubs to minimize the possibility of infection to the patient. And similar to all members of a surgical care team, jewelry and long nails (even artificial nails) are almost always prohibited.

As a surgical assistant, if you have an entrepreneurial nature, you may decide to be self-employed. You can also work in hospital surgical units, surgery centers or private surgical medical practices. If you enjoy teaching others about the profession, you can also become an academic instructor.

Hours

Almost all surgical assistants are hired as full-time employees. Hours and weeks are long depending upon the number of surgeries scheduled in any given day or week. If you go into this career field, expect early morning hours, being called in to assist with emergency surgeries, and working on holidays and weekends.

Required education

In all cases, to become a surgical assistant you’ll need to graduate from an accredited surgical first assistant program.

In most cases, in order to enter a surgical first assistant program, you must first have an associate degree in surgical technology from an approved, accredited surgical technology program. You must also have successfully passed your Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam conducted by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

Some surgical assistant programs may also require one or more of the following:

  • Several years of experience in operating room assisting (often must be completed within the last 3-5 years).
  • Proof of a current CPR certification for healthcare providers.
  • Updated immunization records.
  • Certain course work such as physiology, microbiology and/or medical terminology (taken within the last 7 years).

Check the admissions guidelines of the surgical assistant program you are interested in. Once you find the right educational program for you, it can be completed in as little as 12 months.

The overall objective of most surgical assistant programs is ensuring students can perform surgical assistant skills with proficiency. The curriculum provides students with the experiences necessary to document 135 or more procedures, all designed to verify competencies required of the position.

Specific program objectives will meet standards established by the various approval and accrediting organizations.

Most will be similar to the following:

  • To provide a competency-based environment where students can apply their advanced knowledge of normal and pathological surgical anatomy and physiology.
  • To deliver a training program in various settings where students can demonstrate preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative skills.
  • To offer students opportunities to acquire and practice professional behavior in working relationships with patients and members of a surgical care team.
  • To ensure students are able to communicate patient needs and surgeon preferences to all members of a surgical care team.
  • To facilitate the professional leadership growth of students through knowledge of the role and how it pertains to ethical, moral and legal responsibilities.

Surgical assistant programs are carefully sequenced between clinical experiences, and classroom theory. Although you will have assisted in many procedures as part of your surgical technology degree and experiences, the clinical cases in a surgical assistant program involve utilizing more skills. The variety and intensity will be different than what you’re used to.

The concentration curriculum of most surgical assistant programs is comprised of advanced courses in surgical technology. Although you may have taken similar courses in your associate degree program, surgical assistant courses go into much more detail.

Programs may be separated into specific areas and look something like this:

Healthcare Sciences

  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology

Technical Sciences

  • Information technology
  • Robotics

Surgical Technology

  • Case management
  • Intraoperative duties
  • Preoperative duties
  • Postoperative duties

Surgical Speciality Procedures

  • Gynecology
  • Obstetrics
  • Orthopedic
  • Neurosurgery
  • Plastic and Reconstructive
  • Clinical rotations (135 or more procedures plus observation of many more)

Professional Practices

  • Ethics
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Legal

If you are interested in earning an a degree or certificate in surgical assisting and then taking the CSFA exam, a list of approved education programs can be found at the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

If you want to take the CSA exam, you can be a graduate of a surgical assistant program approved and accredited by either CAAHEP, or ABHES, the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools as long as the program has completed the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA) approval process.

First-time certification

Graduates of a surgical assistant program can then become Certified Surgical First Assistants (CSFAs) or Certified Surgical Assistants (CSAs). Each credential is offered by a different organization and has different eligibility requirements.

Both of these exams are standardized tests that prove you possess the appropriate level of education, experience and skills to be a trusted surgical assistant. Passing one is required in order to work as a surgical assistant.

Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA) credential

The CSFA exam is administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

Currently the test is composed of nine graded, multiple-choice questions and you must correctly answer a specific number of them to pass. All applicants for the exam must be graduates from a CAAHEP-accredited training program. In the alternative, with documentation of appropriate work experience, continuing education and certification, this requirement may be waived.

Eligibility Table

StatusDocumentation NeededOther Items to Include
Graduate of surgical first assisting program – CAAHEP approvedEvidence of graduation through one of the following:

•    Notarized letter on institutional letterhead from program director or registrar (name, date of graduation, type of degree awarded); OR

•    Copy of graduation certificate/diploma or transcript.

•    CSFA exam application

•    Appropriate fee

Currently certified Surgical Technologist (CST) who can demonstrate appropriate experience•    CST credential

•    Verification forms from sponsoring agencies for:

•    200 cases (75 general surgery; 75 in one speciality area; 50 in any other speciality area(s)) within 2 years prior to application date & during a pre-approved timeframe.

•    CSFA exam application

•    Pre-authorization form

•    Evidence of malpractice coverage

•    Appropriate fees

Graduate of military surgical technology training programVerification forms or case log(s) for:

•    200 cases (75 general surgery; 75 in one speciality area; 50 in any other speciality area(s)) within 4 years prior to application date.

•    CSFA exam application

•    Evidence of graduation (ex. DD214) and/or completion certificate)

•    Appropriate fees

Current Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA)•    CSA credential

•    Verification forms or case log(s) from sponsoring agencies for:

•    200 cases (75 general surgery; 75 in one specialty area; 50 in any other specialty area(s)) conducted within 2 years prior to application date.

•    50 continuing education credits within 2 years prior to application date.

•    CSFA exam application

•    Continuing education reporting form

•    Appropriate fees

Once your application is approved, NBSTSA sends you an Authorization to Test number (ATT) and a phone number/web address for an approved testing agency. You will schedule your exam with that agency. The entire process takes 4-6 weeks to complete.

Remember, if the surgical assistant program you are considering is not CAAHEP-accredited, obtaining the CFSA credential may prove difficult. The CFSA is the credential most employers look for.

Certified Surgical Assistant (CSA) credential

The CSA credential is administered by the National Commission for the Certification of Surgical Assistants (NCCSA). Currently this exam consists of nine sections. You must correctly answer a percentage of them in order to pass.

All applicants for the exam must be graduates from a NCCSA-approved training program which is accredited by either CAAHEP or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES). With appropriate documentation, there are some alternatives to this, such as military training, that may be used in lieu of this requirement. Check the NCCSA website for the specific documents you may need you’ll need for your status.

Eligibility Table

StatusDocumentation NeededOther Items to Include
Graduate of surgical first assisting program NCCSA approved AND either CAAHEP approved or ABHES approved•    Evidence of graduation

•    Proof of formal training

•    CST credential

•    Experience affidavit

•    Skills affidavit

•    3 letters of recommendation from surgeons you assisted

•    Verification of one year of case logs proving you were the primary assistant in at least 2250 procedures within the last 3 years.

•    CSA exam application

•    Appropriate fees

New graduate (within last 12 months) of surgical first assisting program NCCSA approved AND either CAAHEP approved or ABHES approved•    Evidence of graduation

•    Proof of formal training

•    CST credential

•    Experience affidavit

•    Skills affidavit

•    3 letters of recommendation from surgeons you assisted

•    Verification of one year of case logs proving you were the primary assistant in at least 2250 procedures within the last 3 years.

•    CSA exam application

•    Appropriate fees

Active military surgical training•    Evidence of graduation

•    Proof of formal training

•    CST credential

•    Experience affidavit

•    Skills affidavit

•    3 letters of recommendation from surgeons you assisted

•    Verification of one year of case logs proving you were the primary assistant in at least 2250 procedures within the last 3 years.

•    CSA exam application

•    Appropriate fees

Once your application is approved, within 48 hours you will receive a phone call to schedule your testing date.

Required continuing education and renewal certification

Like with most professions in allied health, surgical assistants are required to take additional courses once they are certified. Depending upon the type of certification you have, the renewal criteria is different.

CSFA Renewal

Every four years, the NBSTSA requires 75 credits of continuing education for CFSA renewal. Proof of these 75 credits is submitted with your renewal application. If you happen to hold both a CST and a CSFA, when you complete 75 credits, both credentials can be renewed. Details, steps for renewal, and updates are always located on the NBSTSA site.

Eligibility Chart

Option 1 Option 2Other Items to Include
Documentation of 75 continuing education credits earned within the 4-year cycleRetake the CSFA exam, meeting all the initial requirements•    CSFA renewal application

•    Appropriate fees

CSA Renewal

If you possess a CSA, you are required to complete 50 CSA credits within your two-year certification period. Details, steps for renewal, and updates are located on their website.

Eligibility Chart

Option 1Option 2Other Items to Include
Documentation of 50 continuing education credits earned within the 2-year cycleRetake the CSA exam, meeting all initial requirements•    CSA renewal application

•    Appropriate fees

Fees and deadlines for certification and renewal

Regardless which certification you opt for, following the eligibility requirements exactly is important or there will be delays in obtaining your certification or renewal. Without it, you may be unable to practice in the field. In the case of renewal, if you allow your certification to lapse, you may be suspended from practice until your renewal is taken care of.

Take your first-time certification exam as soon as possible after graduation. Bear in mind that while your education is extensive, it will not be enough to pass the test. Purchasing a study guide or registering to take a qualified review course immediately prior to the exam will improve your chances of passing the test.

Apply for renewal two to three months prior to the expiration of your current certification. Be sure you have participated in continuing education credits throughout the period of your certification. You will be unable to secure all the necessary hours in a short period of time. When sending in your documentation, always keep copies.

Fees for certification and renewal range from $100 to $700. If you are a member of a surgical technology support association (ASA or NSAA), fees for these tests are normally reduced. The CSFA test recognizes membership in the Association of Surgical Assistants (ASA). The CSA test recognizes membership in the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA). Proof of your membership is required. More information on these two organizations is located at the end of this article.

Job outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates the demand for surgical assistants will rise 12% through 2026. People are healthier than ever before, and they are living longer. However, 60% of the senior American population suffer, on average, from at least two chronic illnesses. So the demand for all healthcare professionals is high. For more statistics and estimates of annual salaries, you can visit the BLS.

General skills needed for a surgical assistant

To be a successful surgical assistant, there are essential technical skills you’ll need beyond those required of a surgical technologist. In hiring situations, employers look for the following primary competencies:

  • Ability to correctly respond to orders – You have to cheerfully follow orders precisely and immediately.
  • Effective communication skills – You must be able to communicate all types of information to patients and members of a surgical care team.
  • Handling high-pressure situations – Due to the intensity levels in an operating room, you must be able to react intuitively in short time frames.
  • High attention to detail with a long attention-span – Attentiveness to anything abnormal in a patient’s vital signs is essential.
  • Personal fitness – You have to lift and reposition patients, so a certain level of fitness is beneficial.
  • Self-confidence – Pre- and post-surgery procedures are frequently performed alone, so you have to possess enough confidence to do them and know you’re doing them correctly.
  • Strong hand-eye coordination and dexterity – Surgical work involves both large and small surgical procedures. A surgical assistant must be able to assist with both.
  • Wide range of personal and professional skills – This encompasses technical skills inside the operating room and leadership skills outside of it.
  • Working both independently and in a team environment – You must be comfortable working with peers as well as people in positions of authority. Outside of the OR, you will be expected to work on your own when following up with patients.

3 reasons to become a surgical assistant

Work with the latest technologies

Many surgical assistant programs provide some robotic surgical procedure training. The workplace may expose you to others. Opportunities to remain current with the most recent advances that minimize risk to patients and speed up recovery time can be exciting.

Learn something new daily

Although you acquire a lot of education when becoming a first assistant, you’ll learn even more from members of your surgical team. The more you know, the more valuable you are.

Work with a team

Working in an operating room is demanding. Team members of a surgical care unit are no less so. Collaborative team membership adds to your leadership and technical skills.

Surgical assistant organizational support

As a surgical assistant, or even a surgical assistant student, you can join the Association of Surgical Assistants (ASA). This organization supports people in the profession, and those aspiring to the career. It works toward ensuring optimal surgical patient care. It also promotes the recognition of surgical assistants and offers continuing education opportunities.

You may elect to become a member of the National Surgical Assistant Association (NSAA) on their site. They promote excellence in the field, offer educational opportunities and professional certification, and encourage the recognition of surgical assistants.

Want to start now?

Even if you are still in high school, if you are interested in the field of surgical assisting, you can begin today by acquiring a suturing kit.

The Apprentice Doctor offers these kits, complete with instructional videos. You can practice suturing, tying knots and other skills common in the field. As you’ve learned, you need a lot of self-confidence as a surgical assistant. With a suturing kit, you can begin growing that confidence as you gain agility in performing critical suturing tasks. After completing this internationally accredited program, you’ll possess advanced skills and knowledge in the field.

Learn more about the suturing mastery course.

For more information on the first step in becoming a surgical assistant, read our previous article on – Becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist.

And read an interview with a practicing surgical technologist.

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    Comments : 41 thoughts on “Becoming a Certified Surgical First Assistant/Surgical Assistant”

    1. Hi!
      My name is Shelby and I graduated from Spelman College in May 2020 with a BS in Health Science. I am a second-year graduate student at the University of Georgia working towards my Masters in Kinesiology with a concentration in Exercise Physiology. I currently work in the neuromusculoskeletal health lab working with children with cerebral palsy. After I graduate, I will apply to medical school. I would absolutely love to work as a surgical first assistant, and I’d greatly appreciate some advice on where to start this process. Thank you so much!

      • Hi Shelby – our career consultant has recently retired – so I have no immediate answer – let me see if we can get some more info for you.

    2. I am Dr Dhirajlal Thumar from India
      I passed my MBBS examination from M P Shah Medical college ,Gujarat ,India in1993
      I passed my M.S. (General Surgery) in 1998
      I passed my FIAGES examination for laproscopic surgery in 2005
      I joined as assistant professor at M P Shah Medical college from 1998 to 99
      At present I am working as a general & laproscopic surgen at my own hospital in India since last 20 years , during last 20 years I perform more then 15000 surgery including minor,major & laproscopic surgery

      Now in near future we will immigrate at USA in North Carolina
      so I can work as a Surgical first assistant at Raleigh NC ,USA?
      what is opportunity for me at USA
      please guide me what to do in my filed

      • Regretfully I don’t know. The Apprentice Corporation works with high school and premed students – aspiring medical professionals. Regarding opportunities for foreign qualified medical professionals we are ignorant. Best nonetheless!

      • Doctor, I have the same years of experience as you, only in another country, if you need information such as having the surgical assistant certification taking into account all the experience in surgery, I have information to apply, but you must live in the USA.

      • Harlen,

        I’ll be migrating to Salt Lake City, Utah, this coming January. Im on same boat as Dr Thumar, a General surgeon with 14 years of experience. 70% of which are open abdominal surgery, the remainder are well distributed along subspecialty from Craniectomy to BKA, except for limited vascular surgery.
        Im interested in that information to apply.

        thanks
        Dr Daniel

      • Apologies – we have published this article – but we don’t offer application services – I will ask around though and reply if I get more information.

      • I am also interested on how to get certification for surgical first assist. I am a foreign medical doctor/ OBGYN who moves in the US 4 months ago. Can you guide me on the appropriate steps I need to do to become a surg first assist? Thanks

      • You have the advanced training in surgery plus the background in medicine so all you have to do is start with the education merit equivalence here in US (e.g. WES) then apply to sit for the certification exams(there’s different types, for IMGs best is ABSA, for surg techs & nurses there’s NBSTSA, etc)

        Foreign -trained Doctors/Surgeons are more attractive to employers (I am one and have been affiliated to a lot of hospitals and currently works with other CSAs of the same background for years)once you get certified and licensed in the state. Check the requirements for taking the exams and licenses. First assisting in surgery is not just a lucrative profession (6 figure salary is easy especially if independent)but fulfilling as you are truly helping the Surgeon, team and most especially provide the utmost care to the patient.

        Good luck! (I will try to make a blogpost/youtube for IMGs/FMGs /Foreign surgeons to help navigate this career path).

    3. I am pursuing final year of BSc psychology. I forced to take this, but my aim is to become a surgical assistant or a surgical first Assistent. Can you help me out in this? Which is better and how to go about from here?

      • This is really a difficult one to answer without knowing a lot more specifics. Your academic institution’s career guidance section will do a much better job with giving good advice! Best

    4. Hi..I’m a CSFA and I’m just wondering if anybody knows if they use/hire CSFA’s in Canada? I’ve been reading about RNFA..but i’m not finding much about CSFA. I am dual credentialed both CST and CFSA. I’m assuming they use CST’s in Canada. Thanks for anybody’s input.

    5. Hello,
      I have a few questions, I hope you all can help me out.
      I graduated last year from undergrad, I earned two Bachelor Degrees in Chemistry and Biology; and I am currently working in research. I would like to become a surgical assistant, but I know I need to be a surgical Technician first with several hours of experience. I was wondering If I can enroll to the 1 year certified Surgical Technician program instead of getting an Associate Degree of two years. Also, If I get my certificate and I pass the CST exam, Will I be eligible to enroll into a Surgical Assistant Program?
      In other words, can I be a Surgical Assistant by taking 1 year program of Surgical Technician and 1 year program of Surgical Assistant; since I have my Bachelor already?

    6. Hello I’m Dhruv from India. I’m BHMS student but I want to become a surgical assistant on base on my 12th or HSC. So can I eligible for it ? I want a start study as beginner that’s why I telling so can I eligible for it ?

    7. I work for 18 yrs in the hospital as a surgical technologist, and want to become a first assistant can I qualified for the training, I am not certified as a surgical technologist but I went to accredited school for my training for surgical technologist.

      • I would think so – but let me try and find out for you as I’m not perfectly sure.

      • I would greatly appreciate it. Also, is there a difference between a surgical assistant and a surgical first hand assistant?

    8. I am a CST and have been for the last 33 years. I graduated from a diploma program so I don’t have a associates degree. Would I be grandfathered and able to take the program? I currently work L and D and scrub and assist on a regular basis.

      • It is possible that you may be able to transfer in your diploma credits to an associate degree program. But depending upon the age of the credits, they may deny all of them. Seven to ten years is generally the maximum age they will accept in STEM-related courses. It is possible they will give you credit for some life experience, but that is far more subjective. However, transfer of credits is always managed by the receiving institution. Each school could have different criteria, so you will have to contact each one individually. The overriding criteria is determined by the licensing organization – The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (https://www.nbstsa.org/cst-first-timeretake-applicants). The situation most educational institutions run into is that their programmatic accreditation is frequently tied to their NBSTSA pass rates, so they are diligent as far as their curriculum and how it relates to licensing of their graduates. So, it is possible they will not take any transfer of credit on concentration courses or life experience. Your best approach is to contact each school you’re interested in and talk to one of their admissions representatives.

    9. Hi, I am a certified Surgical technologist by the NBSTSA, working in the medical field for 3 years and I would like to continue my school and became a Surgical first Assistant, I have to take a full course or I will be able to have some credits for my experience and my classes.. thank you

    10. I am currently a scrub tech and have a certificate in surgical technology, I have been in the field for 3 years. Do I need an associates to qualify for a first assistant program?

      • While you may be able to get some some credit for your classes and experience, you will have to have an associate degree to be eligible for most first assistant programs. My suggestion is that you find programs in your area and talk with an admissions representative.

      • Yes – but no misunderstanding please – this is not in any way related to the registration or certification of foreign qualified doctors/medical professionals

      • Yes you can – but please no misunderstanding – these courses are in no way related to getting a USA registration/certification for foreign qualified doctors.

    11. Hi i am a foreign medical graduate and an OBGyn physician. I am thinking of working as a certified surgical assistant. Are FMGs with surgical background allowed to take the surgical assistant licensure exam?

      • Thank you for visiting our site and asking this question. The surgical assistant licensure exam has a set of eligibility requirements that must be met before being granted approval to take the test. The criteria involves both education and clinical experience and includes that you have passed the certified surgical technology exam first. While I am unable to say if they would approve your application to take the exam, here is the link that gives you details https://www.nbstsa.org/. It is always best to check the site, and even talk to someone at the organization, to get the most updated information. If all that works out for you and you intend on working in the US, I also recommend ensuring you have the right visa.

    12. I’m a medical assistant wanting to work towards a bachelors degree. Do I need to go back to school for the surg tech program… Or can I get a degree in say… biomedical science or human biology and then join a surg assistant program to become a surgical first assistant?

      • Thank you for visiting our site. As you advance in your education, I hope you will continue to find the information we provide useful.

        Any degree in science will be helpful to you in a medical career whether that be a medical assistant or a medical doctor. Science, chemistry and human anatomy are the backbones to nearly all medical professions.

        While I can’t tell you exactly what approach to take, you may want to consider your educational options in terms of time and financial resources, both of which are solely practical considerations. A bachelor in biomedical science or human biology will take four years. There are tuition and other costs associated with that, all of which would be worthwhile. However, while some of those credits could transfer into a surgical technology program, not all of them will. So entering a surgical technology program after a bachelor degree would take additional time and money. You’d have to start out in a surgical technology program, work some time in that field and then advance to the surgical first assistant program. The good news is that you’d be working while getting the first assistant credential. Let’s say you spend the four years getting a bachelor. If some credits transfer in, it may be still another year or 18 months to complete a surgical technology program. 

Or, you can go straight into a surgical technology program, begin work in the field and then study for your bachelor degree, possibly through an online program. That way you’re in the field more quickly. A surgical technology program takes anywhere from 12-24 months. Many of the courses in such a program are unique to surgical technology, which is why not many from most medical degrees won’t transfer in. For information on this degree, see our article. After obtaining the degree from an accredited program, you will have to sit for the license in order to practice.

        From there you’d move into a surgical first assistant program. To be eligible you have to have the associate degree in surgical technology, plus your license. Many also require 3-5 years experience as a surgical technologist. Once you graduate from a first assistant program, there is another certification test to take. For more information on this degree, see our article.

        I think your best course of action is to decide first what profession you’d like to pursue. If you goal is to become a surgical first assistant, your quickest and least expensive path is to enter a surgical technology program first and get yourself established in the field. After working there for a few years, enter a surgical first assistant program. You can pursue your bachelor degree, and I would encourage you to do so. But there is no need to get that degree first in order to enroll in a surgical technology program. 


    13. Hello

      I have been in medical school after my BSc Biochemistry but did not complete my med school, I have a hospital emergency department and surgical department experience back in India for 2-3 years. In Canada, I have been working for all healthcare department, Clinical Research, and Medical diagnostic department altogether with 17 years. Please let me know I am eligible for Surgical Assistant course. Also, want to know whether it can be done online.

      Thanking You

      Balaji Chandran

      • Hi, Balaji,

        Thank you for visiting our site. It sounds like you have a good medical background that will serve you well in most healthcare career endeavors. However, I am unable to tell you if you are eligible for a surgical assistant program. When reviewing an applicant’s qualifications, it is the school that determines a student’s eligibility for admission. Each one has different criteria. Your best option is to make a list of programs that look promising and then meet with an admissions representative to see what credits and life experience could be transferred in. Surg tech programs that programmatically accredited must meet certain regulatory standards in order to maintain that accreditation and so can be very selective in what transfers into their program. As far as online programs, you may find some that are considered “blended.” That means that some of the didactic information is offered online, but lab work, practicums and externships are on ground. Because surgical tech and surgical assistant programs require a significant number of hours in a surgical setting, it is not likely you will find a program 100% on line. I wish you the best of luck as you continue your education.

        Dr. Anton

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