Surgical Assistant Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Jan 02, 2019

Aspiring surgical assistants can get the education they need through associate's degree and certificate programs. Although less common, there are also master's degree programs that provide training in this field.

Programs for surgical assistants, also known as surgical first assistants, can be found at two-year community colleges and four-year universities. These programs combine classroom, laboratory and clinical training.

Schools with CAAHEP Accredited Surgical Assistant Programs

The following schools offer surgical assistant programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*
Gulf Coast State College Panama City, FL 4-year, Public Certificate
$2,765 In-state
$10,072 Out-of-state
College of Southern Idaho Twin Falls, ID 2-year, Public Associate's $2,880 In-district
$3,880 In-state
$6,720 Out-of-state
Madisonville Community College Madisonville, KY 2-year, Public Certificate
$3,624 In-state
$12,456 Out-of-state
Wayne County Community College Detroit, MI 2-year, Public Certificate $2,813 In-district
$3,080 In-state
$3,807 Out-of-state
Mayo School of Health Sciences Rochester, MN 4-year, Private, non-profit Certificate $15,640**
University of Cincinnati- Clermont College Batavia, OH 4-year, Public Certificate $6,052 In-state
$13,284 Out-of-state
Meridian Institute of Surgical Assisting Nashville, TN <2-year, Private for-profit Associate's $7,495
Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk, VA 4-year, Public Master's $15,214 In-state (2016-2017 rate)
$17,805 Out-of-state (2016-2017 rate)**

Sources: *NCES College Navigator, **School website

School Selection Criteria

Students should consider these things when choosing a surgical assistant school:

  • Students should make sure that the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
  • Prospective students might want to learn what the pass rate is for graduates on the Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA) exam offered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assistants (NBSTSA).
  • When considering certificate programs, students should make sure that they meet the minimum admissions requirements, which can include previous degrees and several years of work experience as a surgical technologist.
  • Students may want to find out about the school's laboratory and clinical training facilities in order to ensure that they will gain experience with industry-standard medical equipment in a setting where they might like to pursue a career.

Associate's Degree Programs

In two-year Associate of Science (AS) programs for surgical first assistants, students begin by taking fundamental courses in biomedical science, such as anatomy and physiology. From there, they take career-focused courses in surgical techniques and procedures, where they prepare for the role of a surgical first assistant, training to pass surgeons necessary instruments, provide pre- and post-operative patient care, adjusting patient position and assisting with hemostasis. In some programs, students may specialize their studies in a particular type of surgery, such as trauma, open heart, orthopedic, gynecologics/obstetrics, robotic or neurosurgery. Prior to graduation, students must also fulfill general education requirements.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs for surgical first assistants are available for certified, experienced surgical technologists who want to advance to surgical first assistant positions. In order to enroll, students must usually hold the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) designation, have up-to-date CPR certification and have at least three years of full-time work experience as a surgical technologist. The clinical coursework in these programs is similar to that in associate's degree programs, but without general education or basic science coursework, which experienced technologists will have already completed.

Master's Degree Programs

Some schools provide education to aspiring surgical assistants through master's degree programs. These programs can typically be completed in 22 months, divided between 10 months of coursework and 12 months of clinical rotations. In addition to preparing graduates for work as surgical assistants, these programs can also help prepare students to work as surgical assistant educators in the future.

Surgical assistant schools train students in surgical assisting procedures and anatomy. Prospective students should look for accredited schools with high pass rates on the CSFA exam.

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