Top Surgical Technician Programs in Illinois | Your Guide to a Career in Surgical Technology

Deciding on one of the surgical technician programs in Illinois can shape your career trajectory in this vital healthcare role. This guide zeroes in on the state’s accredited programs, compares them, and discusses what you need to succeed in the program and beyond. With a focus on what makes each offering distinct, from curriculum to certification preparation, we aim to simplify your search and help you make an informed decision on one of the many rewarding pathways in surgical technology.

Key Takeaways

  • Illinois offers accredited surgical technician programs that prepare students to become skilled surgical technologists, with prerequisites including foundational high school coursework and a minimum cumulative GPA, among other criteria.
  • Graduates of the surgical technology programs in Illinois are eligible to take the National Certification Exam, and while certification is not required by the state, it is highly recommended for enhanced job prospects.
  • A variety of reputable surgical technology programs are available across Illinois, such as those at Elgin Community College, Midwestern Career College, and College of DuPage, each offering unique strengths and rigorous hands-on clinical experience.

Exploring Surgical Technician Programs in Illinois

Surgical technician program in Illinois

Illinois is home to a vibrant landscape of surgical technology programs. These programs prepare students to become integral members of the surgical team, assisting surgeons in life-saving procedures. From the preparation of surgical instruments to the maintenance of a sterile environment, these programs equip students with the skills necessary to ensure smooth, safe surgical procedures.

Programs are designed to create competent, entry-level surgical technologists who are ready to step directly into this high-demand field. As an entry-level surgical technologist, with surgical technology training, students are prepared to join the ranks of professionals in surgical centers across the state, contributing to patient safety and effective surgical procedures.

Program Requirements

Understanding program requirements is the first step in the journey to becoming a surgical technologist in Illinois. Most programs require a solid foundation in high school coursework, particularly in subjects like:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Math

These subjects provide the necessary background knowledge for the advanced medical terminology and human anatomy and physiology courses that students will encounter in their surgical technology program.

Beyond the coursework, there are additional prerequisites and requirements. Prospective students may need to:

  • Attend an Advising Session
  • Follow a registration checklist from a Surgical Technology Registration Packet
  • Complete certain science courses within 5 years with a grade of ‘C’ or better
  • Meet a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5

These prerequisites ensure that students have the necessary academic and personal preparedness to succeed in the program.

Accreditation Status

In the healthcare education sector, accreditation symbolizes a hallmark of quality. It assures that the program meets or exceeds the standards set by the accrediting body, ensuring a high quality of education for students. In Illinois, several surgical technician programs boast reputable accreditations.

Midwestern Career College’s AAS in Surgical Technology program stands out as the only such accredited program in Chicago, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Similarly, the Surgical Technology program at the College of DuPage holds accreditation from the same body.

Illinois Central College’s program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA). City Colleges of Chicago – Malcolm X is also pursuing accreditation for their Surgical Technology Program from CAAHEP.

The Path to Becoming a Surgical Technician

Certification process for surgical technicians

Enrolling in a postsecondary educational program in surgical technology is the initial step towards becoming a surgical technician in Illinois., which typically requires a high school diploma or GED for enrollment. These programs offer a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical experience and can lead to a certificate or an associate’s degree upon completion. They prepare students for the diverse roles that they will play in the operating room, from managing surgical instruments to assisting surgeons during procedures.

After completing their initial programs, surgical techs in Illinois can consider further specialization in certain areas like sterilization or cardiac surgery through additional training or education. While certification is not mandatory in Illinois, it is highly recommended as many employers prefer or require it. Certification can be obtained by passing an exam administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) or another recognized certifying body.

Educational Programs

A comprehensive educational program forms the foundation of a career in surgical technology. Many aspiring surgical technicians in Illinois opt for associate degree programs, which offer extensive training in surgical technology. For instance, the Associate in Applied Science in Surgical Technology program at the College of DuPage stands out for its focus on the application of anatomy and physiology knowledge and the demonstration of safe professional practice in the operating room.

Notably, a significant part of these programs is the clinical component, requiring students to commit 24-32 hours weekly to a clinical partner. Along with meeting age, immunization, background check, and health insurance prerequisites, this hands-on clinical experience equips students with the practical skills required in the real-world setting of the operating room.

Certification Process

Completion of a surgical technology program doesn’t mark the end of the educational journey. In Illinois, there’s an additional step – certification. Graduates of accredited surgical technology programs in Illinois are qualified to sit for the National Certification Exam by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). This certification is an important credential that attests to the surgical technician’s competence and readiness for the profession.

Successfully achieving certification as a surgical technician in Illinois requires the completion of an accredited educational program and passing the National Certification Exam administered by the NBSTSA. This certification is a testament to the surgical technician’s skills and knowledge, often giving them an edge in the competitive job market.

In-Depth Look at Top Surgical Technician Programs in Illinois

Top surgical technician programs in Illinois

A variety of quality educational programs are available to aspiring surgical technicians in Illinois. Each program offers a unique blend of classroom learning and clinical experiences in various surgical settings, providing comprehensive education to students. Let’s delve deeper into some of the top-notch surgical technician programs in Illinois.

Distinct in their strengths, curriculum, and features, these programs are spread across the state. Prospective students have a wide choice of programs to consider, each providing a unique experience and approach to surgical technology training. Some notable programs include:

  • Elgin Community College
  • Midwestern Career College
  • College of DuPage
  • City Colleges of Chicago – Malcolm X
  • Illinois Central College

Elgin Community College

  • Program Overview:
    • The Surgical Technology program prepares students to provide quality patient care in the operating room.
    • Responsibilities include preparing the operating room, maintaining a sterile environment, and assisting surgeons during surgeries.
    • The program emphasizes hands-on training and aims to produce competent surgical technologists.
  • Certification and Employment:
    • Graduates are well-prepared for the national certification exam, with a high pass rate (92% in 2017).
    • The job outlook for surgical technologists is positive, driven by increasing healthcare demands and advances in medical technology.
    • Employment opportunities are available in hospitals, clinics, and surgical centers.
  • Program Structure:
    • The program is a two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) certification.
    • Includes classroom instruction, lab sessions, and clinical training.
    • Prerequisites include courses in human anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology.
  • Additional Support:
    • Career development services are provided, including resume writing, certification exam preparation, and job interview skills.
    • ECC offers financial aid and support programs like PATH and partnerships with Kane County WIOA for eligible students.

The Surgical Technology program at Elgin Community College offers comprehensive training, a strong support system, and a high success rate in national certification exams, preparing students for a promising career in the healthcare industry.

Midwestern Career College

The Associate of Applied Science in Surgical Technology program at Midwestern Career College is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). This accreditation ensures the program meets high standards and prepares students for successful careers in surgical technology. This distinguishes it as the sole CAAHEP-accredited AAS in Surgical Technology in Chicago.

  • Program Overview:
    • The program offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Surgical Technology.
    • Designed to prepare students for entry-level positions as surgical technologists.
    • Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
  • Curriculum and Objectives:
    • Focuses on cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning domains.
    • Teaches students to communicate effectively, practice clinical judgment, and adhere to professional and ethical standards.
    • Emphasizes preparation for the certification examination and lifelong learning.
  • Program Length and Format:
    • 80 instructional weeks across 5 terms.
    • Hybrid study format with both online and in-person components.
    • Enrollment for the Fall 2024 cohort has entered waitlist status.
  • Externship Requirement:
    • Students must complete a 270-hour externship at affiliated clinical sites.
    • Completion of 120 clinical cases is required for graduation.

The Surgical Technology program at Midwestern Career College offers comprehensive training and accreditation, preparing students for successful careers as surgical technologists through a blend of classroom instruction, hands-on practice, and clinical externships.

College of DuPage

The Surgical Technology program at the College of DuPage offers:

  • A comprehensive curriculum that includes classroom and clinical instruction
  • Experience across various surgical settings
  • Small class sizes, providing personalized attention and tailored training

Students in this program benefit from a well-rounded education and hands-on experience.

The program equips graduates with the necessary competencies for entry-level positions, covering cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning domains. Prospective students begin their journey by attending an Advising Session at the College of DuPage. With accreditation from the CAAHEP, the program assures adherence to stringent educational standards.


Victor Barrón, a College of DuPage alumnus, faced significant challenges after moving from Mexico to the U.S. at 14. Despite struggling with language and cultural barriers, he found his passion while working as a surgical aide.

  • Initially enrolled in COD’s Hospitality and Tourism program but dropped out due to academic difficulties.
  • Developed an interest in the operating room through his job and decided to pursue a career there.
  • Returned to COD to enter the Surgical Technology program and improve his GPA.
“This time, I had no doubt that COD was the best choice to help me achieve my goals,” he said. “I was focused on fixing my GPA in order to get into the Surgical Technology program and earn an associate degree.”

City Colleges of Chicago – Malcolm X

The Surgical Technology Program at Malcolm X College is designed to produce competent entry-level surgical technologists. The program emphasizes cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning domains, ensuring students uphold moral integrity and the highest principles of aseptic technique.

The program, which is actively pursuing initial accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), offers comprehensive academic and clinical education, culminating in an Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology. It holds the distinction of being the only City College in Chicago that offers this degree.

Illinois Central College

Illinois Central College’s Surgical Technologist program:

Program Overview

  • Degree: Associate in Applied Science (AAS)
  • Duration: Approximately 24 months (5 semesters)
  • Credit Hours: 60 total credit hours
  • Cost: Approximately $9,600 plus supplies and fees (based on 2024-25 rates)
  • Class Size: Average of 15 students per class

Program Structure

  • Curriculum:
    • Basic patient care practices
    • Aseptic technique
    • Surgical anatomy
    • Surgical procedures
    • Surgical supplies and instruments
  • Training: Hands-on learning in program laboratories and clinical experience in local hospitals
  • Certification: Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Certification Exam by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)


  • Accrediting Body: Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), in cooperation with the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARC/STSA)

Admission Requirements

  • Application Process:
    • Complete admissions application
    • Submit health science application
    • Apply for financial aid (FAFSA) and ICC scholarships
  • Prerequisites: High school coursework in anatomy, biology, chemistry, and math is beneficial
  • Preparation: Students advised to complete anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology before beginning the SURTK course sequence

Additional Opportunities

  • Student Organizations: Rotaract, Student Government Association, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
  • Career Support: Academic planning assistance from Student Success Advisors, financial aid options, and small class sizes for individualized attention

The Surgical Technologist program at Illinois Central College provides comprehensive training, accredited education, and ample support to prepare students for successful careers in various surgical settings.

Career Opportunities for Surgical Technicians

Career opportunities for surgical technicians

A world of career opportunities awaits students upon graduation from a surgical technology program. Surgical technologists can find employment in diverse settings such as hospitals, surgical centers, physicians’ offices, and outpatient care centers. Depending on the setting, graduates can take up roles as Certified Surgical Technologists (CST), scrub techs, surgical technologists, or operating room technicians.

The job outlook for surgical technologists in Illinois is positive, supported by projected job growth of 6% in the field. This is due to the increasing demand for healthcare services and the expanding aging population. The field is not just about technical skills; it also involves social interactions with medical staff and patients, making it a rewarding career for individuals with a passion for healthcare and helping others.

Hospitals and Surgical Centers

Surgical technologists play an essential role in preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative patient care in hospitals and surgical centers. They prepare surgical areas, manage surgical instruments, and assist surgeons in performing life-saving procedures. Considering the direct impact on patient health and safety, the role of a surgical technologist demands high levels of precision and accuracy.

The working hours of surgical technologists in these settings can be quite flexible, allowing for a work-life balance. However, they may also be required to:

  • Be on-call
  • Work off-hours
  • Take on roles in emergency care
  • Manage shifts

These factors can impact their work schedule and require some flexibility.

Physician’s Offices and Outpatient Care Centers

A significant aspect of their job in physician’s offices and outpatient care centers is the autonomy surgical technologists often have to set daily tasks without supervisor consultation. The unique working conditions in these environments require surgical technologists to adapt to awkward positions to effectively work in the often congested spaces.

Despite the challenges, working in these settings can be rewarding, as they provide quality patient care and offer opportunities for close interaction with patients and a more predictable work schedule compared to hospitals and surgical centers. It offers a unique blend of technical skills and patient care that can be highly satisfying for the right individuals.

Specialized Fields and Advanced Roles

Specific areas of surgery offer experienced surgical technicians the opportunity to specialize. This specialization allows them to focus on certain types of procedures and patient care, enhancing the quality of surgical care provided. From Cardiovascular Surgical Technologists who assist with intricate heart and lung surgeries to OB/GYN Technicians who play a crucial role in labor and delivery, the field of surgical technology offers a wide array of specialized roles.

Each specialized field enhances patient care by ensuring expert assistance in the operating room tailored to specific surgical disciplines. Advanced roles for surgical technicians reflect the increasing complexities and demands of contemporary surgical procedures, requiring specialized expertise for optimal patient outcomes.

Student Testimonials and Success Stories

The success stories of graduates best demonstrate the power of the surgical technician programs in Illinois. From a Ugandan immigrant who navigated significant life changes to pursue her educational goals at Illinois Central College, to a home-schooled student who chose the college for its small class sizes and proximity to home, these stories highlight the transformative impact of these programs.

Audra, another graduate, found her calling and the ability to change lives as a Surgical Technologist after enrolling at Illinois Central College. Meanwhile, despite the hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sydney from ICC excelled and became deeply involved on campus, contributing as an SI Leader, Embedded Tutor, and Professional Tutor. These stories illuminate the profound impact these programs have on achieving career aspirations.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

A career in surgical technology represents a significant investment in your future. To assist students with the costs of their education, several scholarships are available specifically for surgical technology students in Illinois. The Foundation for Surgical Technology, for instance, provides scholarships specifically for students enrolled in accredited Surgical Technology programs.

Further financial assistance can be sought through the NBSTSA Sandra Edwards CST Scholarship Fund and the ARC/STSA scholarship, both of which support students pursuing education in surgical technology. These financial aids and scholarships help to make the dream of becoming a surgical technologist a reality for many students.


Illinois offers a vibrant landscape of accredited surgical technician programs that equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to become competent professionals in this dynamic field. From comprehensive educational programs to a variety of career opportunities in diverse healthcare settings, the field of surgical technology holds immense potential. With the right guidance and resources, you too can embark on this rewarding career path and make a significant impact on patient care.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best major for a surgical tech?

The best major for a surgical tech is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, exercise science, nursing, pre-health, or a health-related area to qualify for a master’s program in surgical technology. Nursing, business, or a medical technician major can also be considered.

What is the highest-paid surgical tech?

The highest-paid surgical tech jobs are usually found in specialized surgical technology specialties.

Does UIC have a surgical tech program?

Yes, the University of Illinois at Chicago offers a Surgical Technology Program designed to prepare students for professional positions in the field.

What are the prerequisites for enrolling in a surgical technology program in Illinois?

To enroll in a surgical technology program in Illinois, you will typically need high school courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, and math, as well as a medical terminology course and a minimum GPA of 2.5.

Is accreditation important for surgical technology programs?

Yes, accreditation is important for surgical technology programs as it ensures quality and recognition for students.