Top Surgical Technician Programs in North Carolina: A Guide to Your Career in the Operating Room

Interested in surgical technician programs in North Carolina? This guide cuts to the chase, providing key insights on accredited programs designed to deliver the comprehensive skills necessary for a career as a surgical technician. Get the facts on what these programs offer, from their scope and structure to the real-world training that qualifies you for certification. Start your journey with clarity here.

Key Takeaways

  • Surgical technician programs in North Carolina combine theoretical education with practical training, and graduating from an accredited program is fundamental for taking the national certification exam to become a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST).
  • Surgical technician curricula cover core medical and operating room courses, as well as general education requirements, providing a comprehensive educational experience necessary for practical skills and patient care in the operating room.
  • The career outlook for surgical technologists is promising, with competitive salaries, diverse work settings, and potential for specialization. The application process for programs involves selective admission, and financial aid is available to qualified students.

Exploring Surgical Technician Programs in North Carolina

Surgical technician students in North Carolina practicing in a simulated operating room

The path toward a career in the operating room starts with proper education. Surgical technician programs in North Carolina are meticulously structured to equip students with the foundational elements necessary for a professional career in the operating room. Programs like the one at Central Piedmont Community College specifically focus on imparting the knowledge, skills, and professional behavior needed for an entry-level surgical technologist.

These allied health education programs combine theoretical education with practical training, promoting comprehensive skill development. As a graduate, you are prepared to offer patient-centered care, a critical component of the role of surgical technicians in healthcare settings.

Accredited Programs in North Carolina

Given the sensitive nature of the work, selecting an accredited program is key, ensuring that the education received meets the professional standards required for surgical technologist certification. Durham Tech, for example, offers a notable accredited Surgical Technology program, a prominent educational pathway for aspiring surgical technologists in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Graduating from programs accredited by organizations like CAAHEP and ABHES qualifies you to take the National Board on Certification in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) exam, a major milestone towards becoming a certified surgical technologist.

Wilson Community College

Wilson Community College offers an accredited Surgical Technology program designed to prepare students for careers as surgical technologists. This program equips students with the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to assist in surgical procedures and maintain aseptic conditions in the operating room.

  • Program Overview:
    • The curriculum prepares individuals to assist in the care of surgical patients and function as members of the surgical team.
    • Students learn to prepare supplies, equipment, and instruments; maintain aseptic conditions; prepare patients for surgery; and assist surgeons during operations.
  • Curriculum:
    • Combines theoretical knowledge with practical skills.
    • Training includes preparing the operating room, handling surgical instruments, and assisting in surgical procedures.
    • Students must take the national certification exam administered by the National Board on Certification in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) within four weeks before or after graduation.
  • Key Features:
    • The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
    • Students develop competencies in cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains.
    • The program aims to prepare entry-level surgical technologists who are competent and professional.
  • Program Outcomes:
    • Graduate Placement: Consistently high placement rates, with 100% of graduates working in the field and continuing education in recent years.
    • CST Pass Rate: Varies annually, with a benchmark of 70%. Recent pass rates include 67% in 2023 and 33% in 2022.
    • The program transitioned to a two-year Associate Degree in Applied Science starting in 2020, impacting graduation and pass rates during the transition period.

Wilson Community College’s Surgical Technology program provides comprehensive training and education to prepare students for successful careers as surgical technologists. The program’s accreditation, rigorous curriculum, and high placement rates ensure that graduates are well-equipped to meet the demands of the healthcare industry.

Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC

Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Surgical Technology. This program is designed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to become competent surgical technologists, ready to assist in various surgical settings.

  • Program Overview:
    • The Surgical Technology program at GTCC prepares students to assist in the care of surgical patients and to function as integral members of the surgical team.
    • The program focuses on developing competencies in cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains.
  • Curriculum:
    • Courses cover the preparation of operating rooms, handling surgical instruments, and maintaining sterile conditions.
    • Students learn to assist surgeons during operations and manage surgical equipment.
    • The program includes theoretical instruction and hands-on practice, including clinical experiences in area surgical centers and hospitals.
  • Key Features:
    • Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
    • Prepares students for the National Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) examination administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.
    • Graduates demonstrate high pass rates on the certification exam, with recent pass rates varying from 25% to 100%.
  • Admissions Information:
    • The program has a selective admission process with a limited enrollment of 36 students.
    • Interested applicants must follow the guidelines outlined in the Surgical Technology Admission Packet.
    • Accepted students will receive orientation and information about health requirements, background/drug screening, and clinical requirements.

The Surgical Technology program at GTCC offers a comprehensive and rigorous pathway to becoming a certified surgical technologist. The program combines theoretical knowledge with practical skills, ensuring that graduates are well-prepared for certification and employment in various surgical settings.

Durham Technical Community College

Durham Technical Community College offers a comprehensive Surgical Technology program designed to prepare students for a career as surgical technologists. This program equips students with the skills and knowledge necessary to support surgical teams and ensure sterile conditions in the operating room.

  • Program Overview:
    • Surgical technologists play a crucial role in the operating room, creating a sterile field, setting up required instruments, passing instruments to the surgeon, and handling specimens.
    • The program teaches students to apply theoretical knowledge to the care of patients undergoing surgery.
  • Curriculum:
    • Students learn to prepare supplies, equipment, and instruments.
    • Training includes maintaining aseptic conditions, preparing patients for surgery, and assisting surgeons during operations.
    • The program focuses on both theoretical and practical skills necessary for a successful career as a surgical technologist.
  • Key Features:
    • The program provides a primary pathway for students who wish to pursue a career in surgical technology.
    • High job demand in the field with many employers offering bonuses and incentives for qualified professionals.
    • Comprehensive training to ensure students are well-prepared for real-world surgical environments.

The Surgical Technology program at Durham Technical Community College offers rigorous training and education, preparing students for vital roles in the operating room. With high job demand and strong employer incentives, graduates are well-positioned for successful careers in surgical technology.

Program Duration and Structure

Surgical technician programs typically span 12 to 24 months, culminating in a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. The programs are comprehensive, featuring classroom instructions that delve into anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, and medical terminology.

However, learning extends beyond the classroom. Students also participate in:

  • Lab work, gaining hands-on practice with surgical equipment and procedures
  • Supervised clinical practicums at local hospitals or surgical centers, allowing students to get a taste of real-world surgical settings
  • Externship opportunities, provide additional experience in specialized areas of surgery

These opportunities complement the theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom and help students develop skills, particularly the practical ones necessary for a career in surgery.

Anatomy and physiology class for surgical technician students

Core Courses and Skills Development

The core academic courses of a surgical technician program cover a broad spectrum, including:

  • Anatomy and physiology, which are crucial to understanding the human body
  • Medical terminology that ensures fluency in the specialized language of surgery
  • Microbiology, which is key to preventing infections and maintaining sterile conditions
  • Pharmacology, which educates on medications used in surgery, is a crucial aspect of patient care.

Courses dealing with operating room techniques impart knowledge on patient care and contamination prevention to ensure safe and effective surgeries. Safe patient care courses establish the foundation for the surgical technician role within the operating room environment. Surgical procedures courses encompass the complete process from preparation to recovery, including the proper use of surgical instruments. All these elements foster the development of practical skills for managing supplies, and equipment, and assisting during surgeries.

Programs like the one at Durham Tech place emphasis on applying theoretical knowledge in realistic settings.

General Education Requirements

In addition to the core courses focusing on the intricacies of surgical technology, the surgical technology curriculum prepares students by also encapsulating general education requirements. These courses encompass vital subjects such as science, English, and math, providing a well-rounded educational foundation. With subjects like biology, communication, psychology, and algebra, these general education courses offer a broad learning experience.

Before delving into the core curriculum of surgical technology, students might be required to finish prerequisite general education courses, which can range from biology to English. This approach ensures that students have a solid foundation of knowledge upon which to build their surgical technology skills.

Becoming a Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)

Preparation for surgical technologist certification exam

Upon completion of a surgical technician program, the subsequent step is to achieve Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) status. The certification process involves:

  • Submitting an examination application form
  • Paying the required fees
  • Sending the application and fees to the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).

The CST examination consists of 175 questions, including 150 scored questions and 25 pretest items. A passing score requires at least 98 of the scored questions to be correct. Candidates attempting the CST examination are limited to three tries within a calendar year, with the need to pay the testing fee for each attempt.

Achieving CST certification is often mandated by employers in various specializations to validate a surgical technologist’s expertise and proficiency.

Exam Preparation and Resources

Although preparing for the national certification exam, the CST examination, may seem overwhelming, the NBSTSA offers a variety of resources for assistance. These include:

  • Study guides
  • Practice exams
  • A test preparation app
  • A content outline for focused study

Using these resources can help candidates structure their preparation, ensuring they’re ready for all areas tested, including preparing supplies, based on tasks performed by CSTs nationwide, such as central supply processing units.

The NBSTSA also ensures equity by offering reasonable accommodations for test takers with documented disabilities, maintaining confidentiality, and adhering to the ADA guidelines. This ensures that all candidates have an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Maintaining Certification

Achieving CST status is a noteworthy accomplishment, but it merely marks the start. Sustaining this certification necessitates continual professional development and compliance with the NBSTSA’s recertification guidelines, which include passing the national certification exam administered periodically.

Staying abreast of the latest advancements in surgical technology is vital for the surgical team, especially those who assist surgeons when it comes to patients undergoing surgery, as the field is constantly evolving.

Employment Opportunities and Settings for Surgical Technologists

Surgical technologist working in a hospital operating room

A surgical technologist’s skills find application in a variety of settings. You could find yourself working in operating rooms within hospitals, supporting surgeries under the direction of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses.

Additionally, surgical technologists can find employment in:

  • Outpatient surgery centers for various surgical procedures
  • Physicians’ offices that conduct outpatient surgeries
  • Dental offices, especially those associated with oral and maxillofacial surgery, for specialized dental procedures.

Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

The employment prospects for surgical technologists in North Carolina are encouraging. Salaries are competitive with national averages, making it a financially viable career choice.

Salaries may vary depending on factors such as experience, education level, and specific location within North Carolina where one is employed. More experienced surgical technologists in North Carolina have the potential to earn higher wages compared to those entering the field, providing incentives for continuous professional growth and development.

Professional Growth and Specialization

Apart from general surgical technology practice, there exist opportunities to specialize. You could specialize in:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Neurosurgery
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Orthopedics
  • Ophthalmology
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery
  • Trauma and emergency
  • Urology

Further education, training, and certification in a specialty can enhance your professional growth, leading to roles with increased responsibility. It can also result in higher salaries and greater job satisfaction. Whether assisting with heart and lung-related surgeries or helping with urgent care, the opportunities for growth and specialization in this field are vast.

Applying to Surgical Technician Programs in North Carolina

Applying to surgical technician programs in North Carolina marks the initial step toward your desired career. The process involves enrolling at the college and completing a program application, which currently accepts submissions via email only.

However, you won’t be alone in this process. Admission Specialists are available to assist applicants through phone or email communication. They can guide you through the application process and help ensure you submit all the required documentation, including proof of graduation from an accredited program approved by the Accreditation Review Council.

Selective Admission Process

Surgical technician programs typically employ a selective admission process, assessing candidates on precise criteria. The evaluation considers an applicant’s ability to perform essential steps of surgical procedures, communicative effectiveness, and the application of aseptic techniques.

To improve their chances of acceptance, applicants should focus on enhancing both their practical surgical skills and their soft skills, such as communication and the ability to maintain aseptic conditions. This holistic approach ensures that candidates can thrive in the demanding, yet fulfilling, environment of an operating room and effectively prepare patients, including the surgical patient, for surgery.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Many students often find the cost of education to be a hindrance. However, financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available to alleviate this burden. The Foundation for Surgical Technology offers scholarships to assist students with tuition or educational debt, requiring demonstrated academic ability and financial need.

The application period for these scholarships opens during the fall semester. Recipients are announced in May, with formal announcements taking place at the AST’s Surgical Technology Conference. These scholarships not only provide financial assistance but also recognition for academic excellence and commitment to the field.

Practical Experience: Gaining Hands-On Skills

Clinical rotation for surgical technician students

One of the major facets of a surgical technician program is the chance to acquire hands-on skills via practical experience. Clinical rotations are essential in bridging the gap between classroom learning and real-world application, providing students with the hands-on experience necessary for operating room procedures.

Clinical Rotations and Internships

Clinical rotations are carried out during the last phase of education, providing immersive hands-on experience. These rotations typically last 4-8 weeks, with a daily schedule of eight-hour days, five days a week.

During clinical internships, students have the opportunity to:

  • Apply surgical methods and techniques in real operating room settings
  • Assist with various surgeries under direct supervision
  • Create sterile environments
  • Set up instruments
  • Assist in surgeries

This combination allows students to apply theoretical knowledge and practical clinical experiences, equipping them to fulfill their roles effectively.

Networking and Professional Connections

Clinical rotations not only furnish hands-on experience but also present an opportunity to network with employers and healthcare professionals. This networking could potentially lead to job offers before graduation.

Participation in events like the North Carolina Association of Surgical Technology’s annual Scrub Bowl can also help students network and might lead to additional educational and scholarship opportunities. Whether it’s through clinical rotations or professional events, establishing professional connections can open doors to new opportunities and career growth.


Pursuing a career as a surgical technologist in North Carolina provides an array of opportunities. The combination of theoretical knowledge and practical experience gained through accredited programs prepares you for a rewarding healthcare career. Whether you choose to work in a hospital, outpatient surgery center, physician’s office, or dental office, the possibilities are vast. With opportunities for professional growth and specialization, the field of surgical technology offers a fulfilling and dynamic career.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become a surgical tech in NC?

It takes approximately 1-2 years to become a surgical tech in NC.

What is a surgical tech salary in NC?

The average salary for a surgical technologist in North Carolina is around $43,000 per year, but it can vary between $22,000 to $67,500 depending on factors such as skills, experience, and employer.

What is the best major for a surgical tech?

The best major for a surgical tech is a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, exercise science, nursing, pre-health, business, or another health-related area. The medical technician is another common major choice.

What is the difference between CNA and surgical tech?

The main difference between a CNA and a surgical tech lies in their job duties. CNAs primarily assist with patient care, while surgical techs focus on assisting in the operating room and maintaining a sterile environment.

What are the employment settings for surgical technologists?

Surgical technologists can find employment in hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, physicians’ offices, and dental offices, providing a range of career options.