Top Surgical Technician Programs in Tennessee: Your Guide to Cutting-Edge Education

In Tennessee, aspiring surgical technicians seek surgical technician programs in Tennessee that meld theory with practice to launch their careers. This guide gives an unembellished look at the necessary steps—from picking a certified program to understanding tuition costs, all paving the way to a secure job in this vital healthcare role.

Key Takeaways

  • Tennessee offers a range of accredited surgical technician programs that blend theoretical knowledge with hands-on clinical experience, preparing students for operating room roles.
  • Accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is crucial for surgical technology programs and often requires certification exams and employment.
  • The job market for surgical technologists is growing, with competitive salaries and various institutions providing career services to support graduates in securing employment post-certification.

Exploring Surgical Technician Programs in Tennessee

Surgical technician students practicing in a lab

Tennessee, nestled in the southeastern region of the United States, is renowned for more than just its country music and stunning landscapes. It is also a hub of quality education, particularly in healthcare. The state offers a variety of surgical technician programs, each designed to provide essential foundational skills required for the demanding yet rewarding operating room environment. From certificate courses to associate degrees, these programs are meticulously designed to prepare students for assisting in surgical procedures.

These programs are typically completed within one to two years and comprise a blend of theoretical education and hands-on practice. They offer flexibility through evening classes, catering to students who juggle work alongside their studies. A key component of these programs is the clinical rotation. This allows students to apply their knowledge in real-world settings, ensuring they graduate with extensive practical experience, equipped for the workforce. With the hours credentials option, students can tailor their education to fit their needs and schedules.

Roane State Community College

Surgical technology lab at Roane State Community College

Another commendable program is offered by Roane State Community College. Their Surgical Technology associate degree program boasts a state-of-the-art surgical technology lab. As a surgical technologist, attention to detail, calmness under pressure, and maintaining focus are vital skills to master, and this program ensures students develop these attributes.

The daily responsibilities of surgical technologists at Roane State include:

  • Assisting surgeons before and after procedures
  • Providing hands-on experience in surgical procedures
  • Preparing students for their future roles in the operating room by teaching them how to prepare the operating room

TCAT Knoxville

For those seeking a competitive edge, the Surgical Technology program at TCAT Knoxville offers a unique challenge. With an admissions process limited to just 15 spots per term, it demands a high GPA and requires passing the Allied Health Prerequisite HESI Exam. This rigorous selection process ensures that only the most committed and capable students are enrolled.

The program’s curriculum is designed to provide comprehensive training, consisting of four months of theory and lab practice, two months of integrated theory and clinical preparation, and six months of clinical practice. This balance of theory and practice enables students to understand and apply surgical technology concepts effectively, preparing them for their future roles in the healthcare industry.

Nashville State

Nashville State offers an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program in Surgical Technology, primarily held at the White Bridge campus, with some classes offered online and general education courses accessible at all campuses. The program’s curriculum is comprehensive, combining classroom learning with practical clinical experience in various operating room specialties.

Core subjects such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Medical terminology
  • Microbiology
  • Specialized surgical technology training

are integral to the curriculum. Upon passing the National Certification Exam, graduates receive support from Nashville State’s career services to secure employment as certified surgical technologists. The total tuition and fees for this program amount to approximately $9,490.

South College

Surgical technology students taking the NBSTSA CST Exam

South College provides an Associate of Science in Surgical Technology program at its Knoxville campus, focusing on hands-on training and practical clinical experience. The program aims to prepare competent entry-level surgical technologists in cognitive, psychomotor, and affective learning domains. The Knoxville campus’ program is scheduled for a site visit to pursue initial CAAHEP accreditation, showcasing its commitment to quality education.

The Certificate program at the Asheville campus, already accredited by CAAHEP, emphasizes surgery preparation, support, and understanding of the effects of pharmaceutical drugs. The program has a track record of excellence, with the September 2022 Graduating Class boasting a 100% first-time pass rate on the NBSTSA CST Exam.

Accreditation and Certification

While exploring various surgical technician programs, one factor that stands out prominently is accreditation. Accreditation ensures that the programs meet rigorous standards, necessary for producing competent surgical technologists. In Tennessee, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accredits these programs, which is a prerequisite for taking certification exams and is preferred by many employers.

Certification, on the other hand, signifies a surgical technologist’s commitment to maintaining professional standards and staying current with the latest best practices in the field. The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential can lead to higher salaries and better job opportunities within the healthcare industry.


The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is the largest programmatic accreditor in the health sciences field. In collaboration with the Accreditation Review Council on Education in Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (ARCSTSA), they establish, maintain, and promote appropriate standards of quality for educational programs in surgical technology.

Both Nashville State Community College and South College offer programs accredited by CAAHEP, demonstrating their commitment to quality education in surgical technology. These institutions, and many others in Tennessee, ensure their students receive an education that meets national standards, thereby enhancing their employability upon graduation.

Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)

The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) credential is conferred by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Earning this certification is highly recommended as it demonstrates an individual’s commitment to maintaining professional standards and staying current with the latest surgical technology knowledge and competencies.

Certified Surgical Technologists are required to complete ongoing continuing education to keep their CST certification current and uphold their expertise in the field. These measures ensure that CSTs are adequately equipped to contribute positively to patient outcomes in the operating room.

Essential Skills and Courses

Surgical technology programs offer a diverse range of courses, blending foundational subjects with specialized surgical technology training. This ensures students develop a solid knowledge base and are well-prepared for their roles in the operating room. Some of the courses included in these programs are:

  • English
  • Medical terminology
  • Surgical microbiology
  • Surgical procedures
  • Clinical practicum

Through these courses, students engage in a rich learning experience.

Clinical rotations are a critical part of the learning process, enabling students to apply their knowledge in a practical setting. Through these rotations, students develop attention to detail, the capacity to work under pressure, and proficiency in using medical equipment – all critical attributes for a surgical technologist.

Medical Terminology

Surgical technology students studying medical terminology

Medical terminology is a standardized language essential for healthcare professionals to communicate effectively and ensure accurate and safe patient care. As a surgical technologist, mastering medical terminology is crucial. It allows for precise communication about procedures, diagnoses, and treatments, all of which are critical in the fast-paced and high-stakes environment of the operating room.

Patient Care

Patient care is at the heart of a surgical technologist’s role. From maintaining detailed medical records to managing the fast-paced environment of the operating room, organizational and time management skills are key to ensuring efficient and coordinated patient care. The patient care curriculum at South College, for instance, emphasizes surgery preparation, support, and understanding of the effects of pharmaceutical drugs.

Moreover, surgical technologists, as vital members of the surgical team, must master the following skills to effectively handle surgical instruments:

  • Ethical and professional behavior in maintaining patient trust and confidentiality
  • Effective teamwork and communication for collaborating with surgeons, nurses, and anesthesiologists
  • Stress management to maintain focus and patient safety under demanding conditions

Clinical Preparation

Surgical technology students in clinical rotations

Clinical rotations are an integral part of surgical technology programs, offering students invaluable hands-on experience in real-world settings. Ranging from 4 to 8 weeks, these rotations expose students to a variety of settings and procedures, honing their adaptability and problem-solving skills.

During clinical rotations, students are expected to adhere to requirements such as undergoing a physical examination, wearing institutional scrub attire, managing their living arrangements and transportation, and undergoing drug screening. This experience not only equips them with technical skills but also prepares them for the realities of the professional world.

Financial Aid and Tuition Costs

While the educational and career prospects of surgical technology programs are undoubtedly appealing, it’s also essential to consider tuition fees. In Tennessee, these fees vary by institution. For instance, the tuition and fees for the Surgical Technology Program at TCAT Knoxville total $4,134.00, with an additional estimated cost of $1,447.35 for textbooks and supplies.

However, financial constraints should not deter aspiring surgical technologists. Various financial aid options are available, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Details of these options will be explored in the next subsection.

Tuition Fees

Cost is a crucial factor to consider when pursuing higher education. In the case of surgical technology programs, tuition fees vary by institution. For example, the total tuition and fees for the Surgical Technology Program at TCAT Knoxville are $4,134.00, while at TCAT Crossville, they total $4,340.00.

In addition to tuition, students must budget for textbooks and supplies. At TCAT Knoxville, the textbook supplies cost amounts to $1,447.35, while at TCAT Crossville, they amount to $1,792.00. And don’t forget to account for the cost of your tools and uniforms.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to those who qualify, which is good news for many individuals seeking assistance with their education expenses. This support can make a significant difference in pursuing academic goals. Students can apply for federal financial aid by completing the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available as a PDF icon on the official website.

Moreover, some institutions offer their financial aid options. For example, South College offers an array of financial aid options, including:

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Work-study programs
  • Loans

These financial aid options can significantly lessen the financial burden and make the journey toward becoming a surgical technologist more accessible.

Career Services and Job Prospects

Upon completion of their program, graduates can leverage the career services offered by their educational institution to assist in their job search. These services, like those offered by Nashville State, can include assistance with résumé writing, interview preparation, and access to job listings.

The job outlook for surgical technologists is promising. Employment in this field is projected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. Additionally, surgical technologists can expect competitive salaries, with a median annual wage of $55,960 as of May 2022.

Career Services

Nashville State provides a comprehensive suite of career services, including access to Careeronestop web services. It offers the YouScience Career Assessment to help students identify their natural abilities and find a suitable career path. Through access to Candid Career, students can learn about different career paths by watching short videos where professionals talk about their jobs.

Furthermore, Nashville State assists students with résumé writing and reviews to improve their chances of getting noticed by employers. They offer:

  • Mock interviews
  • InterviewStream, a service that allows students to practice virtual interviews at any time
  • A Career Closet that provides professional attire for students to wear to interviews.

Job Prospects

The future looks bright for surgical technologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment in this field to grow due to advances in medical technology and an increase in surgical procedures. There are about 8,600 job openings projected each year on average for surgical assistants and technologists over the next decade, largely due to the need to replace retirees or those changing occupations.

In Tennessee, a certified surgical technologist has an average salary of $50,030, with incomes typically ranging from $44,969 to $55,038, depending on the city. Skills that can affect the salary of a certified surgical technologist in Tennessee include commitment, expertise in cardiac procedures, and pediatric care competence.


Becoming a surgical technologist offers a rewarding and fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. With numerous top-notch surgical technician programs in Tennessee, aspiring surgical technologists have a wealth of choices. These programs, accredited by organizations like CAAHEP and ARCSTSA, offer comprehensive curricula that blend theoretical knowledge with practical experience, preparing students for the dynamic operating room environment. With flexible financial aid options and promising job prospects, the path to becoming a competent surgical technologist in Tennessee is more accessible than ever.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

It typically takes around 9 to 24 months to become a surgical tech in TN, depending on the type of program you choose and whether you pursue certification.

How much does a certified surgical tech make in Tennessee?

A certified surgical tech in Tennessee can expect to earn an average salary of around $39,000 per year, with experienced workers making up to $117,000. Keep in mind that entry-level positions start at around $50,929 per year.

What is the best major for a surgical tech?

The best major for a surgical tech is medical technician, followed by majors in nursing and business. These fields provide a strong foundation for entering a master’s program in surgical technology.

What is the highest-paying surgical tech?

The highest paying surgical tech specialties include Surgical Neurophysiologist with a salary range of $276,000-$300,000 per year and Cardiovascular Surgical Tech with a salary range of $74,000-$143,000 per year. Operating room technologists also have the potential for high earnings.

What is the role of a surgical technologist?

The role of a surgical technologist includes preparing the operating room, selecting and caring for surgical instruments, assisting the surgeon and nursing team during surgical procedures, and managing the breakdown of the room post-surgery. This is a vital support role in the operating room.