How to Become a Surgical Technologist in California

Surgical technologists help keep things running smoothly in the operating room (OR) by assisting the surgeon and other members of the surgical team. They make sure the OR is clean and sterile for surgery. They are responsible for preparing patients for surgery as well as taking them to recovery afterwards. During surgery they are responsible for keeping up with the surgical instruments as well as handing them to the surgeon. [En Español]

Tell us about yourself so we can find programs near you.




In California, the California State Assembly of the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) sets guidelines for what surgical technologists can and cannot do and how much supervision they do or do not need. Other than that, surgical technology is not regulated in the state of California. National certification is not required, but many employers within the state prefer it. Current basic life support (BLS) and CPR are required by most employers.

The only educational requirement in the state is to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Completing a surgical technology training program is not mandatory to work within the state of California, but to take the national certification exam you must first complete a training program that is accredited by either the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

Surgical Technology Programs in California

Not only does earning a certificate or degree in surgical technology prepare students to take the national certification exam, it also provides them with work experience since many of the programs include surgical externships. California has over 70 colleges that offer CAAHEP- and ABHES-accredited surgical technology programs. These are just a few of the many choices:

  • MiraCosta College. MiraCosta College in Oceanside presents students with the opportunity to earn a Certificate of Achievement in surgical technology. This is a one-year certificate program that consists of a total of 39 credit hours. Human Anatomy, Basic Medical Terminology and Basic Pharmacology must be taken before a student can be accepted into the program. Upon graduation from this program, students can take the national exam on campus.
  • San Joaquin Valley College. The following San Joaquin Valley College campuses offer an Associate in Science degree in surgical technology: Bakersfield, Fresno, Rancho Cordova and Temecula. This program takes 15 months to complete and covers surgical case management, basic surgical procedures and advanced surgical procedures. Program graduates qualify to sit for the national certification exam. They also earn CPR certification upon completion of the program.
  • Skyline College. Located in San Bruno, Skyline College offers both a certificate program and Associate in Science degree in surgical technology. The certificate program can be completed in approximately a year and consists of 34 credit hours of program specific courses. An associate degree can be earned in two years. A minimum of 60 credit hours are required to graduate. These hours include the 34 credit hours in the certificate program. The remaining credit hours are general education classes.

Surgical Technologist Certification in California

Students who complete a surgical technology program that is either ABHES or CAAHEP accredited are eligible to sit for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) exam. Once they pass the NBSTSA, they will hold the title of certified surgical technologist (CST). It is not a statewide requirement to become nationally certified, but it is encouraged. Most employers in California prefer to hire CSTs and some even require that their potential employees be nationally certified.

If you are a member of the AST, you will need to pay $190 to take the NBSTSA exam. Non-AST members must pay $290. Certification should be renewed every four years to remain current. Renewal can be achieved through taking 60 continued education hours during the four years between renewals, or by retaking and passing the NBSTSA. Continued education can be completed through taking more surgical technology education courses or going to seminars. A renewal fee will apply. You will also have to pay to retake the exam if you choose that option. You shouldn’t have trouble finding somewhere to take the exam in California. There are more than 20 locations in which the exam can be taken including Anaheim, Burbank, Fresno, Laguna Hills, Modesto, Palm Springs, Sacramento, San Francisco and Ventura.

Job Outlook and Salary Expectations

California is the top-paying state for surgical technologists in the U.S. The state also holds the highest employment rate for surgical techs. In 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the state employed 9,480 surgical technologists. That number is expected to rise by 15 percent over the next several years.

While the average hourly pay for surgical techs in California is $30.05, many make between $30-$40 an hour. Their average annual salary is $62,510 but depending on experience and location, many surgical techs in the state earn more than that. Surgical technologists in Modesto make an average of $60,670 annually, and those in Oakland make an average of $72,790 annually. The highest earners in the state can earn as much as $85,810.

Working as a Surgical Technologist in California

Since California is such a large state, it is no surprise that there are many opportunities for employment for surgical technologists. Some of the cities with the highest employment rates for surgical technologists in the state are Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Irvine, Fresno and Long Beach. They may find work in places such as hospitals, outpatient surgery clinics, plastic surgery centers, birthing centers and oral surgery clinics. Surgical techs in hospitals may choose to focus on a specialty or they may be “floaters,” meaning they will assist in various areas of surgery.

If you are interested in a career as a surgical technologist in California, now is the time to pursue it. The growth rate continues to increase, and training and certification do not take long to complete. In addition, this is a rewarding career both financially and personally, and there is plenty of opportunity for advancement in this field.

College Programs

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA Metropolitan Division Area

Advanced College

13180 Paramount Blvd., South Gate, California 90280
(562) 408-6969
Surgical Technology – Associate Program

The Associate’s degree program in Surgical Technology at Advanced College can be taken at their campus in South Gate in Los Angeles County, CA. Most of the school’s 81 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. The cost of tuition is, as a rough guide, in the order of $30,068 yearly, while books and supplies may cost about $2,532, although this varies from program to program.

American Career College-Los Angeles

4021 Rosewood Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90004
(949) 783-4800
Surgical Technology – Associate Program

American Career College’s Associate program in Surgical Technology is taught at their Los Angeles campus in the city of Los Angeles. The majority of of the school’s 1,543 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. The college’s retention rate for full-time students is over 80%. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are about $37,440 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $1,200. Typically, the program is completed in 20 months.

American College of Healthcare

6606 Pacific Blvd Ste 204, Huntington Park, California 90255
(323) 585-9000
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

American College of Healthcare’s Certificate-level Surgical Technology program is taught at their campus in Huntington Park in Los Angeles County, California. The majority of of the school’s 144 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are in the order of $32,445 yearly. Books and supplies can cost about $450. The typical program completion time is 16 months.

California Healing Arts College

500 East Carson Plaza Drive, Suite 103, Carson, California 90746-7323
(310) 826-7622
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

California Healing Arts College’s Certificate-level Surgical Technology program is offered at their campus in the city of Carson, California. Most of the school’s 132 students are on diploma programs of under two years. The college is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are usually around $31,950 per year. Study materials can cost in the order of $540. Typically, the program is completed in 13 months.

CBD College

3699 Wilshire Blvd., Fourth Floor, Los Angeles, California 90010
(213) 427-2200
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

CBD College’s Certificate-level Surgical Technology program is offered at their campus in the city of Los Angeles. The majority of of the school’s 425 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are about $25,179 for each academic year, while books and supplies may cost roughly $330. Program completion is normally 18 months.

Concorde Career College-North Hollywood

12412 Victory Boulevard, North Hollywood, California 91606-3134
(818) 766-8151
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Concorde Career College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are based at their North Hollywood campus in the city of North Hollywood, CA. This private, for-profit college has around 466 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are generally about $29,790 for each academic year. Books and supplies can cost roughly $3,503. The typical program completion time is 15 months.

Glendale Career College

240 North Brand Boulevard Lower Level, Glendale, California 91203
(818) 243-1131 x201
Surgical Technologist – Certificate Program

Glendale Career College’s Certificate program is based at their campus in the city of Glendale, CA. The majority of of the school’s 287 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training. The college’s retention rate for full-time students is over 80%. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technologist program are in the order of $31,258 yearly, while study materials may cost about $542. Usually, the program is completed in 15 months.

North-West College-Long Beach

3799 E. Burnett Street, Long Beach, California 90815-1770
(562) 498-4500
Surgical Technologist – Certificate Program

North-West College’s Certificate program is offered at their Long Beach campus in the city of Long Beach, California. The majority of of the school’s 322 students are on 2-year programs. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technologist program are around $31,358 annually. Study materials can cost around $542. Typically, the program is completed in 15 months.

North-West College-West Covina

2121 W Garvey Ave, West Covina, California 91790
(626) 960-5046
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Surgical Technology at North-West College is offered at their West Covina campus in West Covina in Los Angeles County, CA. Most of the school’s 560 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are, as a rough guide, in the order of $31,358 per year, while books and supplies may cost in the order of $542. Program completion is normally 15 months.

Premiere Career College

12901 Ramona Blvd, Irwindale, California 91706-3746
(626) 814-2080
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Surgical Technology at Premiere Career College is based at their campus in Irwindale in Los Angeles County, CA. The college has round 358 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are broadly about $21,295 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $1,960. Usually, the program is completed in 14 months.

Valley College of Medical Careers

8399 Topanga Canyon Blvd Ste 200, West Hills, California 91304
(818) 883-9002
Surgical Technician – Certificate Program

The Certificate program in Surgical Technician at Valley College of Medical Careers is offered at their campus in the city of West Hills. Most of the school’s 124 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technician program are, as a rough guide, in the order of $29,115 per year, while books and supplies may cost in the order of $1,835. Program completion is normally 16 months.

Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA Metropolitan Division Area

Las Positas College

3000 Campus Hill Drive, Livermore, California 94551-7650
(925) 424-1000
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Las Positas College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Livermore in Alameda County, CA. Most of the school’s 8,912 students are on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is about $1,138 and for students from other states around $6,970 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $1,791, depending on the program.

Mt. Diablo Adult Education-Mt. Diablo USD

Loma Vista Adult Center – 1266 San Carlos Avenue., Concord, California 94518-1199
(925) 685-7340
Surgical Technologist – Certificate Program

Mt. Diablo Adult Education’s Certificate-level Surgical Technologist program is taught at their Mt. Diablo campus in Concord in Contra Costa County, CA. The majority of of the school’s 135 students are on diploma programs of under two years. The college is accredited by the Council on Occupational Education. The retention rate of full-time students at this college is over 80%. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technologist program are about $11,197 yearly. Books and supplies can cost about $1,305. The typical program completion time is 12 months.

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Area

American Career College-Ontario

3130 East Sedona Court, Ontario, California 91764
(949) 783-4800
Surgical Technology – Associate Program

American Career College’s Associate program in Surgical Technology is based at their Ontario campus in the city of Ontario, California. The college has approximately 1,521 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are around $37,440 annually, while study materials may cost around $1,200. Usually, the program is completed in 20 months.

American College of Healthcare

11801 Pierce St., Suite 100, Riverside, California 92505
(951) 729-5320
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

American College of Healthcare’s Certificate program is based at their campus in the city of Riverside, California. The college has in the region of 207 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are in the order of $32,545 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $450. Usually, the program is completed in 72 months.

Concorde Career College-San Bernardino

201 East Airport Drive, Suite A, San Bernardino, California 92408-3403
(909) 884-8891
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Concorde Career College’s Certificate program in Surgical Technology is taught at their San Bernardino campus in the city of San Bernardino, CA. The majority of of the school’s 561 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are around $25,750 annually. Learning materials may cost around $2,293. Program completion is usually 12 months.

North-West College-Riverside

4550 La Sierra Ave, Riverside, California 92503
(951) 351-7750
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

North-West College offers various Certificate program options for future surgical tecnologists. Classes are taken at their Riverside campus in the city of Riverside, California. The college has around 513 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are generally around $31,358 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $542. The typical program completion time is 15 months.

Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA Area

Carrington College-Citrus Heights

7301 Greenback Lane, Ste A, Citrus Heights, California 95621
(916) 722-8200
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Carrington College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are based at their Citrus Heights campus in Citrus Heights in Sacramento County. The college has around 568 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are around $35,783 annually, while books and supplies may cost around $1,112. Program completion is normally 16 months.

San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA Area

Concorde Career College-San Diego

4393 Imperial Avenue, Suite 100, San Diego, California 92113-1964
(619) 688-0800
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

The Surgical Technology Certificate program in Surgical Technology at Concorde Career College is based at their San Diego campus in the city of San Diego, California. The majority of of the school’s 647 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. The cost of tuition is in the order of $31,100 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $2,258, although this will vary with the program.

MiraCosta College

One Barnard Drive, Oceanside, California 92056-3899
(760) 757-2121
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

MiraCosta College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. Classes are taken at their campus in Oceanside in San Diego County, CA. The majority of of the school’s 15,062 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The cost of tuition for in-state students is about $1,152 and for students from other states in the order of $6,216 per year. Learning materials may cost in the order of $1,782, although this will vary with the program.

Southwestern College

900 Otay Lakes Rd, Chula Vista, California 91910-7299
(619) 421-6700
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Southwestern College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and two Certificate programs. Classes are taken at their campus in Chula Vista in San Diego County. The college has in the order of 18,716 students in total, with the majority of students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Tuition fees for in-state students are around $1,336 and for out-of-state students approximately $5,956 annually. Study materials can cost around $1,791, depending on the program chosen.

San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA Metropolitan Division Area

Skyline College

3300 College Dr, San Bruno, California 94066-1698
(650) 738-4100
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology: Central Service Tech With Clinical Practice – Certificate Program

Skyline College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are imparted at their campus in San Bruno in San Mateo County. The majority of of the school’s 9,681 students are on 4-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The cost of tuition for students living in the state is about $1,446 and for students from other states around $8,136 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $1,791, depending on the program.

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Area

Carrington College-San Jose

5883 Rue Ferrari, Ste. 125, San Jose, California 95138
(408) 960-0162
Surgical Technology – Associate Program, Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Carrington College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and a Certificate program. All programs are taught at their San Jose campus in the city of San Jose. The majority of of the school’s 791 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Fees for tuition are about $17,528 for each academic year, while study materials may cost roughly $985, depending on the program.

Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, CA Metropolitan Division Area

American Career College-Anaheim

1200 N. Magnolia Ave., Anaheim, California 92801-0000
(949) 783-4800
Surgical Technology – Associate Program

The Associate’s degree program in Surgical Technology at American Career College is based at their Anaheim campus in the city of Anaheim. Most of the school’s 1,383 students are on 2-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are generally in the order of $37,440 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $1,200. The typical program completion time is 20 months.

Career Networks Institute

702 W Town and Country Rd, Orange, California 92868-4710
(714) 437-9697
Surgical Technology – Certificate Program

Career Networks Institute’s Certificate program in Surgical Technology is offered at their campus in the city of Orange. Most of the school’s 616 students are on 4-year programs. The college is accredited by the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technology program are broadly around $30,770 annually, while study materials may cost around $1,205. Usually, the program is completed in 14 months.

North-West College-Santa Ana

1840 E. 17th Street, Santa Ana, California 92705-8680
(714) 550-8000
Surgical Technologist – Certificate Program

North-West College’s Certificate program in Surgical Technologist is based at their Santa Ana campus in the city of Santa Ana. The majority of of the school’s 178 students are on 2-year programs. Tuition fees for the Surgical Technologist program are generally about $31,358 annually. Books and supplies can cost around $542. The typical program completion time is 15 months.

* Tuition fees and accredition status are correct at the time of writing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (http://nces.ed.gov/). Confirm with college before applying.

Neighbor States

Residents of California may also wish to review their options in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon.