CST - Certified Surgical Technologist

  • Cost $190-$290
  • Renews every 2 years


In Person


The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) certification is a recognized credential for surgical technologists, showcasing proficiency and commitment to the field. It’s administered by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredits the NBSTSA certification program.


For Graduates of a Surgical Technology Program: 

  • The program must have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) during the candidate's enrollment. 

  • Candidates must provide one of the following: 

  • Notarized letter from the Program Director

  • Graduation certificate

  • Transcript

For Graduates of a Military Training Program in Surgical Technology: 

  • The program could be CAAHEP accredited before, during or after the candidate's training. 

  • Required documents include one of the following:

  • DD214 form

  • Graduation certificate

  • Smart transcript

Completion Time: 4 hours

Cost: Non-refundable, $190 for Association of Surgical Technologists (AST) members or $290 for non-members

Course Format

Exam Format

The CST examination includes 175 questions, with 150 scored and 25 unscored pretest items. The current passing score is a minimum of 102 correct answers out of the 150 scored questions.

Exam content includes:

  • Perioperative Care: 91 items

    • Preoperative Preparation: 18 items

    • Intraoperative Procedures: 61 items

    • Postoperative Procedures: 12 items

  • Ancillary Duties: 26 items

    • Administrative and Personnel: 9 items

    • Equipment Sterilization and Maintenance: 17 items

  • Basic Science: 33 items

    • Anatomy and Physiology: 20 items

    • Microbiology: 6 items

    • Surgical Pharmacology: 7 items

Test Dates

CST certification exams are no longer scheduled on specific dates. They’re by appointment only. Testing centers have their own schedules, but most are available twice a day, 6 days a week.

In Person

Candidates have the option to take the CST examination in person on-campus or at 100s of designated PSI testing centers.

Exam Day Instructions

  • Confirm identification

  • Go to your assigned testing carrel 

  • Enter your Social Security or identification number on the computer screen

  • Submit to having a photograph taken that remains on the screen throughout the exam and prints with the score report

  • Take a practice exam if desired

  • Quit the practice session and begin the timed test

  • Complete the test within 4 hours

  • Notify the assessment center manager when you’ve finished

Surgical First Assist students testing on-campus receive their scores once they graduate and the school releases the score to them. Students testing off-campus at a PSI testing center receive score report links via an email about 48 hours after testing. Post-graduates receive their score report on test day.


The CST examination is also available online through Live Remote Proctoring (LRP), allowing candidates to take the exam remotely. LRP is made available through NBSTSA’s partner, PSI Exams. Review the Online Proctoring Guide to ensure your equipment meets the technical requirements for LRP.

Exam Day Instructions

  • Choose a quiet place in your home, office or other location

  • Use dependable equipment with a webcam

  • Perform a system check ‍‍

  • Log in from your computer at the assigned exam time

  • Verify identity with the proctor

  • Complete the online proctored exam


Application Process

Applications may be submitted by mail or online.

Once you submit your application, allow 6 weeks for processing and receipt of your Authorization to Test (ATT) letter. You must have an ATT letter before scheduling your exam. For a $50 fee, you may request rush processing that’s guaranteed to get your ATT letter sent to you within 3 to 5 days of application receipt.

The rush processing fee is on top of the $190 for AST members or $290 for non-members for the exam. If you choose rush processing, you must pay by credit/debit card or money order. The NBSTSA doesn’t refund application fees for ineligible applicants.

Exams are provided by appointment only. You must apply and be determined eligible to sit for the exam before making an appointment to test at a testing agency near you.

If you fail your exam, there’s no waiting period to test again. However, you can only take the exam three times per year and must submit a new application and exam fee on each attempt.


CST certification needs to be renewed every two years. Methods for renewal include earning and submitting the required continuing education (CE) credits to AST and submitting a renewal application to the NBSTSA or retaking and passing the national certifying examination through the NBSTSA.

Renewal Fees

Renewal fees will be refunded to ineligible applicants, minus a processing fee and rush processing fee if applicable.

  • Standard Renewal Fee for CE Renewal: $25

Fees for Renewal by Examination:

  • $299 for current AST members

  • $399 for non-members

Continuing Education

CSTs completing a 2-year cycle must earn 30 credits, which include 4 live CE credits. Those still completing a 4-year cycle must earn 60 credits for renewal. All CE credits must be earned through AST-approved sources. CSTs may also renew their credential through testing instead of submitting CE credits to the AST.

Other Resources

The NBSTSA website offers a variety of study materials and resources to help candidates prepare for the CST exam. These resources include study guides, practice tests and reference materials.

Related Certifications

Professionals who have obtained the CST certification might also be interested in pursuing related certifications, such as:

  • Certified Surgical First Assistant (CSFA)

  • Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician (CSPDT)

Other related certifications include:

  • Perioperative Blood Management Technologist (PBMT): For allied health professionals working as Autotransfusionists or Platelet Gel/Stem Cell device operators in the surgical setting.

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Frequently asked questions

What organization offers the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)?

The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) offers the national certification exam and credential.

It administers the national certification exams and issues the certification for CSTs and CSFAs.

After I have all my credits, what other steps do I need to recertify?

Submit a renewal application to the NBSTSA.

Is my AST membership included with my student ASA membership?

No. The AST membership is $80, and separate from the student ASA membership for $45.

Why can’t I login to the AST website?

Some common reasons why you may not be able to log into your account may be because your email has changed or your membership has expired. To update your login, contact Member Services at [email protected].

Does AST accept college courses for CE credit?

Yes, each college hour is worth 5 credits. Members need to earn the college credits within their membership and certification cycle. To see which classes are eligible for credits, check out AST's Continuing Education Policies for the CST and CSFA, then click on either the 4-year cycle or 2-year cycle. Surgical technologists, also known as surgical techs, scrub techs, and OR (operating room) techs, work closely with doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, surgical first assistants, and patients to provide safe and sterile surgical procedures of all kinds.

What other certifications should I consider after getting the CST?

After obtaining the CST, you might also pursue the Perioperative Blood Management Technologist (PBMT).