Education for Surgical Assistants


Core Curriculum

If you are an educator thinking about starting a program in surgical assisting, download the ASA Core Curriculum for Surgical Assisting, 3rd Edition. If you have questions about surgical assisting education, contact ASA.

Prospective Students

ASA recommends that surgical technologists who are interested in becoming surgical assistants (also called surgical first assistants) complete a certificate program or an associate degree in surgical technology, which is required by some states for licensure, and become certified before beginning a CAAHEP-accredited program in surgical assisting.

Surgical assisting programs are typically certificate programs that vary in length from 12-24 months. As a student, you will learn advanced surgical theory in classes such as surgical pharmacology, advanced pathology, bioscience, anesthesia methods and agents, and others. Plus, you will complete a clinical rotation documenting 135 procedures covering a range of specialties.

Accredited Surgical Assisting Programs

While there are currently 10 surgical assisting programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), other programs are in process. The most updated lists of accredited programs in surgical technology and surgical assisting are available on the CAAHEP website.

Some of the programs above are available in an online format.

Certification as a Surgical First Assistant (CSFA)

Graduating from a CAAHEP-accredited surgical first assisting program ensures your eligibility to sit for the Surgical First Assistant Certification Exam. Registration, certification or licensure may be required for you to practice as a surgical assistant in some states. For more information about CSFA certification, visit the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting.

Once you are certified, you’ll need to complete ongoing education to maintain your credential. ASA also recommends that you continue your formal education until you complete a bachelor’s program in an allied health field. While a bachelor’s degree is not currently required by employers or legislators in order to practice, it may be in the future. ASA members wishing information about laws regulating surgical assisting in your state and impending legislation, log in to see the Map of State Laws.

Curriculum for Surgical Assisting