Exam Eligibility Information

As with any skilled specialty career, there are many eligibility requirements and it is important to fully understand these requirements to apply for Surgical Assistant Certification and effectively perform your job duties.

  • Physician Discipline (Medical Doctor, Dentist) Pathway
    • Education: Completion of a medical program either in the United States or internationally recognized by the International Medical Education Directory (IMED).
    • Experience: Completion of residency or advanced training (e.g., surgical rotation) plus a minimum of two (2) years of primary or advanced surgical experience.

  • Licensed & Non-Licensed Allied Health Professionals (Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, Surgical Technologist, and Surgical Assistant) Pathway
    • Education: Completion of a formal surgical assistant training program that meets the published criteria established by the ABSA (see below). Surgical Technology Programs do not qualify.
      • General Surgical procedures and anatomy
      • Gynecological surgical procedures and anatomy
      • Orthopedic surgical procedures and anatomy
      • Neurological surgical procedures and anatomy
      • Cardiothoracic surgical procedures and anatomy
      • Surgical Pharmacology and Anesthesia
      • Medical Terminology
      • Surgical Interpersonal Interactions
      • Wound Healing and Infection Control
      • Surgical Assisting Skills, Principals and Technique
      • First Assisting Clinical Case requirements
        • 50 Major, General cases
        • 25 Major, Gynecological cases
        • 25 Major, Orthopedic cases
        • 35 Miscellaneous cases

A list of training programs ABSA has found to meet the published criteria is available on the ABSA website; however, the list is not intended to be all-inclusive, and candidates may submit training programs for review against the established criteria by contacting [email protected]. ABSA does not recommend or endorse surgical assistant training programs.

  • Experience: Completion of a minimum of two (2) years of clinical surgical scrub experience.
  • Manual Skills Assessment: Satisfactory completion of an evaluation by a licensed surgeon who evaluates the applicant’s ability to perform tying and suturing competently and smoothly.
    • Surgeons will indicate “Satisfactory” or “Non-Satisfactory” on the evaluation. Of the 10 skills listed on the Manual Skills Evaluation, a surgeon must indicate that the applicant has completed at least 7 satisfactorily.
    • Surgeons may allow the applicant two attempts to satisfactorily demonstrate each skill. Individual skills may be demonstrated in multiple procedures.
    • Surgeons must complete the evaluation following the instructions listed in the form available on the ABSA website. Incorrectly completed forms will not be accepted.

  • Certified Surgical Assistant Pathway
    • Surgical Assistant certification: hold an active certification in surgical assisting offered by another entity.
    • Experience: Completion of a minimum of two (2) years of clinical surgical scrub experience.
    • Manual Skills Assessment: Satisfactory completion of an evaluation by a surgeon who evaluates the applicant’s ability to perform tying and suturing competently and smoothly.Guidelines for satisfactory completion of the skills assessment are detailed in the previous pathway.

  • All Applicants
    • Code of Ethics and Application Accuracy Attestation and Application Acknowledgements: Applicants must attest to comply with the ABSA Code of Ethics. Applicants and certificants must abide to practice surgical assisting in a manner consist with the certification standards and responsibilities set forth in the ABSA Code of Ethics. Applicants must attest to the accuracy of information reported within the application. Applicants attest to the accuracy of the information submitted and agreement to adhere to certification program policies.
    • Examination: Passing score on the SA-C examination.

Please Note: Anyone found guilty of “Practicing Medicine Without a License,” in the United States of America or its territories, either by court trial or plea agreement, will lose their certification and never be eligible to certify with the ABSA again.

Eligibility Verification

Only complete certification applications will be accepted. Incomplete applications will be returned to the applicant who may address the deficiencies and resubmit the application for review, adhering to established application deadlines.

Verification of each eligibility component will be conducted by certification staff as follows to ensure applicants have successfully satisfied each requirement. Verification requirements are described in the ABSA Certification Handbook.

Employment Information

The American Board of Surgical Assistants is strictly a testing and credentialing organization. We are not an employment service. We do not, cannot, and will not attempt to provide employment assistance. If seeking employment, it is suggested that you contact friends, colleagues, employment agencies, or search the internet for surgical assistant jobs.

States that have legislative issues are California, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia. New York and New Jersey do not allow surgical assistants to practice in their states, and in California there are very few opportunities to practice.

States requiring registration and/or licensure are Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington DC. Texas has licensure but it is not required to practice.

Paying Online DOES NOT Constitute an Application for Examination.

All documentation must be scanned or uploaded into your computer, prior to filling out the Application Form.

If you need assistance with your application, feel free to contact us,
Monday – Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM CST at 1-877-617-8345