Becoming a sterile processing technician is a great option for those with a desire to be in the medical field without tons of education. It is a critical part of the patient care team, and offers good wages and plenty of opportunity.
If you are curious how to get started in the field, what the pay is like, and the opportunities – it is all right here.
What Does A Sterile Processing Technician Do
A sterile processing technician is a healthcare professional responsible for decontaminating, sterilizing, and preparing medical instruments used by doctors to treat patients.
It can be considered a blue-collar healthcare job due to the physical work that is required.
They play an essential role in the safety of surgical procedures keeping patients safe.
The daily work a technician might due will depend on where you work and the level of experience you have.
Below are some of the more common responsibilities a sterilization technician might have.
- Process and sterilize instruments
- Collect contaminated equipment for decontamination
- Clean supplies of contaminants
- Maintain decontamination equipment
- Manage inventory and supplies
- Keep records of sterilization procedures completed
- Deliver sterilized equipment and instruments to surgical rooms
- Perform Bowie-Dick test
To ensure that all cleaning processes are done properly, it is important to understand the regulations set forth by The Joint Commission (TJC) as well as other governing bodies such as Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC).
Additionally, it is essential to stay up-to-date with developments in sterile processing technology so that you can effectively perform your job duties. This could involve researching new products and techniques used in medical instrument preparation and storage.
Where Do Sterile Processor Technicians Work?
Sterile processing technicians can be employed in a variety of facilities.
Below are some typical places you can find employment.
- Ambulatory surgical center
- Dental office
- Doctor office
- Traveling technician
Traveling technicians are a great opportunity for those who love to see the world. You can find a job traveling locally – or across the country. These jobs typically pay more with some showing rates of about $1,300 weekly.
Below is a great video showcasing the work of a sterile processing technician in a hospital environment.
Steps To Become A Sterile Processing Technician
The sterile processing technician career path is fairly easy. Below is the recommended path to land a job.
High School Diploma or GED
A high school diploma or GED is required.
Attending a program that focuses on training for a sterile processing career is highly recommended. Through many programs you can get the base certification that most jobs require.
Once you complete a training program you will then be able to find a job.
Once you have completed your education you can then move on to other career certifications.
While some may say you can get certified without attending school, it will still be hard to land a job. You can look for a job that does-on the-job-training instead of attending school, but those are hard to find.
Most employers will want to see hands-on experience or training which you can gain during a training program.
Sterile Processor Training
Training through a formal sterile processing program is the recommended path.
Most programs are less than a year and many can be in-person or online.
Some of the things you will learn include:
- Medical terminology
- Aseptic techniques
- Identifying common pathogens
- Learn the details of complex surgical instruments
- How to transport equipment and instruments safely
- Industry regulations
Most programs will have you completing the program with a certificate. The next step is to get your CRST certification.
Many schools will include the cost of the test, and even help with job opportunities so be sure to consider those factors.
Below are some of our partner schools that offer sterile processing technician certifications in your area. Just click the request info and someone will contact you!
The Healthcare Sterile Processing Association (HSPA) offers several different certifications. Most jobs will require at least one of these to get started in the field.
Achieving several of the below certifications will make you more marketable to employers.
1. Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRST)
The first level of certification that shows you experience and knowledge as a sterile processing technician. As part of a medical team they will need to prove their ability to sterilize, inspect, decontaminate, and assemble various surgical instruments.
To acquire the certification you will need 400 hours of hands-on experience in the previous 5 years. There is also a provisional certificate that allows you to gain experience after passing the test.
2. Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS)
This is a follow up certification to the CRCST). This certification requires 200 hours of hands-on work experience and the successful passing of an exam to test your capabilities.
3. Certified Endoscope Reprocessor (CER)
Prove your experience as an endoscope professional with the CER certification. This will certify your endoscope skills in testing, decontamination, inspection, sterilizing, and more. Requires 3-months of hands-on work and the passing of an exam.
4. Certified Healthcare Leader (CHL)
Recommended certification for those that are interested in management or supervisor roles. This program focuses on department activities like finance, regulatory compliance, staffing, HR, and more. The certification will attest to your abilities to manage a sterile processing department.
Licensing is required by some states. You can find a list of states and the licensing requirements here.
To get the most updated information, you should also check with a potential school or employer. This will make sure you meet any legal requirements to work as a sterile processing technician.
There are some skills that you should possess to be able to do the job well.
There will be lifting and pushing involved in this job. From lifting boxes with equipment to pushing carts, you will need a basic level of strength. There will also be long hours on your feet.
The health of patients is dependent on your ability to make sure equipment is clean. Noticing even the smallest specs of dirt or film is critical in this career.
Sterile Processing Technician Salaries
Below are the average salaries for a medical equipment cleaner as per the The Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a beginner you may make considerable less.
But with more experience and in metropolitan areas you can make close to 6-figures. Benefits are also very good in this career, as are future opportunities in the medical field.
Be sure to check out our full sterile processing technician salary guide, where we break salaries down by state.
Some of the higher paying industries for equipment sterilization technicians are:
- Equipment Suppliers
- Local Governement
- Specialty Hospitals
- Outpatient Care Centers
To maximize your earnings potential you can consider some of the following:
- Obtaining professional certifications can greatly increase your salary.
- Gaining more experience is also associated with higher salaries.
- Salaries tend to be higher in metropolitan areas compared to rural locations.
- Working in a hospital may pay higher salaries than a doctors office or clinic.
- Consider becoming a traveling technician.
Overall, earning potential for sterile processing technicians varies widely based on geographic location, type of medical facility, and industry demand for experienced professionals.
The states below offer the highest salaries for technicians:
- District of Columbia
If you are looking for an allied health career that pays a bit more, you can check out becoming a radiation therapist.
Sterile Processing Technician Career Outlook
The demand for sterile processing technicians is pretty good with an expected 6% growth through 2031 as noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many of the job openings are expected to be due to people leaving the occupation or due to retirement. With people living longer, more surgeries are typical, which means more sterilization jobs!
General hospitals, dentists and outpatient care centers are the industries that offer the most career opportunities.
The states that hire the most medical equipment prepares include:
- New York
There are some great resources out there to help you start your journey.
Below are some industry resources for you.
- Healthcare Sterile Processing Association
- Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc
The Reddit threads also offer some great information as well!
Checking out these additional resources before you start you career journey!
Becoming a sterile processing technologist is one of the easier medical trade careers to get into. It offers opportunities to earn a good salary and there are plenty of jobs out there.
Earning additional certifications can improve your chances at management or supervisory roles – meaning more money!
You can also work towards becoming a surgical technologist. Some of the duties will overlap, but they also will work alongside surgeons and help ready patients for surgery.