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How To Become A Sterile Processing Technician

Sterile processing technicians can start a career with without formal education. But a training program is recommended and lasts one to two years. Certification will be required by most employers.


Sterile Processor Career Overview

  • Sterile processing technicians prepare and sterilize surgical instruments. They can also be called medical equipment preparers.
  • A high school diploma or GED is required to enter a sterile processor training program.
  • Training can be completed in 1-2 years.
  • Certification is recommended to work as a sterile processing technician.
  • Career outlook for hemodialysis technicians is 5% growth through 2032.
  • Average sterile processor technician salary is $41,480 annually.

Are you passionate about healthcare but do not want to spend years in college? Then a career as a Sterile Processing Technician (SPT) might be your perfect match!

SPTs clean, disinfect, and sterilize surgical instruments and equipment to prepare for surgery. This crucial behind-the-scenes role requires dedication, precision, and a commitment to upholding the highest standards of hygiene.

In this guide, you will learn what it is required to become a certified sterile processing technician. We will also explore salaries, skills, and opportunities that exist for this career.

They are sometimes also called:

  • Medical Equipment Preparers (MEP)
  • Central Processing Technician (CPT)
  • Central Service Technician (CST)
  • Instrument Technician

They may be different names, but the jobs are all the same.

Sterile Processing Technician Responsibilities

Sterile processing technicians prepare surgical instruments and equipment for use in medical procedures. It is considered a blue-collar healthcare job due to the physical work that is required.

The daily work a surgical technologist might due will depend on where you work and the level of experience you have. Below are some of the more common responsibilities a surgical instrument 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
  • Ensure all safety protocols are being followed

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.

Sterile Processing Technician Job Opportunities

Sterile processing technicians can be employed in a variety of facilities. Below are some typical places you can find employment.

  • Hospital
  • Ambulatory surgical center
  • Dental office
  • Doctor office
  • Laboratories
  • Traveling technician

Traveling surgical technicians are a great opportunity for those who want to see the world. Jobs can be found traveling locally – or across the country. These jobs typically pay more with some showing rates that are about $1,300 weekly.

Other great skilled trade careers in the medical industry include phlebotomist and emergency medical technician. Either of these could be a great alternative if you decide this one is not for you.

How To Become A Certified Sterile Processing Technician

You can become a certified surgical technician with our without attending school. But, most employers will want to see hands-on experience or training which you can gain during a training program.

Sterile Processor Technician Program

Training through a formal sterile processing program is the recommended path. Most programs are less than a year. You can choose to take in-person or online sterile processing courses.

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. Once you receive the 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!

Internship/On-the-Job Learning Option

Some SPTs have landed jobs without any education, but this is rare. If you are hired for a job or apprenticeship they may require you get certified within a certain time frame to keep your position.

If you are able to get hired and want to test on your own, you will still need to self-study and take the one of the certification exams below.

Sterile Processing Technician Certifications

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.

The Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSD) is another option for certification.

Licensing
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.

Recommended Skills

There are some skills that you should possess to be able to do the job well.

Physically Fit

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.

Detail Oriented

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.  

QUICK FACTS
Average Salary
$38,220
Annually
Career Outlook
5%
growth through 2033
Certifications/Licenses
Required
CRCST, CIS, CER, CHL
Education/Training
1-2 Years
Trade School/Community College

Sterile Processing Technician Salaries

Below are the average salaries for a medical equipment cleaner as per the The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Lowest 10%
$29,490
Median
$38,220
Highest 90%
$60,300

As a beginner you may make 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:

  1. Obtaining professional certifications can greatly increase your salary.
  2. Gaining more experience is also associated with higher salaries.
  3. Salaries tend to be higher in metropolitan areas compared to rural locations.
  4. Working in a hospital may pay higher salaries than a doctors office or clinic.
  5. 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:

  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts

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 5% growth through 2033 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:

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Ohio
  • Florida

Resources

There are some great resources out there to help you start your journey.

Below are some industry resources for you.

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.