What Does a Sterile Processing Technician Do?

A sterile processing technician generally works in a medical facility helping to prevent the spread of disease by sterilizing medical equipment. Here we discuss an in-depth sterile processing technician job description, including education and salary. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Sterile Processing Technician Job Description

Sterile processing technicians are medical equipment preparers who are responsible for sterilizing and preparing medical equipment. These technicians may go by other job titles, such as certified registered central service technician (CRCST), central sterile supply technician (CSST), or sterile preparation technician. Sterile processing technicians work indoors and typically need to wear protective safety equipment to prevent the spread of disease and/or contaminants. Some specific job duties for these technicians may include:

  • Cleaning and sterilizing equipment
  • Packaging and/or preparing equipment for use
  • Operating medical equipment as needed
  • Inspecting medical equipment for functionality and sterilization
  • Maintaining inventory of medical equipment
  • Ensuring medical procedure rooms are sterile
  • Organizing medical equipment
  • Transporting prepared equipment
  • Recording test results for sterilization
  • Using and maintaining autoclaves for sterilization

Sterile Processing Technician Education Requirements

Medical equipment preparers must have at least a high school diploma and some on-the-job training to learn the sterilization techniques and other job duties for their position. However, there are sterile processing training programs available at the postsecondary level.

These programs are commonly available online and may award a career diploma as a sterile processing technician. Some of these programs require as little as 42 hours of online and in-hospital training and some programs can be completed in as little as 4 months, although programs may allow students up to a year to complete it. Sterile processing technician programs are designed to help prepare students for a career and professional certification in the field and may include course topics in areas like:

  • Sterile processing
  • Infection prevention
  • Decontamination
  • Quality assurance
  • Surgical instruments
  • Storage and distribution
  • Terminology
  • Medical equipment

Although it is not usually required, sterile processing technicians may wish to pursue professional certification to demonstrate proficiency in the field and become more competitive. There are several different certifications available in the field and the requirements for certification as a sterile processing technician vary by specific certification. For example, the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM) offers a Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) credential for entry-level technicians that requires passing an exam and completing 400 hours of hands-on experience.

Sterile Processing Tech Salary

According to PayScale.com, the median hourly wage for a sterile processing technician as of November 2019 was $15.28. This equated to a median annual salary of $36,130. PayScale.com noted that salary for these technicians may vary by employer, location, specific skill sets, and/or experience level. For example, the website noted that technicians that had 20 years or more of work experience made an hourly wage of $18.67.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reported that the median hourly wage for medical equipment preparers, including those who sterilize equipment, was $17.42 in 2018. This equated to a median annual salary of $36,240 for the same year.

Sterile Processing Tech Job Outlook

The BLS also reported that the job outlook for medical equipment preparers was 8% from 2018 to 2028. This job outlook is faster than the national average and results in 4,600 new positions in the field over the decade.

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