If you’re looking for a healthcare career with tremendous responsibility but don’t want to go through years of schooling to get there, consider becoming a sterile processing technician. Sometimes referred to as central service technicians, these medical professionals are responsible for ensuring that doctors, nurses, and other medical providers have medical supplies and equipment readily available and free from any possibility of contamination.
Due to recent epidemics and pandemics, the importance of this job has never been clearer, and the strong demand for new sterile processing techs reflects this. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 3,400 new sterile processing technician jobs will be created from 2019 to 2029 in addition to the normal turnover.
To start your career training, enroll in a sterile processing technician certification online program. The online option offers the convenience of remote learning and can be completed in just a few months. The curriculum also prepares you to take and pass a certification exam, which is strongly preferred by most medical employers.
To help you learn more about this exciting field and various online central service technician programs available, we’ve created this guide. Read on to get an overview of what you’ll learn, what you can expect to earn, and resources to help you make the most of your career.
School Spotlights: Best Online Sterile Processing Technician Certification Programs for 2021
Sterile processing technician certification online programs offer short and convenient training that allows individuals to begin working in the surgical setting as quickly as possible. To help in your program search, we’ve identified three top-quality programs that stand out in terms of affordability, accreditation, career advancement, and quality of instruction.
What You’ll Learn in an Online Sterile Processing Technician Certification Program
Sterile processing technicians are guardians against infection. Doctors, nurses, surgical techs, and other medical professionals play a role, but if the sterile processing tech doesn’t properly or effectively ensure the sterilization of medical tools and instruments, infections have a high probability of occurring.
While every program is different, sterile processing technician certifications online all ensure students learn the skills necessary to carry out the following:
Sterilization proceduresThis covers how to process medical supplies so they may be used again without worry of infection. Equipment is also checked to ensure it is not damaged and will function as intended.
Medical equipment processingStudents learn how to assemble, package, and store medical instruments and tools. Sterile processing techs learn about procedures for keeping track of inventory of reusable and disposable medical equipment.
Distribution of medical equipmentThis top-level view explains how hospitals and other medical facilities store, use, and process their medical supplies and tools. Students learn about the distribution of supplies and equipment to specific departments within a healthcare organization.
Biology of microorganismsOne of the best ways to understand how to keep bacteria and viruses in check is to understand how their biological processes work. This also includes a solid understanding of the physiological processes microorganisms use to survive.
Medical terminologyTo better understand the context of their role within the surgical realm, and to more effectively process and distribute instruments and medical supplies, future sterile processors will learn about the history and origins of medical terms.
FAQs About Earning Your Sterile Processing Technician Certification Online
How long are online sterile processing technician certification training programs?
What are the admissions requirements for sterile processing technician online certification programs?
The majority of online sterile processing technician certification programs have basic admissions guidelines. Generally speaking, if a student meets the following requirements, they will gain admission into an online sterile processing technician certification:
- Complete an admissions application
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent, like a GED
- Be at least 18 years of age when beginning the program
- Pass a criminal background check
- Pass a drug screening
- Provide proof of necessary immunizations
How much do online sterile processing tech certification programs cost?
The tuition costs for most online sterile processing technician programs are rather modest. However, remember that the tuition is not the bottom line; other factors require consideration, such as if financial aid is available, whether the program requires students to complete in-person components, and the type of school (public versus private, for instance). To give you a rough idea of the costs to expect, we’ve found three surgical tech online programs and their fees.
Housatonic Community College
Total Credits: N/A
$1,800 total cost of the program
Total Credits: N/A
$780 total cost of the program
Total Credits: N/A
$789 to $1,069 total cost of the program, depending on the payment plan you choose
Can I complete my sterile processing technician training 100% online?
One of the major certifications for sterile processing techs requires many hours of hands-on experience. Therefore, some sterile processing technician certification programs allow students to complete the coursework online, then finish the program with in-person training. Other programs are hybrid in nature, and therefore include hands-on learning as part of the coursework. Some programs are fully online, with any hands-on training being the responsibility of the student to obtain on their own.
Accreditation for Online Sterile Processing Technician Certification Programs
Accreditation is the process in which an independent organization reviews the academic offerings of a school or program to ensure it meets basic levels of quality. There are two major types of accreditation in postsecondary education: institutional, which applies to the entire school, and programmatic, which applies to a specific program at a school.
There is no accrediting body for sterile processing technician certification programs. Therefore, don’t worry if a particular program lacks programmatic accreditation. Instead, make sure the school is institutionally accredited.
When researching sterile processing technician certification online, you’ll notice many programs mention the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM). This is not an accrediting body, but is one of the leading organizations for certifying sterile processing technicians. Seeing this is usually a sign that the curriculum has been set up to prepare students to get certified after graduation.
Employment and Salary Outlook for Sterile Processing Technicians
Sterile processing technicians are in strong demand. With aging baby boomers and greater access to medical care, the need for surgical care is expected to rise significantly for the foreseeable future.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth from 2019 to 2029 is 6%, which is faster than the national average. The wages for sterile processing techs are also very respectable, with the 2020 median wage at $38,800. This wage is fairly high considering the job requires only a high school diploma or equivalent in addition to completion of a sterile processing technician certification program.
To give you an idea of the full range of compensation for sterile processing technicians, the lowest 10% of earners make $27,450 while the highest 10% of earners make $59,370.
Licensing and Professional Certifications for Sterile Processing Technicians
Obtaining certification is essential for those who want a career as a sterile processing technician. Most employers expect certification, and some states require certification unless a special exception applies.
There are two main certifying bodies in the field of sterile processing. The most popular is the IAHCSMM, which offers the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) designation. To earn this certification, individuals must pass an exam and have at least 400 hours of hands-on experience working as sterile processing technicians. Provisional CRCST certification is also possible, where individuals obtain the 400 hours of experience within six months after passing the certification exam.
The second main certifying body is the CBSPD. Most sterile processing technicians seeking certification from the CBSPD will want to become Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technicians (CSPDTs). But there are four other certifications available from the CBSPD:
- Certified Ambulatory Surgery Sterile Processing Technician (CASSPT)
- Certified in Sterile Processing Management (CSPM)
- Flexible Endoscope Reprocessors (CFER)
- Certified Surgical Instrument Specialist (CSIS)
To become CSPDTs, individuals must pass an exam. To be eligible, they must meet one of the following requirements:
- Have at least 12 months of full-time experience working in sterile processing and distribution
- Complete a sterile processing training course with a passing grade of at least 70 or higher
- Have at least six months of full-time experience in an allied health position that involves sterile processing and distribution activities
- Have at least 12 months of experience in healthcare products, sales, or service related to the sterile processing and distribution field.
If students wish to obtain their certification immediately upon graduation, they should look for programs that arrange their curriculum in accordance with CBSPD certification requirements.
Similar Online Allied Health Programs You May Be Interested In
Online Resources for Sterile Processing Technician Students and Professionals
- Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution
- Infection Control Today
- Institute for Credentialing Excellence–National Commission for Certifying Agencies
- International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management
- Mayo Clinic–College of Medicine and Science–Explore Health Care Careers–Central Service Technician
- ProProfs Quizzes–Sterile Processing
- Quizlet–Sterile Processing