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 3,700 new sterile processing technician jobs will be created from 2021 to 2031 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.
We’ve created this guide to help you learn more about this exciting field and the various online central service technician programs available. Get started by taking a look at our list for top programs for the ’23-’24 school year.
|Students w/Institutional Aid
|Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry
|Stark State CollegeNorth Canton, OH
Stark State College offers a high-quality associate degree in medical instrument sterilization. Students take courses in a variety of sciences, such as microbiology, anatomy, and human diseases. They also take major-specific courses on topics like surgical terminology and medical equipment sterilization. Upon completing this two year degree, graduates are prepared to work as a medical instrument sterilization technician. Students must start with a medical instrument sterilization technician certificate before enrolling in this program.
Associate of Technical Studies, Medical instrument Sterilization Technician
School Spotlights: Popular Online Sterile Processing Technician Certification Programs
Sterile processing technician certification online programs offer quick 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. These spotlights will give you a good idea of what you should expect from the program you ultimately choose.
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 important roles, but if the sterile processing tech doesn’t properly do their job – ensure the sterilization of medical tools and instruments – then 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 basic levels of quality are met. There are two major types of accreditations in postsecondary education: institutional (which applies to the entire school) and programmatic (which applies to a specific program at a school).
There are currently no accrediting bodies that provide programmatic accreditation for sterile processing technician certification programs. Your only concern when it comes to accreditation, therefore, is to confirm that the school offering your program 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. Recognition by the IAHCSMM can be taken as a positive sign that a program’s curriculum satisfactorily prepares its graduates for certification.
Employment and Salary Outlook for Sterile Processing Technicians
The demand for sterile processing technicians is strong and is expected to remain that way into the foreseeable future. With aging baby boomers and greater access to medical care overall, the need for surgical care is expected to rise significantly for many years to come.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for medical equipment preparers (including sterile processing technicians) from 2021 to 2031 is 6%, which is faster than the national average. The wages for medical equipment preparers are also very respectable, with a 2021 median wage estimate of $38,220. This wage figure is notably high considering the occupation 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 pursuing careers as sterile processing technicians. Most employers expect certification – and some states require – certification, unless a special exception otherwise 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 a sterile processing technician. Provisional CRCST certification is also available and requires obtaining 400 hours of experience within six months after passing the certification exam.
The second main certifying body is the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc. (CBSPD). Most sterile processing technicians seeking certification from the CBSPD pursue the Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician (CSPDT) credential, but there are four other certifications available from the CBSPD as well:
- 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. Exam eligibility requires meeting 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.
Students wishing to obtain their certification immediately upon graduation 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