Inside Look at Online Sterile Processing Technician Certification Programs

Learn about convenient and affordable online programs that can train you to pass the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) Certification exam and enter the healthcare field in only a few months.

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Written By
Edumed Staff

last updated

Last Updated: 09/22/2021
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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.

New York Institute of Career Development

The Sterile Processing Course from the New York Institute of Career Development prepares students to take and pass the certification exam offered by the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM). Students who graduate from the New York Institute of Career Development will be fully prepared to obtain their Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) designation. Enrollment in the Sterile Processing Course includes the CRCST exam package.

The online sterile processing technician certification program consists of asynchronous video lectures that students watch on their own schedule, as well as access to one-on-one help from a sterile processing professional who can answer any questions about the subject matter or career. To further facilitate learning, the coursework can be completed in just a few months and for less than $800 in tuition (for students who pay for the full cost of the course up front). Finally, there’s no months-long application process; students sign up and immediately start their coursework.

Portland Community College

At Portland Community College’s Sterile Processing Technician program, students learn to become sterile processing techs through a special hybrid learning format. The first part consists of 42 hours of online coursework. Part of this online training includes live lectures, but much of it consists of self-directed study. This is where students learn foundational concepts such as infection control, microbiology, and decontamination. Students also receive extensive in-person training at a hospital. This is where they apply what they’ve learned to the real world and gain valuable hands-on experience that helps with certification.

Tuition is $1,498 plus the costs of books and is due at the time of registration. However students have the option of creating a three-month payment plan to make the tuition more affordable. After completing the sterile processing program at Portland Community College, students can begin working as central service technicians to gain the necessary experience to earn either their CBSPD or IAHCSMM certifications.

Purdue University

Purdue University is a leader in distance learning. With a plethora of online programs and plenty of experience with remote learning, it only makes sense that Purdue University would offer its Central Service and Sterile Processing program online. One of the ways Purdue’s sterile online processing technician certification stands out is the different options offered.

To start, there’s flexibility in paying for the program. Students can choose to pay the tuition of $370 all at once or they can break it into two $210 payments. Then there’s the Central Service Leadership Course, which prepares students to take on management roles in the sterile processing field. Purdue University offers self-study lessons to help existing certified sterile processing professionals maintain their certification and learn about developing areas in the field. To help earn certification, Purdue University has partnered with the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology to provide externships so students gain the hands-on experience needed for certification.

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 procedures
    This 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 processing
    Students 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 equipment
    This 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 microorganisms
    One 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 terminology
    To 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.

Common Sterile Processing Online Courses

Here are some of the classes you can expect to take when completing your sterile processing technician certification online. Keep in mind that each program may have a different format for how it presents the course material, such as multiple classes on one topic or all training concepts combined into a single course or program.

Introduction to Allied Health

This course offers a broad view of the healthcare field and the role that allied healthcare professionals play in meeting the patients’ needs. Topics include the overall process of providing medical care and the legal and ethical issues healthcare providers often encounter when offering these services.

Introduction to Sterile Processing

In addition to the processes used to sterilize tools and equipment, students gain exposure to the professional and legal standards in place for sterilization. Additionally, coursework covers the basic physiology and anatomy of microorganisms and how their biological processes work.

Medical Terminology

This introductory course is included in most allied healthcare training programs and focuses on various medical terms, including what they mean, how they’re created, and their historical backgrounds. By the end of this class, students understand how to identify major body parts and functions as well as where they’re located.

Principles of Aseptic Techniques

An overview of the procedures for removing bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms is covered in this class, as well as preventing contamination from these harmful organisms. Students learn about aseptic practices for before, during, and after surgeries, including both cleaning and handling techniques.

Regulations and Infection Prevention

This course provides an in-depth look at the rules, regulations, laws, and principles in place for maintaining a sterile environment and how to avoid infection during and following surgery. Besides learning about principles of asepsis, instructors also cover principles of personal attire and hygiene for managing the spread and transition of bacteria and viruses.

FAQs About Earning Your Sterile Processing Technician Certification Online

How long are online sterile processing technician certification training programs?

Most sterile processing technician certification online programs take just a few months to complete, though you may have as long as one year. Due to the flexible nature of the self-paced online curriculum, students have a lot of leeway in how long they take to finish. Some programs add in-person training to meet specific sterile processing technician certification credential requirements.

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

Sterile Processing Technician

Total Credits: N/A

$1,800 total cost of the program

Nebraska Methodist
College

Sterile Processing Technician

Total Credits: N/A

$780 total cost of the program

Penn
Foster

Online Sterile Processing Technician Training

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:

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.

Online Surgical Technology Programs

If you’re interested in providing support to surgeons but prefer to have a more active role during an operation, an online surgical tech program is something to consider. These programs train surgical techs to focus their time on assisting surgeons during the surgical process. This involves ensuring medical instruments and supplies are available to the surgeons and accounted for at the end of surgery. Surgical techs also maintain the sterile environment to avoid infection.

Online Biomedical Equipment Technician Programs

If you wish to work with medical equipment but want to spend more time on the mechanical aspects of operation, becoming a biomedical equipment technician might be for you. After completing an online biomedical technician program, you will be ready to clean, adjust, repair, and assemble the various pieces of medical equipment and tools.

Online Resources for Sterile Processing Technician Students and Professionals