What is a Sterile Tech?

A sterile processing technician, also called a central service technician, is responsible for decontaminating and sterilizing medical instruments and equipment.

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Job Description

The job of a sterile tech is to clean and sterilize surgical equipment. This is a very important job because it helps to prevent the spread of infection. Sterile techs must have a keen eye for detail and be able to work quickly and efficiently.


The primary duty of a sterile tech is to ensure that surgical instruments and environments are clean and free of infection. To do this, they must follow a set of sterilization guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They also work closely with surgeons and nurses to make sure that all surgical procedure are carried out in a safe and efficient manner.

Sterile techs are responsible for operating sterilization equipment, such as autoclaves and gas plasma sterilizers. They also prepare hazardous materials for disposal, such as sharps and body fluids. In some cases, they may be responsible for maintaining surgical equipment and stocking operating rooms with supplies.


A sterile processing technician, also known as a SPD tech, is an integral member of the surgical team. SPD techs are responsible for the sterilization of surgical instruments and equipment, as well as the set-up of sterile supplies and instruments for surgery. They work in sterile processing departments in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

In order to become a sterile processing technician, one must have a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as completed an accredited Sterile Processing Technician program. Once these requirements have been met, technicians can sit for the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution’s (CBSPD) certification exam to earn the Certified Résumé Approved (CRA) credential.

Education and Training

In order to become a sterile processing technician, also called a central service technician, you’ll need to complete an accredited certification program. Once you’ve completed the certification program and have gained some experience, you may choose to pursue additional education and training in order to become a registered sterile processing technician.


Most employers prefer to hire sterile processing technicians who have completed a postsecondary educational program and received certification. Although certification is not required in all states, it may be required by some employers. Certification for sterile processing technicians is offered by the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) and the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM). To be eligible for either of these certification exams, an individual must have completed a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as a minimum of one year of full-time work experience in the field or successful completion of an accredited postsecondary program.


There are a limited number of programs for sterile processing technicians. Community colleges, technical schools, and hospitals offer certification or diploma programs that last from 9 months to 2 years. Some institutions offer distance learning options.

Most certification programs require completion of a certain number of didactic hours in the classroom as well as clinical rotations in order to receive a diploma or certificate. Classroom hours typically cover topics such as:
-Medical Terminology
-Anatomy & Physiology
-Elementary Microbiology
-Principles of Asepsis and Sterilization
-Communication & Interpersonal Skills
-Introduction to Sterile Processing
-Surgical Case Study Analysis

Salary and Job Outlook

A sterile processing technician (also called a central service technician or surgical technician) is an allied health professional who works primarily in the operating room or in the central sterile supply department of a hospital. They are responsible for the decontamination, sterilization, assembly, and distribution of surgical instruments and supplies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a sterile processing technician is $38,040 per year, and the job outlook for this occupation is projected to grow 7% from 2019 to 2029.


The median salary for sterile processing technicians was $37,040 in 2018, which means that half of all technicians earned more than this and half earned less. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $52,490 while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $26,680.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for sterile processing techs is excellent, with a projected growth rate of 15% from 2018-2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.1 The aging baby boomer population and the resulting increase in surgeries needed to treat age-related conditions are driving this demand. Furthermore, as medical procedures become ever more complex and require more sophisticated medical equipment, the need for sterilization will continue to grow.1

In addition to strong job growth, sterile processing techs can also expect to see above-average salaries. The median annual salary for a sterile processing tech was $47,180 in 2018.2 The highest 10% of earners made more than $69,760, while the lowest 10% earned less than $33,750.2

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