Whether you’re just entering the allied health world as a sterile processing tech (SPT) – or you’re considering attending a training course – there’s a lot to appreciate about this growing field.
Like any career, the greater your training and expertise, the better your chances of landing the job of your dreams. As a sterile processing technician, you’ve got ample opportunity to move up the ladder – or into other awesome allied health careers in the future.
What Does a Sterile Processing Tech Do?
Sterile processing technicians tend to work in designated departments, and while they may not always interact with the public, their influence on the lives of patients is crucial.
Before surgical tools and medical instruments can be used on patients, these professionals clean, sterilize, and repackage them. As SPTs manually clean tools, they’ll check for – and report – defects that could cause difficulties. Next, these tools are sanitized with an autoclave, packaged, recorded, and delivered to their corresponding rooms.
Sterile processing technicians can be referred to using a variety of titles, including (but not limited to):
- sterile processing and distribution technician
- certified registered central service technician
- sterilization technician
- medical instrument technician
- medical equipment preparer
Where Do Sterile Processing Techs Work?
With one of the largest working populations in the United States – and one of the healthiest job growth rates – the allied health sector is showing no signs of slowing down. The same naturally applies to the field of medical equipment preparers.
Where can you find work after completing your certification course? The answer is easy: Nearly everywhere that medical equipment is used. Obviously, hospitals are prime employers in this field, but so are outpatient care centers, dental offices, and ambulatory service centers. You may even discover a company in your area that focuses solely on equipment sterilization, packaging, and delivery.
How Much Do Sterile Processing Techs Make?
Obviously, before entering any career field, it’s important to understand what sort of salary you can expect to receive. According to Glassdoor.com, the average SPT earned over $36,000 in 2019 – more than $17 per hour. That’s not too shabby for a career that doesn’t require a college degree.
Is There Room for Advancement in This Field?
If you’re working hard towards building a career, you want to be adequately rewarded for your time and effort. That’s why we’ve put together a list of possible, related roles that you can move into with the right training and dedication.
What other future careers are suitable for a medical instrument technician?
Sterile Processing Supervisor
For experienced sterile processing techs, it’s possible to grow into a supervisor role. Aside from training staff, these professionals oversee their departments with an eagle eye, ensuring that everything is processed using the correct regulations and documentation.
When you’re offered this sort of position, you become responsible for acting as the liaison between your team and the operating room staff. These departments rely on timely and accurate deliveries for well-run surgeries.
The average salary for a supervisor in this field is well over $50,000 (or approximately $24 per hour). This is great, especially when you consider that such a promotion might come without any extra educational requirements.
Clinical Laboratory Technicians
For SPTs who are totally fascinated by the human body – but aren’t interested in a patient-facing position – becoming a clinical lab tech could be right up their alley.
Physicians and surgeons rely upon clinical lab techs to handle scientific equipment and samples (e.g. blood, urine, tissue) and record their findings accurately. Working under the supervision of laboratory technologists, lab technicians tend to perform automated diagnostics using microscopes and various computer-based tools.
With further education and certification in medical lab technology, you could be eligible to earn an average salary of just under $39,000. It’s common for many technicians to earn a 4-year degree in order to find work in hospitals, doctors’ offices, laboratories (e.g. medical, biological), or even universities.
Medical Laboratory Technologists
Medical laboratory technologists (also known as medical lab scientists) typically oversee the work of technicians – especially when it comes to ensuring that instruments are calibrated correctly – but there’s so much more to their jobs. At times, they’ll use samples to create microscope slides, run chemical tests, search for abnormalities, and grow cell cultures.
Their training is more extensive than that of a technician (requiring a 4-year degree or more) and offers them the ability to perform more complex procedures and testing. The average income for a certified lab technologist is over $60,000 annually, or just under $29 per hour.
While smaller labs may require a varied workload each day, technologists in larger labs may find that it’s better to specialize. Some specializations could include:
Blood Bank Technologists
Working with phlebotomists, these technologists take blood samples, classify it by blood type, and then prepare it for transfusions.
These experts review the immune system in order to develop better treatments, vaccines, or therapies. Their goal is to control and/or eradicate diseases and infections.
When any tissue is removed during surgery (whether a breast biopsy or a skin tag), it’s transported to a histotechnologist. This health professional then reviews it microscopically to provide accurate results for the treating physician.
If you’re missing out on human interaction in your SPT role, why not consider a career as an endoscopy tech?
Also known as GI technicians and flexible endoscopy reprocessors, endoscopy techs are depended upon to ensure sterility and functionality of operating room tools (skills already taught in your sterile processing tech training course), take specimens, physically position patients, and much more.
On average, an endoscopy tech salary averages around $33,000 per year. Many of these allied health workers discover that they love more hands-on work, going back to school to advance to other career routes like surgical technologists.
Otherwise known as scrub techs, these healthcare professionals never have a boring, routine day. It’s not hard to see why SPTs often go into this field. Like sterile processing technicians, surgical techs are required to understand each tool on the operating table, maintain sterility, and organize instruments before procedures.
Unlike SPTs, however, scrub techs are members of the surgical team who might be relied upon to do anything from clean incision sites, transport patients to and from the operating room, and even hold organs in place during surgery.
With approximately two years of required studies, the average certified surgical technologist is set to earn more than $47,000 annually – all without a medical degree!
What Sort of Education Is Required to Become an SPT?
Once you’ve enrolled in a sterile processing tech program in your area, you’ll be ready to embark on your educational odyssey. Aside from standard classroom instruction in medical terminology and anatomy, you’ll study techniques about how to sterilize, decontaminate, and control infections in clinical settings.
Once you’ve tackled your classroom studies, you should expect to complete an internship in a real-world setting. You’ll get to work along side experience technicians who will provide expert advice along the way. If you prove your work ethic, professionalism, and skill set, you may even be offered a job before graduating.
Upon graduating from most sterile processing technician programs, you should be eligible to take the Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) exam offered by Iahcsmm. Most employers prefer certified technicians, so passing the CRCST exam will put you in a much better position to find employment.
Start Your Allied Health Career Today
Still considering a career as a sterile processing technician? It’s time to jump-start your education. In just under a year you can be ready to join the workforce as a certified sterile processing technician!