Sterile processing technicians are in charge of keeping a healthcare facility and the instruments therein sterile to prevent infection and the spread of germs among doctors and patients. While similar to surgical technologist jobs, sterile processing jobs are unique in that they focus on areas outside the operating room. Duties typically include:
Cleaning medical equipment, instruments and surgical trays
Sterilizing medical equipment and instruments properly
Inspecting medical tools and reporting any problems
Testing and overseeing autoclaves
Gathering the equipment requisite for medical procedures and surgeries (e.g., surgical trays)
preparing surgical wear for use
Storing and taking inventory of sterile supplies
Sterile processing techs typically work in hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and dental surgery centers. Related occupations include medical assistant jobs and dental hygienist jobs.
Sterile Processing Job Education Requirements
Most sterile processing technicians complete a certification program at a community or vocational college. These programs typically can be completed in several weeks to six months. In sterile processing programs, students receive classroom instruction as well as laboratory training. While taking a certification exam following graduation is optional, most graduates choose to do so because it qualifies them for more positions and higher salaries. The exams may come from the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD) or the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA).
Sterile Processing Job Market
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have data on sterile processing positions, but it has information on several other nearly identical occupations. For example, in the U.S. in 2012, there were 51,600 medical equipment preparers in the United States, and this number will likely grow by 20 percent in the next decade. Similarly, there were 98,500 surgical technologists in the U.S. in 2012, and that number is estimated for 30 percent growth in the next decade. Both predicted growth rates are faster than the national occupational average of 11 percent.
Sterile Processing Job Salary Information
Again, the BLS does not track salary information for this specific occupation, but the salaries of related occupations can provide an approximate figure. In 2013, surgical technologists made an average of $44,420. Those in the 90th percentile for income made $61,300, and those in the 10th percentile made $30,450. Those working in home health care services had the highest average salary -- $63,480 -- while those working in dental offices had the lowest average salary -- $43,120. Medical equipment preparers, on the other hand, made an average of $30,820 in 2012.