Becoming a Sterilization Technician: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a sterilization technician career? Get real job duties and salary info to see if becoming a sterilization technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Sterilization Technician

A sterilization technician is responsible for making sure items in a clinic or hospital that need decontamination are sterilized. It is important to know the pros and cons of working as a sterilization technician to determine if this is the right career for you.

Pros of a Career as a Sterilization Technician
Various work environments (physicians' offices, dentists offices, surgical and medical hospitals and outpatient centers)*
Good way to start a career working in a hospital**
Can become a sterilization technician with a high school diploma*
Full-time work*

Cons of Career as a Sterilization Technician
Hazardous work environment (i.e. cuts, slips and handling contaminated instruments)*
May have to lift heavy carts (approximately 50 lbs.)***
You often stand during a shift****
Work is repetitive (same mental and physical tasks each day)*

Sources: *ISEEK.org, **Gateway Community College, ***Careerbuilder.com Job Posting, ****Monster.com Job Ad.

Career Information

Job Description

Sterilization technicians work in the hospital's central service area and are responsible for sterilizing items in a clinic or hospital that need decontamination. As a sterilization technician, you process, clean, assemble, package, store and sterilize hospital items, like instruments, equipment and trays. They generally work in clinics, dental offices, veterinarian hospitals, surgical centers or hospitals.

Salary and Employment Outlook Information

PayScale.com found that sterilization technicians in the 10th-90th percentile earned about $29,361-$55,971 per year, with overtime and bonuses, as of July 2015. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that medical equipment preparers made a median salary of about $32,260 as of 2014 (www.bls.gov). According to the most recent data available from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, employment for medical equipment preparers was anticipated to increase by 13% from 2009-2019.

What Are the Requirements?

Education Requirements

You can complete a course or a 1-year certificate through a community college, technical school, college or university. A course or certificate may include topics in healthcare legal issues, healthcare decision-making, medical terminology, computers, surgical instruments, sterilization, packaging and specialty instruments. Additional courses you might take include surgical terminology, pathophysiology, sociology, microbiology principles, algebra and statistics. The program generally includes a practicum.

To become a sterilization technician, you need a high school diploma and on-the-job training. As of 2012, only the state of New Jersey requires sterilization technicians to become certified. However, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York are in the process of introducing or have introduced legislation requiring mandatory certification of sterilization technicians. Technicians must have good manual dexterity since they need to work quickly, which involves handling instruments and equipment expertly. They also need good communications skills in order to interact with other employees.

Job Postings From Real Employers

Employers advertising for sterilization technicians look for candidates with a high school diploma and experience in the field. Some employers prefer candidates who have taken a course and obtained certification. Here are some real jobs that were advertised in April 2012:

  • A dental service in California was looking for a sterilization technician to prepare instruments for patient care. Applicants must have a high school diploma, certification in dental assisting or a similar type of training.
  • A medical center in Oregon advertised for a sterile processing tech to clean supplies and instruments. The job required technicians to be able to operate and maintain sterilization equipment. Candidates need to have a high school diploma; however, completion of a sterilization program and certification is preferred.
  • A hospital in Iowa was seeking a central sterilization technician with previous experience. The hospital prefers candidates who have completed a central sterilizing service program.

How to Stand out in the Field

Get Certified

The International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) offers the Certified Registered Central Service Technician credential. To take the certification exam, you have to take a course and work 400 hours as a central service technician. The exam tests you in the areas of general central service knowledge and infection control. IAHCSMM also offers a certified instrument specialist credential.

The Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution, Inc. offers the Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician credential. To qualify for the certification exam, you can work one year in sterilizing process and distribution (SPD) or take a training course. The exam tests you on life sciences, decontamination, handling and preparation, sterilization, storage, distribution and inventory management.

Other Careers to Consider

Surgical technologists generally need to earn an associate's degree or certificate and obtain certification. These technologists assist surgeons in the operating room, and duties may include moving patients and passing instruments. According to the BLS, surgical technologists made a median salary of about $41,000 as of 2011. The BLS expected an average employment outlook for surgical technologists, increasing approximately 19%, from 2010-2020.

In addition to assisting a dentist with patients, a dental assistant will also sterilize equipment, process x-rays, schedule appointments and bill patients. Requirements to become a dental assistant vary by state. You may be required to complete a training program and pass an exam. Other states allow dentists to train assistants on-the-job. The BLS found that dental assistants made a median wage of $34,000 as of 2011. The BLS also anticipated jobs for dental assistants will increase 31% from 2010-2020.

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The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

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Virginia College

  • Associate: Surgical Technology

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Kaplan University

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  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor: Health Science
  • Bachelors of Science in Nursing - RN to BSN (RN License Required)

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University of the Southwest

  • MBA Healthcare Administration

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American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

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Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management

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