Sterile Processing Jobs: A Career Field That Can Offer Great Benefits
The tasks that are carried out by people with sterile processing jobs are essential for the operation of hospitals and other medical facilities. Sterile processing technicians help ensure that all of the equipment within such facilities is clean and safe to use. Their jobs are essential to the efforts of preventing patients from getting sicker. And they help ensure that additional medical costs are not incurred due to infections that would otherwise be spread from unclean equipment.
Sterile processing technicians are also sometimes called central processing technicians, central service technicians, and sterile processing and distribution technicians, just to name a few other job title examples. Although there is variation in job titles, the responsibilities are usually the same. These positions often require you to clean and sterilize medical equipment as well as assemble and test equipment, order supplies, and report problems. And this important work can come with excellent benefits.
Sterile processing technicians have the potential to earn a good salary, travel across the country, and advance their careers. If you want to find out what sterile processing jobs can offer you, then check out eight of the most common benefits of the field below!
1. Short Training Programs
One of the greatest benefits of sterile processing technician jobs is that you typically require only a small amount of schooling in order to pursue them. Sterile processing technician schools offer certificate or diploma programs that can be completed in as little as a few weeks. Certificate programs are usually quite short, whereas a diploma program can take up to a year to complete.
Most sterile processing tech jobs require candidates to have at least a certificate. And some require industry certification even though very few states mandate it. Along with enhancing your employment opportunities, obtaining certification is a great way to demonstrate your professional competencies.
Below are the two most common and recognized certifications:
- Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST)—This certification is administered through the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM). You are required to complete an approved training program in addition to 400 hours of work experience either prior to writing the exam or within six months of completing it. You are given three hours to complete the exam.
- Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician (CSPDT)—The CSPDT certification is administered through the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD). Once you have completed an approved program, you can apply to take a two-hour exam.
So it is possible for you to earn a certificate, obtain industry certification, and be ready to fulfill a sterile processing job in less than one year.
2. Excellent Career Outlook
Sterile processing technicians can expect a strong career outlook because of several factors. Due to a growing and aging population, as well as increased access to health insurance, there is a greater demand for healthcare services. These include diagnostic, laboratory, and surgical procedures. And every time that procedures are performed in a medical setting, sterile processing technicians are needed to ensure that all items are stocked, sanitary, and in working order.
Hospitals and other medical centers have also been experiencing an increase in hospital-acquired infections, partially due to an increase in antibiotic-resistant organisms. This has led to more emphasis being placed on proper sterilization and cleaning procedures, which means that there is a greater need for sterile processing technicians.
Current estimates indicate that sterile processing technician job availability will increase by 14 percent from 2014 to 2024. That amounts to more than 7,000 job openings.*
3. Good Earning Potential
Considering the small amount of training that is needed to become a sterile processing tech, the earning potential within the field is excellent. In 2015, sterile processing technicians earned $34,950 for a full year of work, on average. And the top ten percent of earners—which are likely the most experienced—brought in $49,480 and higher.**
There are also other factors than can affect your earnings. For example, your work setting can determine your pay level. Sterile processing technicians who worked in outpatient care centers, state-owned hospitals, and specialty hospitals had average annual salaries exceeding $36,000 in 2015. And the top earners were bringing in $56,000 and higher.**
The state where you work can also be a major determining factor in the level of pay that you can expect to receive. The top five highest-paying states in 2015 were California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Hawaii, and Minnesota respectively. The average annual salaries in these regions ranged from $38,000 to more than $42,000.**
4. Opportunities to Travel
For those who like to travel, sterile processing jobs can be a great fit. There are a lot of companies that hire traveling sterile processing technicians to work on short-term contracts. Many healthcare organizations turn to medical staffing agencies and management companies to provide them with temporary sterile processing workers. In these situations, you are typically an employee of the staffing agency, which will work to find you new contracts on an ongoing basis.
Contracts tend to be about 13 weeks long, and they often pay much higher salaries than the national average (based on a search of current job postings in March 2016). Most contracts provide housing or offer live-out allowances while also covering travel expenses. Contract positions could take you just about anywhere within the country from California and Florida to Alaska and Hawaii. Pursuing travel contracts can be an excellent way to explore more of your country while performing critical work within medical establishments.
5. Opportunities for Advancement
Once you are working as a sterile processing tech and have acquired several years of experience, you could find different opportunities to advance your career. And those advances could come with large pay increases. For example, according to 2016 data, becoming a sterile processing supervisor can mean earning an average annual salary of $41,434. And sterile processing manager jobs can come with an average salary of $68,227.***
Some sterile processing technicians also choose to adjust their career tracks and become surgical technologists. It's a relatively easy transition to make since the two positions have many overlapping duties. In fact, many surgical technologist schools will consider applying credits from your sterile processing education, which could reduce the amount of training that you need in order to become a surgical tech.
While sterile processing technicians can work with equipment from all areas of a hospital or medical facility, surgical techs focus solely on the operating room and related areas. They can help with preparing operating rooms and patients, assisting during surgeries, and cleaning up once surgeries are completed. And like sterile processing techs, surgical techs can expect good earnings and career opportunities. Job growth is estimated at 15 percent between 2014 and 2024.* And the average annual salary in 2015 was $45,940 with the top earners making $63,410 and higher.**
6. Job Satisfaction and a Strong Sense of Pride
Some people may think that sterile processing technicians are just cleaners. But the job is so much more important than that. As a sterile processing tech, doing your job well can mean the difference between life and death. Medical facilities cannot operate without attentive and skilled sterile processing technicians. Patients are even more susceptible to infections than the general public, so ensuring that facilities and equipment are sterile is extremely important.
Hospitals are more concerned with sterile processing than ever due to antimicrobial resistance (also known as antibiotic-resistant organisms or superbugs). Infections that used to be easy to treat are no longer so. They are resisting antibiotics and other drugs and cleaning agents that used to kill them and are, therefore, becoming increasingly fatal.
In fact, as of 2015, more than two million people in the U.S. acquire antibiotic resistant infections every year, and over 30,000 people die from them. And a total of 75,000 people die from hospital-acquired infections every year. One of the most prominent infections, Clostridium difficile (C. diff.), affected 500,000 people in 2015 and caused 15,000 deaths. And it could contribute to $3.8 billion in additional medical costs over a five-year period.****
Another common healthcare-associated infection, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), infected over 80,000 individuals and caused more than 11,000 deaths in 2015. And drug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae caused 1.2 million infections, 7,000 deaths, and contributed to $96 million in excess medical costs in 2015.****
These statistics may be a little alarming, but they also highlight the absolute importance of sterile processing. Ground-level infection-control practices are critical in preventing these diseases from spreading in healthcare settings. So as a sterile processing tech, you could experience a great deal of pride and job satisfaction while knowing that the work you're doing saves lives and money.
7. Flexible Scheduling
Sterile processing departments tend to work around the clock, which means that your schedule could be quite flexible—especially as you become a more experienced sterile processing technician. Once you have established some seniority in your position, you could have the ability to choose the hours that you work. So whether you are simply not a morning person or you have family commitments to keep, you could work on a schedule that suits your lifestyle.
8. Paid Company Benefits
Along with good wages, sterile processing jobs can also come with excellent employee benefits. You may be able to obtain health and dental coverage as well as disability and life insurance. Some companies even offer retirement savings plans and paid vacation and sick leave. So if paid company benefits are important to you, then take some time to shop around the various central sterile processing jobs to find the one that best meets your needs.
Start Exploring the Possibilities
Take advantage of all of the benefits that sterile processing jobs could offer you by finding a training program today. Generate a list of schools in your area by entering your zip code below. An important and beneficial career could soon be your reality!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, website last visited on March 8, 2016.
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on May 4, 2016.
*** PayScale, website last visited on March 8, 2016.
**** Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), website last visited on March 8, 2016.