Requirements and Eligibility for Sterile Processing Certification

In the rapidly evolving healthcare sector, the need for trained professionals dedicated to ensuring sterile medical environments has never been more pronounced. Central to this commitment is the role of Sterile Processing Technicians, who bear the responsibility of decontaminating, sterilizing, and distributing medical instruments. As the weight of this role continues to grow, so too does the demand for formal recognition of expertise through certification. But what does it take to be eligible for this certification? This article comprehensively breaks down the requirements and eligibility criteria for sterile processing certification.

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Understanding the Value of Certification

Before diving into the intricate details of certification eligibility, it’s crucial to understand its significance. Earning a certification in sterile processing signifies a technician’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of patient safety and infection control. Such formal recognition not only enhances a professional’s credentials but also instills trust among employers and peers. It’s a testament to a technician’s skillset, knowledge, and dedication to their craft.

Primary Certification Bodies

In the U.S., the two primary organizations that offer certifications for Sterile Processing Technicians are the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management (IAHCSMM) and the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD). Each has its distinct certification processes and eligibility criteria.

Healthcare Sterile Processing Association Certification Requirements

Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST): To qualify for the CRCST certification, candidates must fulfill the following:

  • Education: Completion of a sterile processing program that offers a minimum of 12 months of combined classroom and clinical training.
  • Clinical Experience: A minimum of 400 hours of hands-on experience in a sterile processing department within the past five years.
  • Examination: Successfully passing the CRCST examination, which comprises multiple-choice questions covering various aspects of sterile processing.

Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS): For this specialization:

  • Prerequisite: Current CRCST certification.
  • Examination: Passing the CIS examination after meeting the CRCST requirement.

CBSPD Certification Requirements

Sterile Processing Technician Certification: For this certification, candidates must adhere to the following:

  • Education: Completion of a sterile processing training program or surgical technology training program recognized by the CBSPD.
  • Work Experience: 12 months of full-time employment or equivalent part-time experience in sterile processing, distribution, infection control, or related field within the past five years.
  • Examination: Successfully passing the Sterile Processing Technician examination.

Sterile Processing Management Certification: Aimed at individuals in supervisory roles, this certification has its specific set of criteria:

  • Experience: A minimum of two years of full-time employment in a managerial role related to sterile processing or infection control.
  • Examination: Successfully passing the Sterile Processing Management exam.

Maintaining and Renewing the Certification

Once certified, professionals must demonstrate continuous learning and growth. Both IAHCSMM and CBSPD certifications are valid for a specific period, after which technicians must renew them. Renewal often requires:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs): Professionals must earn a certain number of CEUs within their certification validity period. These can be obtained through workshops, courses, or attending relevant conferences.
  • Re-examination: Depending on the certification body, some may require technicians to retake and pass the certification exam as part of the renewal process.


Acquiring a certification in sterile processing is not merely about passing an exam. It’s a reflection of a technician’s dedication to mastering their craft, keeping updated with the latest industry practices, and upholding the highest standards of patient safety. By understanding and meeting the requirements and eligibility criteria, aspiring sterile processing professionals take a significant leap in their career, positioning themselves as trusted experts in a field that continually underscores the significance of expertise and precision.