Sterile Processing Technician Vs. Surgical Technologist

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Grant Aldrich

If you’re considering a career in healthcare, and are not sure about a career as a Sterile Processing Technician, then becoming a Surgical Technologist might be an excellent choice.

This role is integral to the surgical team, providing essential support before, during, and after surgical procedures.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything about Surgical techs, then we’ll look into the differences they hold with Sterile Processing Technicians, so you can decide on which career would fit you the best. 

Finally, we’ll share an approach that can help you to start your surgical tech career or Sterile Processing Technician career faster.

Let’s get started –

What is a Surgical Tech?

A Surgical Tech, also known as a Surgical Technologist or Operating Room Technician, is a healthcare professional who assists in surgical operations.

They work closely with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses and are responsible for preparing the operating room, sterilizing equipment, and assisting surgeons during procedures.  

They play an essential role in ensuring that surgeries are conducted smoothly and safely by maintaining a sterile environment and providing necessary instruments and supplies to the surgical team.  

What do they do?

Surgical Techs have a variety of responsibilities that are crucial to the success of surgical procedures.

Here are their key duties:

  • They prepare operating rooms by setting up surgical instruments and equipment.
  • They ensure all surgical instruments are sterile and functioning correctly.
  • They assist in draping patients and positioning them on the operating table.
  • They hand instruments and supplies to surgeons during surgery.
  • They maintain a sterile environment to prevent infections.
  • They count sponges, needles, and instruments before and after surgery to ensure nothing is left inside the patient.
  • They apply dressings to surgical wounds.
  • They transport patients to and from the operating room.
  • They help clean and restock the operating room after procedures.


-> What is a Sterile Processing Technician?

-> What Does a Sterile Processing Technician Do?


Being a Surgical Tech requires a blend of technical and interpersonal skills. Here are some of their core skills:

  • Attention to detail: Ensure all instruments are sterile and are accounted for.
  • Manual dexterity: Necessary for handling instruments and equipment precisely.
  • Physical stamina: Able to stand for long periods and assist in lengthy procedures.
  • Communication: Effectively relay information to surgeons and team members.
  • Problem-solving: Quickly address any issues that arise during surgery.
  • Teamwork: Collaborate seamlessly with the surgical team.
  • Time management: Efficiently prepare for and assist in surgeries.

How to Become a Surgical Tech?

Surgical Techs are essential for the smooth functioning of surgical procedures, ensuring that everything is prepared and running efficiently, which contributes to positive patient outcomes and high standards of surgical care.

Here’s how you can start a career as a Surgical Tech:

Step 1 -> Complete High School or GED. This is required.

Step 2 -> Choose a CAAHEP or ABHES Accredited Online Program for a faster start to your career.

Stay tuned, we’ll share one accredited online program that makes you job-ready as a surgical tech in less than 6 months.   

Step 3 -> Complete the required coursework.

Step 4 -> Gain real-world experience through externships.

The online program we are about to mention offers you an externship placement.

Step 5 -> Obtain Certification, preferably CST or TS-C certification.

Step 6 -> Craft your resume and Apply for Jobs.

Detailed Post Here -> How To Become A Surgical Tech?

Sterile Processing Technician Vs. Surgical Technologist

When choosing a career in the medical field, it’s essential to understand the differences between various roles. Two such roles are Sterile Processing Technician and Surgical Technologist.

Both roles are crucial in supporting surgical procedures but differ significantly in terms of education, certification, duties, scope of practice, earning potential, job outlook, and impact on patients.

Let’s discuss the differences between the two:


To become a Sterile Processing Technician, a high school diploma or GED is typically required. Further education can be obtained through training programs that last between 6 to 8 months, particularly online programs which offer flexibility and are cost-effective.

Online Sterile Processing Technician programs are advantageous because they save time, reduce costs, and allow students to study at their own pace. Completing an online program can be quicker, typically taking around 6 to 8 months.

Becoming a Surgical Tech usually requires a more extensive education. Candidates often pursue a diploma, certificate, or associate degree in surgical technology, which can take 1 to 2 years to complete.

These programs are offered by community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, and universities. The Surgical Tech programs also require hands-on clinical experience as part of the curriculum.

But, you can also enroll in an accredited online program that provides an experience opportunity.


The Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST) is the most recognized certification for Sterile Processing Technicians, demonstrating proficiency in sterile processing. Other certifications include the Certified Sterile Processing and Distribution Technician (CSPDT) and Certified Surgical Instrument Specialist (CSIS).

The standard certification for Surgical Techs is the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST), awarded by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). This certification requires passing an exam after completing an accredited program.

Also Read:

-> CRCST Certification

-> CSPDT Certification

-> Certified Sterile Processing Technician

-> Sterile Processing Technician Certification Online


Duties of Sterile Processing Technician:

  • They clean and decontaminate surgical instruments.
  • They operate sterilization equipment.
  • They assemble and package sterile instrument sets.
  • They manage inventory and track expiration dates.
  • They ensure quality assurance by monitoring sterilization processes.

Duties of Surgical Technologist:

  • They prepare operating rooms by setting up surgical instruments.
  • They assist surgeons during operations by handing them instruments.
  • They maintain a sterile environment in the operating room.
  • They help position patients for surgery.
  • They count sponges, needles, and instruments before and after surgery.
  • They apply dressings to surgical wounds post-operation.

Scope of Practice

Sterile Processing Technicians work primarily behind the scenes, focusing on the sterilization and preparation of surgical instruments and equipment. Their role is crucial in preventing infections and ensuring that all surgical tools are ready for use.

Surgical Techs are more directly involved in surgical procedures, working in the operating room alongside surgeons, nurses, and other medical staff. They play a hands-on role in assisting with surgeries and ensuring that the operating environment is sterile and organized.

Earning Potential

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for medical equipment preparers, including Sterile Processing Technicians, is approximately $47,410. This figure can vary based on experience, location, and the type of healthcare facility.

The BLS reports that the average annual salary for Surgical Techs is about $60,370. Salaries can vary widely based on factors such as geographic location, years of experience, and the specific healthcare setting.

You May Also Like:

-> Sterile Processing Technician Salary

-> Sterile Processing Technician Resume

-> Sterile Processing Technician Job Description

Job Outlook

The demand for Sterile Processing Technicians is expected to grow as the number of surgical procedures increases and the need for sterilized medical instruments becomes more critical. The BLS projects an 8.3% growth in employment for medical equipment preparers from 2020 to 2030.

The employment of Surgical Techs is projected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032, driven by an aging population and advances in medical technology that increase the number of surgeries performed.

Impact on Patient

Although from behind the scenes, the Sterile Processing Technicians play a vital role in infection control by ensuring that all surgical instruments are properly sterilized and ready for use. 

Their work is essential in preventing surgical site infections and ensuring patient safety.

Surgical Techs have a more direct impact on patient care during surgeries. They assist surgeons by providing the necessary instruments and maintaining a sterile environment, which is crucial for the success of surgical procedures and patient outcomes.

To sum up

Both Sterile Processing Technicians and Surgical Technologists play vital roles in the healthcare system, ensuring that surgical procedures are conducted safely and efficiently. Choosing between these careers depends on your interests, skills, and career goals.

If you prefer working behind the scenes with a focus on sterilization and preparation, a career as a Sterile Processing Technician might be right for you.

If you want to be more directly involved in the surgical process, assisting surgeons and handling instruments during operations, consider becoming a Surgical Tech.

Both careers offer promising job prospects and the opportunity to make a significant impact on patient care.


-> Sterile Processing Technician Requirements

-> How to Become a Sterile Processing Technician?

Becoming a Surgical Tech Faster in 6 months

Becoming a Surgical Tech is a rewarding career choice. With the right education, certification, and skills, you can become an essential part of the surgical team, ensuring the success of surgical procedures and the safety of patients.

So, if you’re eager to start a rewarding career in the medical field without spending years in school, and without any student loan debt, then you need to enroll in the right program.

With the right program–

  • You get a 100% Online and Self-Paced program so you can learn from your home.
  • The program is Accredited so you can earn a certificate from a reputable institution.
  • You get an Externship Placement to gain hands-on experience at a healthcare facility near you.
  • The Curriculum is Comprehensive so get ready for the certification exam with a thorough and detailed course of study.
  • The program is Affordable under $2000.
  • You can complete your training in as little as six months.

So, the big question here is – are there any such right Surgical Tech programs out there?

There is one. Preppy’s Surgical Tech training program. And with this program, you get all of the things we just mentioned about.

So, if this career path interests you, consider starting your journey today with Preppy’s accredited surgical tech program. Preppy provides the resources and flexibility to help you achieve your goals efficiently.

Enroll in Preppy’s surgical tech certification program today and take the first step towards a fulfilling career as a Surgical Technologist. 

Also Read:

-> Sterile Processing Technician Course

-> Sterile Processing Technician Programs

-> Sterile Processing Technician Certificate Program

-> Sterile Processing Technician Training Program Cost

Becoming a Sterile Processing Technician in 4 months with Preppy

If you’re eager to start your career as a Sterile Processing Technician faster then there’s no other online program better than Preppy’s Sterile Processing Technician program.

Preppy’s innovative program allows you to achieve your goal in as little as 4 months!

Here’s what Preppy offers to help you fastrack your career:

100% Online, Accredited, and Self-Paced Program

Preppy provides a 100% online training program that is both accredited and self-paced. This means you can study at your convenience, without the need to attend in-person classes. The flexible schedule allows you to balance your studies with other commitments.

University Certificate

Upon completion of the program, you’ll receive a prestigious certificate from Auburn University, a reputable, non-profit institution with a 150-year history. This certification will enhance your resume and increase your job prospects.

Thorough Curriculum makes you certification-ready

Preppy’s curriculum is meticulously designed so that you’ll cover all necessary topics, including decontamination, sterilization, and handling of surgical instruments. This will help you to prepare for the certification exams like the CRCST. 

Externship Placement

Preppy ensures that you get a real-world experience opportunity close to you, making it easier to apply what you’ve learned during the program. They offer an externship placement at a local healthcare facility.

Fast Completion

The program is designed to be completed in as little as 120 days, allowing you to enter the workforce quickly. This accelerated timeline helps you start your new career without unnecessary delays.

Affordable and All-Inclusive

Preppy’s program is cost-effective, priced at just $1599, which includes all necessary materials.

Additionally, you’ll receive a free laptop to use during the course, which is yours to keep after completion.

So, if you want to become a Sterile Processing Technician in just 4 months, Preppy’s program is the perfect choice. Enroll today to take advantage of this fast, flexible, and affordable training option.

Enroll now and kickstart your career as a Sterile Processing Technician with Preppy!  


We hope this article could enlighten you about the Surgical Tech career, and the difference it holds with a Sterile Processing Technician career.

We believe by understanding the stated differences you could make up your mind and have decided on the career best suited for you.

Regardless of your choice, if you want to start your career faster, then there’s just one Career Certification platform, Preppy, that gives out everything you need in a training program.  

With Preppy you get – Online, self-paced, accredited healthcare programs, at an affordable cost, with a university certificate, an externship placement, you get ready for the certification exam, and finish faster in less than 6 months. 

Check Out Preppy’s Career Certification Programs!

Surgical Tech || Sterile Processing Technician || Other Careers 


-> Sterile Processing Technician Exam

-> Travel Sterile Processing Technician

-> How Long Does it Take to Become a Sterile Processing Technician?

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Grant Aldrich

Preppy was founded by higher education expert, Grant Aldrich, who’s work on college affordability and accessibility has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader’s Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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