Instrument Technician Training, Certification and Degree Program Info

Get information on associate's degree programs in surgical technology that can prepare students to work as instrument technicians. Learn about certification options, required courses and career prospects.

Essential Information

Instrument technicians are also known as sterile processing technicians and central services technicians. An instrument technician ensures that surgical instruments are sterile and ready for the surgeon prior to operations and medical procedures. Although there is no specific degree for this career, an associate's degree program in surgical technology may assist the aspiring instrument technician.

There are also certification programs to enhance the technician's knowledge base and resume. Graduates can apply for certification at several levels from the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Materiel Management, which requires passing competency exams.

This degree program incorporates the job of instrument technician along with other related careers. In doing so, it gives the aspiring technician not only the skills required to perform his or her duties, but also a sense of how those tasks relate to the jobs of those they work with and for. This is a 2-year program at most schools. Courses may include medical terminology, medical ethics and legal issues and the culture of healthcare. Students are trained in laboratory technology and the sterile processing of instruments. Some programs have a clinical component.

Education Prerequisites

It is recommended that in high school the student lean towards an emphasis in math, science and biology courses. Some schools require a high school diploma or GED, and most look for a minimum of a 2.0 GPA. Other schools may require a full year of general education courses prior to declaring the surgical technology major.

Program Coursework

This program is designed to give students a broad view of the technical side of medicine, along with a picture of where they fit in the large scheme of instrument technology. Classes focus on subjects such as:

  • Medical terminology basics
  • Culture and language of healthcare
  • Lab technology
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Disease and pathology

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted a 19% increase in jobs for the 2010-2020 period, which is just slightly higher than the national average for all occupations. Surgical technologists made an average salary of $43,480 in 2012, according to the BLS. The majority of these workers were employed in hospitals.


Several accredited schools and institutions offer surgical instrument technician and sterile instrument technician courses and certification. Most certifications require that the aspiring technician pass a criminal background check prior to being accepted. Drug screenings are also required, generally at the expense of the student. Courses for this certification focus directly on the specific tasks an instrument technician will perform, such as:

  • Departmental safety operations
  • Surgical instrument selection
  • Instrument density and weight
  • Instrument stain management
  • Sterile processing for surgical robotic mechanisms

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