Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST)

The introductory certification for Sterile Processing (SP) professionals.

The CRCST certification program is designed to recognize entry-level and existing technicians who have demonstrated the experience, knowledge and skills necessary to provide competent services as an SP technician. CRCSTs are integral members of the healthcare team who are responsible for decontaminating, inspecting, assembling, disassembling, packaging and sterilizing reusable surgical instruments or devices in a healthcare facility.


The CRCST certification is accredited by both the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB), and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
NCCA Accredited Program Logo 2021

Initial Eligibility Requirements

In addition to passing the certification exam, 400 hours of hands-on experience are required in order to obtain CRCST status. To apply for the CRCST examination, you must satisfy the requirements of one of the following options:

Full CRCST Certification (Recommended)

Provide 400 hours of hands-on experience during the previous five years, preceding the application.

Firsthand experience is essential to supplement an individual's understanding of Sterile Processing knowledge and concepts and to illustrate their practical use.



Provisional Certification

Provide 400 hours of hands-on experience within six months of passing the certification exam.

Documentation of the completed hours of hands-on experience must be submitted to HSPA prior to the six-month expiration date. Failure to submit these hours within this designated time frame will result in a forfeiture of your Provisional CRCST certification, and you will need to reapply for the certification exam.

Hands-On Hours of Experience

400 hours of experience must be completed in a Sterile Processing department (SPD), on a paid or volunteer basis. These hours can be completed before testing or within six months of passing the exam (see options above). Hands-on experience provides an invaluable resource with which to better understand the standards, knowledge, and practices needed to be successful in an SPD and on the exam. These hours are broken down into the following areas of experience:

  • Decontamination (120 hours)
  • Preparing & Packaging Instruments (120 hours)
  • Sterilization & Disinfection (96 hours)
  • Storage & Distribution (24 hours)
  • Quality Assurance Processes (24 hours)
  • Equipment (16 hours)

Please be aware that HSPA does NOT provide placement services. It is your responsibility to find a department in which to complete your hours.

If you are unsure if your department provides the necessary hours, please fill out our Department Authorization Form.


HSPA believes that both training and experience for entry into practice contribute to the delivery of quality patient care. The rationale for the experience requirement of the Sterile Processing (SP) role is consistent with the most recent job analysis conducted, where 80% of the work of the SP is hands-on experience in a hospital setting. The 400 hours requirement affirms the need for a minimum of 10 weeks (400 hours) of experience.

The experience component, which is divided into six areas of hands-on work, is based on industry and Subject Matter Expert surveys and recommendations and demonstrates an applicant’s practical understanding and application of the knowledge assessed on the certification exam. The hands-on experience requirement represents the largest domain in the recent job analysis for SP technicians. The categories of experience, the tasks that comprise them, and the percentage of time required for each were calculated through an industry-wide job task analysis.

View Exam Content Outline

How to Prepare for the Certification Exam

Those interested in becoming a CRCST can prepare in one of the following ways:

  • Online/Distance Learning Course: Purdue University offers an online or by mail course designed to help prepare individuals for the CRCST exam. You can find out more about the course by calling Purdue at 800.830.0269 or visiting their website.

    Please Note: Courses are preparation for the exam only. Passing a course does not equate to certification and taking a course does not negate the hands-on hours requirement.

  • Self-Study: You may purchase reference materials and choose to study on your own to prepare for the CRCST exam. The Central Service Technical Manual, 8th Ed. (2016), was used for reference in creating the CRCST exam, along with ANSI/AAMI ST79 (2017), and AORN's Guidelines for Perioperative Practice (2019). You can order these publications through myhspa.org and aornstandards.org

    Please Note: HSPA's education department developed the material referenced above as an optional method to assist individuals in preparing for the CRCST exam. The material was developed and produced independently from the Certification Council, which does not develop, require, approve, or endorse any specific training materials.

  • Work Experience: You may take the exam based on your personal knowledge from experience in the field. It is not required that you take or pass a preparatory course or study materials on your own. Applicants can apply directly to take the exam without purchasing study materials or enrolling in a course.

Content & Composition of the Exam

The CRCST exam will test your proficiency in the following areas:

  1. Cleaning, Decontamination & Disinfection
  2. Preparation & Packaging
  3. Sterilization Process
  4. Patient Care Equipment
  5. Sterile Storage & Inventory Management
  6. Documentation & Record Maintenance
  7. Customer Relations

Each of the seven knowledge domains listed above is comprised of a series of sub-domains which are explained in further detail in the CRCST Exam Content Outline (updated June, 2018). The Content Outline also describes further detail on the type and amount of content covered in each section, as well as its weight on the certification exam.

For testing details...

Exam Structure

  • The exam is computer-based and no writing instruments are needed (a written version of the exam is not available)
  • The current version of the test is comprised of 150 multiple choice questions
  • You will have three hours in which to complete the exam
  • Questions can be marked for review and answered or changed later in the exam
  • A 15-minute tutorial describing how to take the exam on the computer precedes the test and is also available online, below

Test Tutorial

Verification of Examination Requirements

Hands-on experience is required for your examination, and documentation of that experience must be provided on the exam application as indicated. No other documentation is necessary or acceptable.

The sections of your application documenting your experience must be completed by your department's immediate manager/supervisor. An individual may never document their own experience.

Provided they are in a position above your own then experience hours can be documented by:

  • Lead technicians, coordinators, or supervisors
  • Managers, chiefs, directors, or administrators
  • Hospital-based educators or trainers

Hours cannot be documented by technicians or private instructors. In order to verify experience, all contact information provided for the manager or supervisor documenting your hours must be current or your application will be rejected.

Hands-on hours can be accumulated on a paid or volunteer basis and you need not be currently employed or volunteering with a facility in order to test.

Applications requiring hands-on experience may be subject to verification before processing. Once selected for verification an application cannot be processed further until the manager/supervisor documenting the applicant's hours of experience can be contacted and the experience confirmed. If the listed manager/supervisor cannot be reached for confirmation the application will be returned, unprocessed. If the manager/supervisor is reached but refutes the information submitted in any way, the application will be sent to the Certification Council for further investigation and review.

Applicants who have submitted a completed application and who are notified that they do not meet the eligibility requirements may appeal this decision by sending a written notice of the appeal to the Certification Council within 30 days of the time stamp on the eligibility decision. Appeals that cannot be resolved to the applicant's satisfaction will be forwarded by the Certification Manager to the Certification Council for review along with any relevant information from the initial review of the application. Written notice of the final decision will be sent to the applicant within 30 days of the review. The decision of the Certification Council will be final.

Apply Today

Validate that you meet the eligibility requirements detailed above and in the HSPA Certification Handbook and apply today.

Required Experience Documentation
CRCST Exam: 400 hours
Provisional CRCST Exam: 400 hours (submitted within 6 months of passing the exam)
Application Fees*
Initial Exam: $125
Retake Exam: $125

*Fees are non-refundable and include the application and one exam attempt. Additional fees are required for each exam retake, as shown above.

**Application is valid for 1 year; allow 3-4 weeks for processing.

Need Assistance?
55 West Wacker Drive
Suite 501
Chicago, IL 60601