Medical Appliance Technician: Job Description and Requirements

Medical appliance technicians are skilled manufacturers who design, fit and create medical devices, such as limb prosthetics, orthotic arch supports and joint braces. Read further to learn the requirements and benefits of this occupation.

Career Definition for a Medical Appliance Technician

Combining manual fabrication skills with an interest in medicine, a career in medical appliance technology involves designing, fitting, creating and maintaining medical devices such as prosthetics, arch supports and braces. Medical appliance technicians usually work for medical supply manufacturers and laboratories, but some work for private care clinics and hospitals, fulfilling physicians' prescriptions and requests for devices that assist patients in dealing with injuries, birth defects and amputations. Their job responsibilities include working directly with patients to take casts or impressions, manufacturing the appliances, fitting and adjusting them to the patient and tending to repairs on an ongoing basis.

Education High school diploma, plus on-the-job training or completion of an associate's degree or certificate program in medical appliance technology
Job Skills Manual dexterity, problem-solving skills and interpersonal skills
Average Salary (2015)* $39,020 (all medical appliance technicians)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% (all dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recommends aspiring medical appliance technicians take math, biology and art courses in high school. Many employers will hire high school graduates and train them on the job, though others may prefer some formal education, particularly in a medical appliance technology program accredited by The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Associate degree and certificate programs take one year and afford the candidate extra insight into medical appliance materials, anatomy and biomechanical principles, as well as a clinical rotation to gain on-the-job experience.

Skills Required

A medical appliance technology career requires manual dexterity, excellent problem-solving skills and a concern for helping others. In addition, medical appliance technicians specializing in prosthetics or orthotics can earn certification from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABCOP), either by passing an examination or meeting such criteria as a minimum number of on-the-job hours, employer recommendations and qualifying coursework. Certification is not required, but it can bolster a specializing medical appliance technician's job prospects.

Career Outlook

Medical appliance technicians and dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians will see faster than average employment growth in the coming years, estimated at 10% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. Opportunities for advancement are also available: many specializing medical appliance technicians work toward becoming prosthetists or orthotists, who work directly with patients to determine the medical device needs that are then passed along to the medical appliance technician for manufacture.

Alternate Career Options

Similar careers in this field include:

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Completing a master's degree, including a 1-year residency for certification, these professionals evaluate patients, measure them, design devices, take molds, select materials and instruct patients on their devices' care and uses. According to the BLS, they earned an average annual wage of $64,430 in 2015 and could look forward to much faster than average employment growth of 23% from 2014-2024.

Medical Equipment Repairer

With an associate's degree in engineering or biomedical technology, these repairers then seek employment installing, maintaining and fixing patient care devices, such as ultrasound equipment, electrical wheelchairs and x-ray machines. Anticipating job growth of 6% from 2014-2024, per the BLS, medical equipment repairers took home an annual median salary of $46,340 in 2015.

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