Prosthetics and Orthotics
Prosthetic and orthotic technicians and practitioners design and create devices that assist people with a disability or deformity. If you're looking for a career that allows you to help people in a tangible way, this might be a good fit for you.
Inside Prosthetics and Orthotics
Prosthetics and orthotics are devices that help people who have a deformity or disability of a limb to live a more functional and comfortable life. Prosthetics are artificial replacements for body parts, whereas orthotics correct the alignment of a patient's foot and ankle. Orthotists and prosthetists are trained practitioners who first evaluate patients and their needs by interviewing them about their expectations of devices and taking measurements to ensure proper fit.
They work with orthotic and prosthetic technicians to construct devices to exact specifications using some of the most advanced technology at their disposal. For example, they can use computer-aided design and manufacturing programs to digitally scan and carve custom devices for patients. They then assess the final fit of the brace or prostheses on the patient and educate the patient about proper use and care of the device.
The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education approves undergraduate certificate and associate degree programs to prepare students to become orthotic and prosthetic technicians. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs accredits several bachelor's degree, postbaccalaureate certificate and master's degree programs for aspiring orthotic and prosthetic practitioners.
Bachelor's and master's degree holders wishing to practice must complete a residency program for each type of device in which they wish to specialize. These residency programs vary in their requirements and encompass the treatment of pediatric, adult and geriatric patients. If you'd like to become an orthotic or prosthetic practitioner or technician, review the following Study.com articles, which offer more information about academic programs.
- Selecting an Orthotics or Prosthetics Program
- Bachelor's Degree and Postbaccalaureate Certificate Programs
- Degree Programs in Prosthetics
- Online and Hybrid Prosthetics Programs
Technicians work primarily in laboratories, developing, constructing and repairing prosthetic and orthotic devices. Prosthetic and orthotic practitioners divide their time between exam rooms and the lab. Here is more information about careers in both fields.
Orthotic Technicians and Practitioners
An orthotist designs and creates orthotic shoe inserts or orthopedic braces that help to align a patient's foot and ankle. Orthotists work closely with orthopedists and podiatrists. Review the links below for more details about employment in orthotics.
Prosthetic Technicians and Practitioners
Prosthetists primarily design and create devices that replace missing or deformed body parts. Due to the unique nature of each patient's disability, prosthetists' work is very hands-on and requires detailed specificity. Here are a few links to articles offering more details about careers in this field.
Certification for practitioners and technicians is available from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. Individuals interested in certification must complete an approved training program and possess requisite experience (www.abcop.org).
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prosthetic and orthotic practitioners made a median annual salary of $62,970 in May 2013. In contrast, medical appliance technicians, including orthotic and prosthetic device technicians, earned a median wage of $35,540 in the same year (www.bls.gov).
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