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 (2017)*||$40,460 (all medical appliance technicians)|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||13% (all dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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.
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.
Medical appliance technicians and dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians will see faster than average employment growth in the coming years, estimated at 13% from 2016-2026, 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 $70,970 in 2017 and could look forward to much faster than average employment growth of 22% from 2016-2026.
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 4% from 2016-2026, per the BLS, medical equipment repairers took home an average annual salary of $52,260 in 2017.