Career Definition for a Medical Device Technician
A medical device technician is an umbrella term that refers to those who customize orthotics and prosthetics for patients as prescribed by a physician. Orthotics consists of braces, supports, corrective shoes, or other devices, while prosthetics are replacement limbs. Medical device technicians play an integral role in helping patients regain their independence by restoring mobility.
Medical device technicians, sometimes called medical appliance technicians, use buffing wheels, power tools and precision implements that carve, shape and polish devices that results in customized fit, optimal function and maximum comfort. They may also pad the device or mix and apply pigment to match a patient's skin color, according to the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Medical device technicians may also repair and maintain these devices, which wear down from daily use.
|Education||On the job training is common; certificates and associate degrees available|
|Job Skills||Hand tool skills, attention to detail, device crafting|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$37,190 for medical appliance technicians|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||14% for medical appliance technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many medical device technicians learn their craft through on-the-job training. However, formal education makes them more valuable to employers and provides opportunities for advancement to more complex areas or sales and marketing. Medical device technology programs offer 2-year associate degrees or 1-year certificate programs, typically in either orthotic or prosthetic technology. Students learn anatomy and physiology, orthotic and prosthetic materials and applied biomechanical principles. Programs provide instruction in a range of implements and tools and provide practical experience with them, according to NCOPE.
The job of a medical device technician is a hands-on one. Anyone interested in pursuing a career as a technician should be adept with hand tools, have strong attention to detail and take pride in crafting devices that add quality to the lives of patients.
Career and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that demand for medical device technicians would grow by 14%, faster than the average for all occupations, from 2016-2026. Advances in technology and the increasing prevalence of the two leading causes of limb loss, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, will drive demand; however, manufacturing advances have reduced the need for technicians. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for medical device technicians as of May 2017 was $37,190.
Check out these other choices for careers in medical equipment:
Medical Equipment Repairer
A career as a medical equipment repairer should also be considered. These equipment repairmen perform maintenance, calibration and testing of medical devices. They also replace parts, fix broken machines and teach others about a device's operation. To find employment in this occupation usually an associate degree in engineering or biomedical equipment technology is required. Those who work on more advanced devices like CT scanners may need additional education or a bachelor's degree. Professional certification is also available for workers who seek career advancement. Based on reports from the BLS, employment growth of 4% is predicted in this field between 2016 and 2026, and medical equipment repairers earned a median salary of $48,820 in 2017.
Orthotist or Prosthetist
If a job designing and outfitting people with orthotic devices, artificial limbs and other body parts is desired, becoming an orthotist or prosthetist may be the right career option. Referred to as O&P professionals, they go beyond just repairing and fitting; they actually choose materials, make molds and design the device after consulting with the patient and doctors. To enter this field, earning a master's degree in prosthetics or orthotics is required, and program components include clinical training with an O&P professional. Some states also require licensure, which includes completing a formal residency and passing a certification exam. The BLS expects a 22% increase in job opportunities during the 2016-2026 decade, and O&P professionals earned $66,240 in median yearly salaries as of 2017.