Orthotic technicians help patients regain mobility by producing and fitting orthotic devices, such as leg braces or prosthetic limbs. The educational background required is not extensive, though there is quite a bit of on-the-job training in the practical aspects of orthotic production and application.
Orthotic technicians, or medical appliance technicians, prepare braces, supports and other orthotic devices for injured or disabled patients. Aspiring orthotic technicians must earn a high school diploma and complete on-the-job training, at minimum, though completion of a degree or certificate program in orthotics technology may provide better job opportunities. After gaining work experience, orthotic technicians may consider pursuing voluntary professional certification.
|Required Education||High school diploma at minimum; certificate or associate's degree may be preferred|
|Other Requirements||On-the-job training or internships/clinical practicums|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)*||13% for medical appliance technicians|
|Average Salary (2018)*||$39,190 for all medical appliance technicians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Orthotic Technician Career Overview
Orthotic technicians help treat patients in need of corrective shoes, braces or other supports. These professionals use measurements of patients' bodies and doctors' prescriptions to construct orthotic appliances. During the construction process, they may use drills, welders, bolts and glue to shape thermoplastics. Orthotic technicians also polish supports and braces with buffing or grinding wheels.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that there were more than 15,500 medical appliance technicians employed across the country in May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Most worked in the medical equipment and supplies manufacturing industry; however, some technicians were employed by healthcare stores, offices of physicians and wholesale manufacturers.
Requirements for Orthotic Technicians
A high school diploma is the main educational requirement for orthotic technicians, and most employers provide training on the job. However, many employers prefer to hire technicians who have some formal training. The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) recognizes five postsecondary programs that offer associate degrees or certificates for orthotic or prosthetic technicians.
Associate's degree programs in orthotics technology typically last two years, while certificate programs last one year. Students learn to create a variety of orthotic and prosthetic devices for the hands, arms, back and lower extremities. They also gain hands-on experience through internships or clinical practicums. Certificate programs tend to include coursework specifically in orthotics, while associate's programs often include general education requirements.
Technicians may obtain voluntary certification in orthotics fitting from The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. Certification requirements include a high school diploma, as well as completion of an NCOPE-approved class and 1,000 hours of orthotics experience (www.abcop.org). Candidates are also required to pass a 100-question exam on anatomy, fitting, prefabricated orthotics and ethics to obtain the Certified Fitter-orthotics credential.
Economic Outlook for Orthotic Technicians
The BLS reports that jobs for medical appliance technicians were expected to grow as much faster than the national average through 2028. This growth will result from increases in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are the major causes of limb loss. However, advancements in prosthetic technology manufacturing were expected to slow the demand for these technicians. In May 2018, the BLS reported that professionals in the 90th percentile or higher earned $63,130 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $24,090 or less per year.
Orthotic technicians need patience and flexible thinking, as well as physical stamina and dexterity. A high school diploma and on-the-job training may be all that's needed to get started in this field, although some earn certificates or associate's degrees.