Orthotics deals with the design, production and application of special braces and devices that are used to correct or support damaged limbs. Individuals aspiring to become orthotists must complete a 2-year Master of Prosthetics and Orthotics degree program in the field in addition to a 1-year residency. However, since a 4-year Bachelor of Applied Science in Orthotics degree used to be the standard for licensure, some are still available in the field. Students can expect to complete advanced science coursework and clinical practica in preparation for entering the residency programs. Once the residency has been successfully completed, candidates can pursue an applicable professional certification. Prerequisites include a high school diploma or its equivalent is for a bachelor's degree, and a bachelor's degree for a master's. Clinicals, research and a residency are also required and some courses and programs are available online. College students interested in majoring in orthotics are typically required to first complete courses in biology, human anatomy, general physics, laboratory science and statistics. They are also required to maintain CPR certification.
Bachelor of Applied Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics
A bachelor's degree program in orthotics and prosthetics is available in the field. However, these programs may not be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Most schools allow students to declare a major in orthotics before their junior year upon completing general education and health science prerequisites courses in human anatomy and general biology.
Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in orthotics and prosthetics spend course hours studying the various types of orthotics, such as spinal orthotics and lower extremity orthotics. They also learn the clinical methods used in assessing patients and fitting prosthetics and orthotics. Bachelor's degree programs in the field include a clinical practicum.
Most of the core courses are upper-level, advanced courses covering various areas of science and clinical medicine as related to orthotics. Specific examples include:
- Introduction to orthotics and rehabilitation
- Human anatomy and physiology for orthotics
- Gait analysis
- Lower and upper extremity orthotics
- Transfemoral prosthetics
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Master of Prosthetics and Orthotics
A school may offer a master's degree program in prosthetics and orthotics. These programs are designed to prepare students to for licensure. Such programs typically take about two years to complete and consist of core courses in prosthetics and orthotics as well as research and foundational courses. Students learn how to evaluate patient needs, design and produce prostheses and develop patient treatment plans. Students who complete a master's degree in prosthetics and orthotics must still complete a 1-year residency before they can work in the field.
Applicants must have a bachelor's degree. They must submit GRE test scores, a proposed plan of study and a list of any professional or volunteer experience in the healthcare field.
Graduate degree programs in prosthetics and orthotics cover the same foundational and core courses as bachelor's degree programs in the field. However, they require fewer general education courses and more advanced research courses. Example courses include:
- Clinical gait analysis
- Lower limb orthotics
- Spinal orthotics
- Assistive technology
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), orthotists and prosthetists held a 7,100 positions in the country in 2015. These professionals earned a median annual salary of about $64,430 in 2015. They were primarily employed by medical manufacturing companies, healthcare stores and physicians' offices.
Students who complete an CAAHEP-accredited bachelor's or master's degree program in orthotics are eligible to enroll in a 1-year residency program at a site approved by the National Commission on Orthotics and Prosthetics Education. Upon completion of the residency, individuals are eligible to gain certification from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics.
Bachelor of Applied Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics are available, but those interested in the field should acquire a Master of Prosthetics and Orthotics degree. Coursework becomes more specific as the degrees advance and certification is available from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics.