Career Definition for an Orthotist
An orthotist is a health professional responsible for measuring, constructing, and fitting orthopedic devices ordered for patients by physicians. These devices, called orthoses, correct and support physical disabilities or conditions such as foot imbalances, soft tissue injuries, and fractures.
|Education||Master's degree in orthotics and prosthetics|
|Licensing and Certification||Requirements vary by state; residency also needed before taking board certification exams|
|Job Skills||Knowledge of anatomy and kinesiology, measurement taking, communication skills|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$66,240 for orthotists and prosthetists|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||22% for orthotists and prosthetists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
This career requires a master's degree in prosthetics and orthotics, which includes a combination of classroom and clinical training. These programs don't usually require a specific undergraduate major, but they may require completion of math and science classes.
Licensing and Certification Requirements
State licensing requirements for orthotists vary. After earning a master's degree, an orthotist must complete a year-long residency before he or she is eligible to apply for the national certification boards. Board certification is a prerequisite for licensing in some states.
The successful orthotist is able to combine theory and practice to create individual orthoses. Thorough knowledge of human anatomy and kinesiology is essential, as is the ability to take precise measurements. Good patient interaction is a plus.
Career and Economic Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that demand for orthotists and prosthetists will grow by 22% between 2016 and 2026. In 2017, the median U.S. salary for orthotists and prosthetists was $66,240 according to the BLS. Salaries are highest in states such as California, Virginia, Louisiana and Massachusetts. However, California, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois offer the most employment opportunities.
Alternate Career Options
Explore these other choices in the field of healthcare:
Dental Laboratory Technician
A dental lab technician crafts therapeutic and cosmetic dental appliances like crowns, bridges, and dentures based on molds of patients' teeth. They use a variety of tools and materials, and may specialize in the types of dental pieces they work on. A high school diploma is required for employment. Voluntary professional certifications are available. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to increase by 14% from 2016-2026, and they paid a median salary of $38,670 in 2017.
Physical therapists help patients with movement issues attributable to a variety of conditions, including illness, age or injury. They assess patients and prescribe exercises, assistive technology (like crutches) or applied treatments like electrical stimulation. Physical therapists are required to hold state licensing. The requirements for licensure vary, but include at least a 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, a 1-year clinical residency, and a passing score on the National Physical Therapy Examination. Physical therapists who complete additional clinical training and take an exam can earn board certification in an area of specialty, like geriatric care. Physical therapist jobs are predicted to increase 28% from 2016-2026, according to the BLS; physical therapists earned median pay of $86,850 in 2017.