Master's degree programs in orthotics and prosthetics offer a combination of classroom courses, lab work and hands-on experience and are generally two years in length. Courses cover topics such as materials, biomechanics, gait analysis and radiographic procedures. Extensive clinical requirements give students hands-on experience. Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics and Master of Orthotics and Prosthetics programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP); as of October 2016, there were only 13 accredited programs available at U.S. schools. There are some online courses available. Bachelor's degrees in prosthetics and orthotics are also available, but less common.
Entrance into a master's program requires a bachelor's degree, GRE scores, and college level courses in anatomy and physiology, psychology, biology, chemistry, and math. Programs may also encourage applicants to have prior volunteer experience in orthotics and prosthetics.
Master's Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics
Students take a combination of didactic and practical courses. The program can be completed in two years but may require students to participate in clinicals during the summer. Some programs may allow students to select an emphasis in pediatrics. After completing the degree program, graduates then go on to complete a one-year residency in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, research centers or other approved locations. Common topics of classroom study include:
- Orthotics and prosthetics procedures
- Spinal orthotics
- Upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for prosthetists and orthotists is expected to grow at a faster-than-average rate between the years of 2014 and 2024, increasing by about 23%, meaning there should be many job options for people selecting this career route. The median annual salary for orthotists and prosthetists was $64,430 as of May 2015.
Prosthetists and orthotists may obtain board certification through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. Certification requires completing an approved master's degree program and a 1-year long residency, as well as passing an exam. At least 100 credit-hours of continuing medical education are required during each 5-year cycle in order to maintain board certification credentials. Some states also require prosthetists and orthotists to be licensed. Licensure requirements vary by state, but typically require one to have board certification.
The field of orthotics and prosthetics is an ever-expanding field. Jobs are likely to be more accessible to students who obtain their master's degree and certification.