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Orthopedic Technician Education Requirements and Career Info

Working as a orthopedic technician requires little to no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

On-the-job training is a big factor to becoming an orthopedic technician. Also known as medical appliance technician, this position requires only a high school diploma and has professional certification available through the American Board of Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics. Orthopedic technicians mainly assist with applying casts and physical therapy.

Essential Information

Orthopedic technicians, also known as medical appliance technicians, assist orthopedic surgeons in the care and treatment of patients with musculoskeletal problems, such as bone fractures or damaged joints. They can help apply and remove casts, assist with orthopedic physical therapy and care for surgical and medical appliances. Most enter this career field through on-the-job training rather than formal education.

Required Education High school diploma; certificates are available, but rare
Other Requirements On-the-job training
Certification Voluntary through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics for those with a formal education or two years' work experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% for medical appliance technicians
Median Salary (May 2015)* $34,890 for medical appliance technicians

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Orthopedic Technician Education Requirements

To become an orthopedic technician, a high school diploma is typically required. Although it's not required, earning a certificate in orthopedic technician training from a technical school or community college could give an aspiring professional an advantage when seeking employment. Training programs typically take one to two years to complete and can include an externship for hands-on training.

Coursework in these programs may cover anatomy, the musculoskeletal and nervous system, medical terminology, joint and muscle assessment, fracture complications, x-rays and patient care documentation. Methods of learning include classroom discussions, research, lectures, lab work and clinical education. Clinical education teaches students to apply splints and braces for orthopedic patients in a clinical setting.

Orthopedic Technician Certification

Technicians may apply for certification through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics. To obtain certification, a candidate must either complete a formal training program or two years of full-time orthopedic work experience, then pass the Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists examination. Students are tested on four topics: casting, bracing, splinting and assessment by way of a 150-question examination. Although certification is optional, technicians may obtain certification as enhancement for employment.

Orthopedic Technicians Career Information

Orthopedic technicians can work in a variety of settings, including orthopedic clinics, orthopedic physician's offices or hospital emergency rooms. They work directly with orthopedic physicians and surgeons, assisting them with applying and removing casts, dressings and splints. They also assist patients with treatment and care, order x-rays and sterilize equipment.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that medical appliance technicians will see a 10 percent increase in employment between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations thanks largely to technological advances in manufacturing. The BLS indicated in May 2015 that these technicians earn a median annual income of $34,890 (www.bls.gov).

A high school diploma may be sufficient for employment as an orthopedic technician, but 2-year certificate programs from technical schools and community colleges are available, although they are rare. While the job outlook may be growing by four percent, it's important for prospective orthopedic technicians to stay focused on getting experience in order to further their career. Certification may be optional, but it does help the chances of obtaining a position at a local clinic or physician's office.


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