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Work Schedule: Monday ~ Friday, 8:00 AM ~ 4:30 PM Functional Statement Title/#: Orthotist/Prosthetist
Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them. These devices include artificial limbs (arms, hands, legs, and feet), braces, and other medical or surgical devices.
Orthotists and prosthetists typically do the following:
Orthotists and prosthetists may work in both orthotics and prosthetics, or they may choose to specialize in one area. Orthotists are specifically trained to work with medical supportive devices, such as spinal or knee braces. Prosthetists are specifically trained to work with prostheses, such as artificial limbs and other body parts.
Some orthotists and prosthetists construct devices for their patients. Others supervise the construction of the orthotic or prosthetic devices by medical appliance technicians.
Orthotists and prosthetists hold about 8,300. The industries that employ the most orthotists and prosthetists are as follows:
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||31%|
|Health and personal care stores||21|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||18|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||11|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||8|
Orthotists and prosthetists who fabricate orthotics and prosthetics may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain materials, but there is little risk of injury if workers follow proper procedures, such as wearing goggles, gloves, and masks.
Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.
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Orthotists and prosthetists need a master’s degree and certification. Both orthotists and prosthetists must complete a residency before they can be certified.
All orthotists and prosthetists must complete a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. These programs include courses in upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, spinal orthotics, and plastics and other materials used for fabrication. In addition, orthotics and prosthetics programs have a clinical component in which the student works under the direction of an orthotist or prosthetist.
Master’s programs usually take 2 years to complete. Prospective students seeking a master’s degree can have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline if they have fulfilled prerequisite courses in science and math. Requirements vary by program.
There are 13 orthotics and prosthetics programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program (CAAHEP).
Following graduation from a master’s degree program, candidates must complete a residency that has been accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Candidates typically complete a 1-year residency program in either orthotics or prosthetics. Individuals who want to become certified in both orthotics and prosthetics need to complete 1 year of residency training for each specialty or, less commonly, an 18-month residency in both orthotics and prosthetics.
Some states require orthotists and prosthetists to be licensed. States that license orthotists and prosthetists often require certification in order for them to practice, although requirements vary by state. Many orthotists and prosthetists become certified regardless of state requirements, because certification demonstrates competence.
The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) and the Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) offer certifications for orthotists and prosthetists. To earn certification, a candidate must complete a CAAHEP-accredited master’s program, an NCOPE-accredited residency program, and pass a series of three exams.
Communication skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must be able to communicate effectively with the technicians who often fabricate the medical devices. They must also be able to explain to patients how to use and care for the devices.
Detail oriented. Orthotists and prosthetists must be precise when recording measurements to ensure that devices are fabricated and fit properly.
Leadership skills. Orthotists and prosthetists who work in their own offices must be effective leaders. They must be able to manage a staff of other professionals in their office.
Patience. Orthotists and prosthetists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.
Physical dexterity. Orthotists and prosthetists must be good at working with their hands. They may fabricate orthotics or prosthetics with intricate mechanical parts.
Physical stamina. Orthotists and prosthetists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as working with shop equipment and hand tools. They may spend a lot of time bending over or crouching to examine or measure patients.
Problem-solving skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must evaluate their patients’ situations and often look for creative solutions to their rehabilitation needs.
The median annual wage for orthotists and prosthetists is $64,430. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,550.
The median annual wages for orthotists and prosthetists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||$69,150|
|Health and personal care stores||66,410|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||66,150|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||61,410|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||54,910|
The wages for orthotists and prosthetists vary substantially depending on the industries they work in.
Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.
Employment of orthotists and prosthetists is projected to grow 23 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,900 new jobs over the 10-year period.
The large aging baby-boom population will create a need for orthotists and prosthetists, because both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are two leading causes of limb loss, are more common among older people. In addition, older people will continue to need other devices designed and fitted by orthotists and prosthetists, such as braces and orthopedic footwear.
Advances in technology are allowing more people to survive traumatic events. Patients with traumatic injuries, such as some veterans, will continue to need orthotists and prosthetists to create devices that allow the patients to regain or improve mobility and functionality.
Moreover, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. Patients who were previously uninsured or found treatment to be cost prohibitive may opt for new or replacement devices, such as braces or artificial limbs.
Job prospects should be best for orthotists and prosthetists with professional certification. Although it is not required in all states, certification shows a specific level of educational knowledge and training that employers may prefer.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2014||Projected Employment, 2024||Change, 2014-24|
|Orthotists and prosthetists||8,300||10,100||23||1,900|