Orthotists and Prosthetists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Orthotists and Prosthetists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Duties of Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate and interview patients to determine their needs
  • Take measurements or impressions of the part of a patient’s body that will be fitted with a brace or artificial limb
  • Design and fabricate orthopedic and prosthetic devices based on physicians’ prescriptions
  • Select materials to be used for the orthotic or prosthetic device
  • Instruct patients in how to use and care for their devices
  • Adjust, repair, or replace prosthetic and orthotic devices
  • Document care in patients’ records

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.

Work Environment for Orthotists and Prosthetists[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Orthotist and Prosthetist Work Schedules

Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.

How to Become an Orthotist or Prosthetist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Orthotists and Prosthetists near you!

Orthotists and prosthetists need a master’s degree and certification. Both orthotists and prosthetists must complete a residency before they can be certified.

Orthotist and Prosthetist Education

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).

Orthotist and Prosthetist Training

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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.

Important Qualities for Orthotists and Prosthetists

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.

Orthotist and Prosthetist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

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.

Job Outlook for Orthotists and Prosthetists[About this section] [To Top]

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.

Orthotists and Prosthetists Job Prospects

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.

Employment projections data for Orthotists and Prosthetists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Orthotists and prosthetists 8,300 10,100 23 1,900

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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