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How Can I Become an Orthotic and Prosthetic Technician?

Research what it takes to become an orthotic and prosthetic technician. Learn about education requirements, job duties, training and certification options to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is an Orthotic and Prosthetic Technician?

Orthotic and prosthetic technicians are medical appliance technicians who specialize in the fabrication of braces and artificial limbs for injured or disabled individuals. Based on the specifications of orthotists and prosthetists, who develop treatment plans to meet specific patient needs, technicians use specialized tools to create high-quality medical support devices and artificial limbs. They may also test the devices to make sure they work as expected. If the device breaks, technicians may repair or replace it. For some patients, they may also adjust the device over time in response to physiological changes.

The following chart gives you an overview about a career as an orthotic and prosthetic technician.

Degree Required High school diploma, post-secondary certificate or associate's degree
Training Required On-the-job training may be available
Key Responsibilities Fabricate devices for patients who require artificial limbs or supportive devices; shape, smooth, assemble and polish devices using power tools or hand tools; fit and adjust device to conform to doctor's specifications and patient anatomy; repaire damaged devices
Certification Professional certification is available
Job Growth (2018-2028) 20%* ('for orthotists and prosthetists')
Average Salary (2019) $48,034**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ; **Payscale.com

What Will I Do as an Orthotic and Prosthetic Technician?

Orthotic and prosthetic (O & P) technicians are medical appliance technicians who create artificial limbs, limb braces and corrective footwear for patients. As an O & P technician, you will design these devices according to the specifications of medical professionals, like prosthetists and orthotists, who provide you with patients' measurements, casts or digital images. You'll also check the appliances you constructed for quality, mobility and correct alignment. You might repair or do maintenance on used limbs or other devices when necessary.

What Education Do I Need?

You may benefit from studying math and science in high school to prepare for a career as an O & P technician. Other helpful classes include computer training, industrial arts, creative arts and drafting. A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement for entry into this career. Most O & P technicians learn their skills via on-the-job training. After getting hired, you will probably work as an assistant and develop your craft as you gain experience.

While not mandatory, many employers favor job seekers with formal schooling. You may choose to earn a certificate or an associate's degree through an accredited O & P technician program. These programs include courses in orthotics and prosthetics fabrication, spinal and extremities orthotics, repair techniques and anatomy. Students may also be required to complete internships or practicums.

Can I Get Certified?

You may choose to earn voluntary certification to boost your career opportunities. The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics offers certification for O & P technicians. To be eligible for the Certified O & P Technician designation, you need a high school diploma or GED. You also must have finished an accredited technician training program or have two years of supervised work experience in the field.

Where Might I Work?

The majority of O & P technicians work in manufacturing labs. You might also become self-employed and run your own lab. Your other options include working for private medical offices, equipment wholesalers, hospitals and specialized clinics, health and personal care stores, rehabilitation institutions or nursing homes.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in fabricating support devices for health purposes, you could consider becoming a dental laboratory technician. These professionals make dentures, crowns and bridges based on impressions of patients' mouths and teeth. Like orthotic and prosthetic technicians, they need at least a high school diploma to launch a career in the field.

Another option is to work as a physical therapy aide. Aides support the work of physical therapists by setting up equipment, cleaning treatment areas, directing patients around the clinic and handling office work like scheduling appointments and billing insurance companies. They usually need a high school diploma or the equivalent in order to get a job.