Monday, July 30, 2007 Insights by Admissions Counselors Blog

Are you thinking about a career in the O&P field?
Read this article; it maybe of help.

Orthology and Prosthetology

Orthotics and prosthetics are two exciting careers that combine the challenge of working with cutting-edge technology and the satisfaction of helping people in need.

Patients who need customized artificial limbs or support systems are helped by prosthetists or orthotists. Orthotists work with patients who need extra support for their muscles, spine, or limbs. For example, orthotists design and fit corrective shoes or cutstomized braces.

Prosthetists work with patients who need replacement limbs.

There are two levels of professional work in orthotics and prosthetics: practitioners and technicians.

Practitioners are part of a team of healthcare workers who develop an effective rehabilitation program for the patient. They work with physicians, surgeons, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, and vocational rehabilitation counselors to understand the patient’s needs. Before designing a prosthesis (artificial limb) or an orthosis (brace or splint), the practitioner examines the patient to determine the best way to make a prosthesis or an orthosis. The practitioner takes measurements and makes a plaster impression; then, he or she designs the device, supervises its construction, and evaluates how well the device fits the patient.

Technicians actually build the orthoses or prostheses—typically from materials such as metals, plastics, leathers, and fabrics—under the supervision of the practitioner.

Becoming a certified prosthetist or orthotist is a five-year process. Certification is optional, but recommended. Prosthetists and orthotists must have a four-year bachelor’s degree. Generally, they have two years of general study followed by two years of professional training, which includes study in science and human anatomy. Following the bachelor’s degree, students must complete a one-year residency. Once the residency is completed, students are eligible to sit for the certification exam.

Becoming a technician is not quite so rigorous. It’s a good choice for students who are interested in craft rather than the clinical aspects of the profession.

Most technician programs are two years and focus on mechanics and materials science.
Career outlook The career outlook for orthotists and prosthetists is good. While only eight institutions nationwide currently offer orthotics and prosthetics education, the demand for provider services is expected to increase by 25% for orthotic care and 47% for prosthetic care by 2020. This practitioner shortage means more demand than ever for graduates of the nation’s orthotics and prosthetics education programs. Changes in technology and science make this career area exciting and challenging. The average wage for full-time registered technicians is $40,454 annually. Most technicians work for practitioners, where they specialize in the types of devices they create. Some work in fabrication centers, where they specialize in the creation of specific kinds of devices.

The average salary for non-certified, licensed orthotists and prosthetists with seven years of experience is $56,040. The average salary for a certified professional with fifteen years of experience is $91,452. Most prosthetists and orthotists work in private practices and hospitals. Some work as researchers in universities and government facilities.

If helping others who are injured or disabled appeals to you—and if you can conceive and create the kinds of devices described above—you should consider orthotics or prosthetics.

If you think you might be interested in a career in orthotics or prosthetics, contact the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists, 526 King Street, Suite 201, Alexandria, VA 22314, 703-836-0788; or visit their website at or their career website at

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