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Orthotist and Prosthetist Job Description, Career as an Orthotist and Prosthetist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Bachelor's degree

Salary: Median—$59,540 per year

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Orthotists and prosthetists help patients use damaged parts of their bodies or replace parts that patients have lost to accidents or illnesses. Orthotists fit braces to help support parts of the body or to correct malformations. Prosthetists fit artificial limbs.

Working with doctors' prescriptions, orthotists and prosthetists carefully measure their patients and design braces or artificial limbs that suit the patients' specific needs. Braces and artificial limbs are crafted from wood, steel, aluminum, leather, cloth, rubber, and plastic. Once the devices are made, orthotists or prosthetists fit them on their patients, often with the help of doctors and physical therapists. The team makes sure the devices work properly. Adjustments are made, if necessary.

Education and Training Requirements

Bachelor's degrees in orthotics or prosthetics are usually required. After a period of supervised clinical practice, college graduates are eligible for exams given by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics. Others become certified by earning associate degrees in any field; completing certificate programs in orthotics and prosthetics; working for four years in the field; and taking exams.

Getting the Job

Job seekers can apply directly to hospitals, clinics, government agencies, and private companies. School placement offices, professional journals, newspaper classified ads, and job banks on the Internet may offer employment information.

Orthotists make and fit braces to help support parts of the body or to correct malformations. They must design each device to suit the unique needs of its wearer. (© Bob Rowan; Progressive Image/Corbis.)

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

The possibilities for advancement depend on education, experience, and skill. In large hospitals or clinics, orthotists and prosthetists can become department heads. Some start their own practices or become researchers, salespeople, or teachers.

Employment of orthotists and prosthetists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. The field is growing because an aging population needs more rehabilitative care and insurance companies are providing greater access to orthotic and prosthetic devices. Also, advancements in technology are allowing more people to have new devices designed for them.

Working Conditions

Most orthotists and prosthetists work in combination shop-laboratories, which are usually inspected by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics.

Orthotists and prosthetists must work well with their hands and machinery. They must also be able to communicative compassionately with their patients.

Where to Go for More Information

American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists
526 King St., Ste. 201
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 836-0788

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics
330 John Carlyle St., Ste. 210
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 836-7114

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary with education, experience, and place of employment. In 2006 the median salary for experienced, certified orthotists and prosthetists was $59,540 per year. Beginning workers with bachelor's degrees earned about $27,500 per year. Benefits generally included paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans. Self-employed orthotists and prosthetists provided their own benefits.

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