Orthotic and Prosthetic Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Courses in metal shop, wood shop, and machine shop should provide a good background for working with materials and tools used in this profession. Math classes, especially algebra and geometry, will teach you to work with measurements. You may also want to take art classes to develop your eye-hand coordination, sense of design and proportions, and knowledge of materials such as leather, metals, and plastics. Biology, health, or anatomy classes will give you an understanding of the structure of the human body, which will be needed in your future career. Computer science courses will also be helpful, as computer technologies are used in the designing of devices. Because technicians work closely with orthotists and prosthetists, they need excellent communication skills and the ability to follow directions precisely. Therefore, you should take English classes to hone your writing and speaking skills and develop your ability to interpret directions.

Postsecondary Training

Following high school, you have two options. You may enroll in a two-year program of supervised clinical experience and training. This method, which is the most common, is basically on-the-job training, in which the trainee works under the supervision of a certified orthotist, prosthetist, or orthotist-prosthetist. After the two years of training are successfully completed, the trainee achieves technician status.

The second method is to enroll in a one- or two-year program of formal instruction leading to a certificate or associate's degree in orthotics-prosthetics technology. The programs typically include classes in anatomy and physiology, properties of materials, prosthetic and orthotic techniques, and building devices, as well as supervised clinical experience. As of 2016, only seven technician programs were offered in the United States that are accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). For a listing of these schools, visit the NCOPE Web site at https://ncope.org. Because of the scarcity of training programs, a much smaller number of technicians choose this method of training to enter the field.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are presently no licensing requirements for orthotic and prosthetic technicians. There is, however, a certification program offered by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (commonly called ABC). Candidates must have a minimum of a high school diploma and must have completed either the two-year supervised on-the-job training program or a one- or two-year program of formal instruction in an NCOPE-accredited institution. In addition, all candidates must pass an examination administered by ABC. Depending on their area of concentration, technicians who pass the examination are designated as certified orthotic technician, certified prosthetic technician, or certified orthotic-prosthetic technician. To maintain registration, a technician must complete a certain number of ABC-approved professional continuing education credits every five years.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A secondary education or certification is not required to become an orthotic and prosthetic technician, however, certification is highly recommended to become a competitive applicant. Currently, there are about 10 schools in the country that provide either a certification program or an associate's degree for those wishing to be orthotic and prosthetic technicians.

To be a successful orthotic and prosthetic technician, you need good eye-hand coordination, ability to operate small hand tools, an artistic perception, good communication skills, ability to adapt to changing situations, working knowledge of measurements, basic math, and human anatomy. A technician must be able to take direction and communicate well with the orthotist or prosthetist.

To be a successful orthotic or prosthetic technician, you will need to enjoy working with your hands and have excellent eye-hand coordination. You must also be patient and detail oriented because this work involves precise measurements and working on a piece until it is an exact fit. Technicians should be committed to lifelong learning, as new technologies, materials, and processes are continuously being developed. A good sense of color will also be helpful because your responsibilities may include matching the color of a device to a patient's skin tone.