Orthotists and Prosthetists
Education and Training Requirements
If you are interested in becoming an orthotist or a prosthetist, take college preparatory classes in mathematics, biology, physics, and chemistry. These classes will familiarize you with basic anatomy and the properties of various materials. Computer science courses will prepare you to use computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing technology for making mechanical drawings and blueprints. Shop classes or sculpture classes that teach you how to work with metal, plastic, or wood will familiarize you with the materials and processes the orthotist or prosthetist uses in creating braces or artificial limbs.
A master's degree is required to work as a prosthetist or orthotist, and then additional training is needed to become certified. Approximately 12 master's degree programs 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. Your college course work will include classes in anatomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, physics, and math, as well as occupation-specific classes such as upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, plastics and other materials, and spinal orthotics. You will also complete at least 500 hours of clinical experience, split equally between orthotics and prosthetics, under the supervision of an experienced orthotist or prosthetist.
This profession has high academic requirements in math and science, with post-graduate training required to become certified. Though training in this field is considerable, orthotists and prosthetists are rewarded by the positive impact they have in peoples' lives.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Certification is highly recommended to maximize skill, advancement, and earnings. The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) offers certification for orthotists and prosthetists. To be eligible for the certification exam, practitioners must meet education and clinical residency requirments. To learn more, visit http://www.abcop.org/individual-certification/Pages/default.aspx.
Some states require licensure for orthotists and prosthetists. Practitioners are responsible for complying with any state's requirements before working as an orthotist or prosthetist in that state. Visit https://www.abcop.org/State-Licensure/Pages/state-licensure.aspx to learn if licensure is required in your state.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Those wishing to enter the field of orthotiocs/prosthetics should obtain as much experience as possible in college by participating in internships, clinical training, or volunteer opportunities, or by working at a part-time job at a hospital, rehabilitation center, or other provider of orthotic and prosthetic services.
To be a successful orthotist or prosthetist, you must communicate well with the patient and the patient's health care team. The O and P profession is highly specialized and requires passion for the field and a committment to keep pace with changing technologies.
A person considering a career as an orthotist or prosthetist should have an interest in patient care. He or she should possess compassion and good communication skills to create the best patient management plan.