Orthotists and Prosthetists

Summary

orthotists and prosthetists image
Orthotists and prosthetists fit, test, and adjust orthotic and prosthetic devices.
Quick Facts: Orthotists and Prosthetists
2015 Median Pay $64,430 per year
$30.98 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Master's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Internship/residency
Number of Jobs, 2014 8,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 23% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,900

What Orthotists and Prosthetists Do

Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them. These devices include artificial limbs (arms, hands, legs, and feet), braces, and other medical or surgical devices.

Work Environment

Orthotists and prosthetists held about 8,300 jobs in 2014. Most work in offices, where they meet with patients, and then fabricate orthotic and prosthetic devices.

How to Become an Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists and prosthetists need a master’s degree and certification. Both orthotists and prosthetists must complete a residency before they can be certified.

Pay

The median annual wage for orthotists and prosthetists was $64,430 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of orthotists and prosthetists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. The large aging baby-boom population will create a need for orthotists and prosthetists, because both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are the two leading causes of limb loss, are more common among older people.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for orthotists and prosthetists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of orthotists and prosthetists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about orthotists and prosthetists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Orthotists and Prosthetists Do

Orthotists and prosthetists
Orthotists and prosthetists create devices that allow patients to regain or improve mobility and functionality.

Orthotists and prosthetists design and fabricate medical supportive devices and measure and fit patients for them. These devices include artificial limbs (arms, hands, legs, and feet), braces, and other medical or surgical devices. 

Duties

Orthotists and prosthetists typically do the following:

  • Evaluate and interview patients to determine their needs
  • Take measurements or impressions of the part of a patient’s body that will be fitted with a brace or artificial limb
  • Design and fabricate orthopedic and prosthetic devices based on physicians’ prescriptions
  • Select materials to be used for the orthotic or prosthetic device
  • Instruct patients in how to use and care for their devices
  • Adjust, repair, or replace prosthetic and orthotic devices
  • Document care in patients’ records

Orthotists and prosthetists may work in both orthotics and prosthetics, or they may choose to specialize in one area. Orthotists are specifically trained to work with medical supportive devices, such as spinal or knee braces. Prosthetists are specifically trained to work with prostheses, such as artificial limbs and other body parts.

Some orthotists and prosthetists construct devices for their patients. Others supervise the construction of the orthotic or prosthetic devices by medical appliance technicians.

Work Environment

Orthotists and prosthetists
Orthotists and prosthetists evaluate and interview patients to determine their needs.

Orthotists and prosthetists held about 8,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most orthotists and prosthetists were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing 31%
Health and personal care stores 21
Ambulatory healthcare services 18
Hospitals; state, local, and private 11
Federal government, excluding postal service 8

Orthotists and prosthetists who fabricate orthotics and prosthetics may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain materials, but there is little risk of injury if workers follow proper procedures, such as wearing goggles, gloves, and masks.

Work Schedules

Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.

How to Become an Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists and prosthetists
Orthotists and prosthetists must be precise to ensure that devices are fabricated and fit properly.

Orthotists and prosthetists need a master’s degree and certification. Both orthotists and prosthetists must complete a residency before they can be certified.

Education

All orthotists and prosthetists must complete a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. These programs include courses in upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, spinal orthotics, and plastics and other materials used for fabrication. In addition, orthotics and prosthetics programs have a clinical component in which the student works under the direction of an orthotist or prosthetist.

Master’s programs usually take 2 years to complete. Prospective students seeking a master’s degree can have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline if they have fulfilled prerequisite courses in science and math. Requirements vary by program.

In 2015, there were 13 orthotics and prosthetics programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Program​ (CAAHEP).

Training

Following graduation from a master’s degree program, candidates must complete a residency that has been accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Candidates typically complete a 1-year residency program in either orthotics or prosthetics. Individuals who want to become certified in both orthotics and prosthetics need to complete 1 year of residency training for each specialty or, less commonly, an 18-month residency in both orthotics and prosthetics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some states require orthotists and prosthetists to be licensed. States that license orthotists and prosthetists often require certification in order for them to practice, although requirements vary by state. Many orthotists and prosthetists become certified regardless of state requirements, because certification demonstrates competence.

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) and the Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC) offer certifications for orthotists and prosthetists. To earn certification, a candidate must complete a CAAHEP-accredited master’s program, an NCOPE-accredited residency program, and pass a series of three exams.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must be able to communicate effectively with the technicians who often fabricate the medical devices. They must also be able to explain to patients how to use and care for the devices.

Detail oriented. Orthotists and prosthetists must be precise when recording measurements to ensure that devices are fabricated and fit properly.

Leadership skills. Orthotists and prosthetists who work in their own offices must be effective leaders. They must be able to manage a staff of other professionals in their office.

Patience. Orthotists and prosthetists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.

Physical dexterity. Orthotists and prosthetists must be good at working with their hands. They may fabricate orthotics or prosthetics with intricate mechanical parts.

Physical stamina. Orthotists and prosthetists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as working with shop equipment and hand tools. They may spend a lot of time bending over or crouching to examine or measure patients.

Problem-solving skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must evaluate their patients’ situations and often look for creative solutions to their rehabilitation needs.

Pay

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Median annual wages, May 2015

Orthotists and prosthetists

$64,430

Health technologists and technicians

$42,190

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for orthotists and prosthetists was $64,430 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,550.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for orthotists and prosthetists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing $69,150
Health and personal care stores 66,410
Federal government, excluding postal service 66,150
Ambulatory healthcare services 61,410
Hospitals; state, local, and private 54,910

The wages for orthotists and prosthetists vary substantially depending on the industries they work in.

Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.

Job Outlook

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Orthotists and prosthetists

23%

Health technologists and technicians

16%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of orthotists and prosthetists is projected to grow 23 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 1,900 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The large aging baby-boom population will create a need for orthotists and prosthetists, because both diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which are two leading causes of limb loss, are more common among older people. In addition, older people will continue to need other devices designed and fitted by orthotists and prosthetists, such as braces and orthopedic footwear.

Advances in technology are allowing more people to survive traumatic events. Patients with traumatic injuries, such as some veterans, will continue to need orthotists and prosthetists to create devices that allow the patients to regain or improve mobility and functionality.

Moreover, the number of individuals who have access to health insurance is expected to continue to increase because of federal health insurance reform. Patients who were previously uninsured or found treatment to be cost prohibitive may opt for new or replacement devices, such as braces or artificial limbs.

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be best for orthotists and prosthetists with professional certification. Although it is not required in all states, certification shows a specific level of educational knowledge and training that employers may prefer.

Employment projections data for orthotists and prosthetists, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Orthotists and prosthetists

29-2091 8,300 10,100 23 1,900 [XLSX]

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of orthotists and prosthetists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2015 MEDIAN PAY
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Doctoral or professional degree $84,020
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $187,200 per year.
Respiratory therapists

Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

Associate's degree $57,790
Dental laboratory technicians

Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians construct, fit, or repair appliances and devices, including dentures, eyeglasses, and prosthetics.

High school diploma or equivalent $33,950
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working.

Master's degree $80,150

Contacts for More Information

For more information about orthotists and prosthetists, visit

American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists

For a list of accredited programs for orthotists and prosthetists, visit

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs

For a list of accredited residency programs for orthotists and prosthetists, visit

National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education

For more information about certification for orthotists and prosthetists, visit

American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics

Board of Certification/Accreditation

O*NET

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Orthotists and Prosthetists,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/orthotists-and-prosthetists.htm (visited May 03, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015