Orthotist and Prosthetist

American Board Certified Orthotist (ABC Orthotist), Artificial Limb Fitter   More Names
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Assist patients with disabling conditions of limbs and spine or partial or total absence of a limb by fitting and preparing orthoses or prostheses. Examine, interview, and measure patients to determine their appliance needs.

Fit, test, and evaluate devices on patients, and make adjustments for proper fit, function, and comfort. Instruct patients in the use and care of an orthosis (which corrects walking patterns) or prosthesis (which replaces a missing limb or other body part).

Orthotists and prosthetists are employed by hospitals and clinics; laboratories and related businesses, such as shop-laboratories; medical schools; and colleges and universities. In larger hospitals and clinics, experienced orthotists and prosthetists also may serve as department heads. While some may become researchers, teachers, and sales persons, others may choose to become self-employed and start their own practices.

Orthotists and prosthetists work directly with the physicians and surgeons as well as other representatives of the medical and allied health professions in the rehabilitation of the physically disabled. The orthotist designs and fits mechanical devices, known as orthoses, to provide care to patients who have disabling conditions of the limbs and spine. The prosthetist designs and fits man-made devices, known as prostheses, for patients who have partial or total absence of a limb.

Both orthotists and prosthetists help to evaluate and custom fit artificial limbs and braces for patients who require them. They help patients use the damaged or injured parts of their bodies and even replace them if necessary. They also help to correct malformations. The particular techniques that these practitioners use vary with the form of injury or deformity that a patient has.

Orthotists and prosthetists examine, interview, and measure patients to determine their appliance needs and to identify factors that could affect appliance fit. They then carefully design braces and artificial limbs so as to suit the specific needs of the patients. They craft the braces and artificial limbs from wood, aluminum, rubber steel, leather, plastic, and cloth. After manufacturing the devices, they fit them properly on their patients, making adjustments as needed. They also instruct patients in the use and care of their orthoses and prostheses, and maintain patients' records.

Orthotics and prosthetics are both applied physical disciplines that address neuromuscular and structural skeletal problems in the human body with a treatment process that includes evaluation and transfer of forces using orthoses and prostheses to achieve optimum use and prevent further injury or disability.

The opportunities for advancement for orthotists and prosthetists largely depend on experience, education, and skills. They need to work well with machines as well as with their hands. Their jobs also require strong interpersonal skills as they need to communicate with their patients. They also require sensitivity to the needs of their patients.

Credentials Needed: Thirteen states currently require an orthotist or prosthetist to be state licensed or registered in order to practice in the state. These states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

Licensing requirements vary from state-to-state and are updated periodically. As a result, it is a good idea to check with your state when beginning your studies to see if they have current licensing requirements to work as an orthotist or prosthetist. Often a state's department of health and mental hygiene is a good starting point to search for this information.

Voluntary industry-based certification for orthotists and prosthetists is available through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC) which offers the Certified Orthotist, Certified Prosthetist, and Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist credentials. Information and requirements for each of these certification programs is available on the ABC website.

ABC's Certified Orthotist, Certified Prosthetist and Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist credentialing programs are accredited by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). This organization is the national accrediting body for certifications in the orthotic, prosthetic and pedorthic professions.

Some Key Things to Remember: Orthotists and prosthetists assist patients with disabling conditions of the limbs and spine or with partial or total absence of a limb by fitting and preparing orthoses or prostheses. They examine, interview, and measure patients to determine their appliance needs and to identify factors that could affect appliance fit.

A bachelor's degree usually is required for the entry-level employment as an orthotist or prosthetist, with a number of employers preferring a master's degree. Most states currently do not require licensing for these occupations. Voluntary industry-based certification is available for both orthotists and prosthetists.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
23% - Much faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $49,790 - $85,390    Hourly: $24 - $41
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Bachelor's Degree (High School + 4 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

23% - Much faster than average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $49,790 - $85,390

Hourly: $24 - $41