Medical Appliance Technician

Arch Support Maker, Arch Support Technician, Arch-Support Maker, Artificial Limb Maker   More Names
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Make, fit, maintain, and repair braces, artificial limbs, joints, arch supports, and other surgical and medical appliances and devices. Follow prescriptions and detailed instructions from a range of healthcare professionals.

Such healthcare professionals include podiatrists (who specialize in foot problems); from orthotists and prosthetists (who prescribe artificial limbs or orthopedic braces); or from other healthcare professionals on behalf of patients who need these appliances and devices because of a birth defect, disease, accident, or amputation. Also help instruct patients in the use of their custom-made medical appliances or devices.

Medical appliance technicians are employed for the most part by medical equipment manufacturing and supply companies, usually in small, privately owned businesses. The rest are self-employed; work for non-profit organizations; or for local, state, or federal government agencies. They make and manufacture the needed braces, artificial limbs, joints, arch supports, and other surgical and medical appliances that are prescribed for patients by orthotists and prosthetists, podiatrists, and other medical specialists.

In doing their work, medical appliance technicians must precisely follow the instructions they are given in order to accurately build the medical appliance or device that is needed by a patient. Because they need to construct such a wide-range of appliances and devices, many medical appliance technicians are specialists who will make only certain types of these products.

For example, podiatrists or orthotists will request braces, supports, corrective shoes, or other orthotic devices; while prosthetists order prostheses - replacement limbs, such as an artificial arm, leg, hand, or foot. Medical appliance technicians who work with these special types of devices are called orthotic and prosthetic technicians. By comparison, speech and hearing specialists will request custom hearing aids to help correct hearing problems, and work with other medical appliance technicians who specialize in speech and hearing devices.

In building an appliance or device, medical appliance technicians will take a patient's body or limb measurements, and make needed casts and molds, for use in device construction. Along with the written prescriptions and specifications, these measurements, casts, and molds provide the precise directions required to make the needed appliance or device.

Medical appliance technicians will use a variety of materials and tools including thermoplastic and thermosetting materials that respond to heat and temperature, metal alloys, and leather. In the process they will use hand and power tools, such as drills and saws. After an appliance or device is made, they may help to instruct a patient on its proper use, and make any final adjustments if required. They also will assist the medical professional who requested the product in maintaining it and in making repairs.

Medical appliance technician is an entry-level occupation that is well-suited to individuals who enjoy custom-making devices and appliances in a work-bench, laboratory setting. With experience and further training, an individual may become a supervisor or manager, or perhaps open their own medical appliance manufacturing business.

Alternatively, with additional formal education, medical appliance technicians who make orthotics and prostheses can advance to become orthotists or prosthetists - the practitioners who work directly with patients who need braces, prostheses, or related devices and help determine the specifications for those devices.

Credentials Needed: Medical appliance technicians are not required to be state licensed or registered. However, there are several voluntary industry-based, skill certifications that support this occupation.

For example, voluntary certification for orthotic and prosthetic technicians is available through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC) which offers the entry-level Certified Orthotist, Certified Prosthetist, and Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist credentials for applicants who have completed a postsecondary education program accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), who have two-years of experience as a technician under the direct supervision of an ABC certified practitioner, and who have passed the applicable certification exam.

The ABC also administers six additional mid-level and advanced certification programs for different orthotic and prosthetic specialties. This association is the national certifying and accrediting body for the orthotic, prosthetic and pedorthic professions.

Some Key Things to Remember: Medical appliance technicians make, fit, maintain, and repair braces, artificial limbs, joints, arch supports, and other surgical and medical appliances and devices. They follow prescriptions and detailed instructions from podiatrists, orthotists and prosthetists, or other healthcare professionals on behalf of patients who need these appliances and devices because of a birth defect, disease, accident, or amputation. Although most medical appliance technicians learn their tasks and duties through on-the-job training, employers increasingly are looking for some formal postsecondary training in hiring and promoting.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
11% - Average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $28,310 - $46,910    Hourly: $14 - $23
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements
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Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Associate's Degree (High School + 2 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

11% - Average
Find Jobs

Typical Wages:

Annual: $28,310 - $46,910

Hourly: $14 - $23