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How to Become an Orthotist-Prosthetist
An orthotist-prosthetist prepares and fits orthopedic and prosthetic devices. There are orthotic and prosthetic practitioners and technicians. Each level of this special medical technician job has a few accredited training programs in the United States.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,940 orthotist-prosthetists in the United States in May of 2010. This group averaged a median salary of about $65,000. This is well above the national average and could also be a very gratifying job for those who enjoy improving people's health and quality of life.
Although a number of people get work in this field without a college education, there are now quite a few college degree or certificate programs for aspiring orthotists and prosthetists. Note that these are specialties which are naturally taught and practiced together. If you attend school for this health technician job, you will be learning both disciplines.
Like most disciplines in the health field, there is a special organization that accredits training programs for this field. In this case, it is the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). This organization accredits programs in two different areas. There are practitioner programs and separate technician programs. Those terms are pretty random, so just be aware that practitioners are considered the experts in the field with a higher degree of education and training, while the technicians are more like assistants who have had less training.
Orthotic-prosthetic practitioner programs are often at the graduate level and award a master's degree. It is likely that those who can get the better jobs and higher salary in this profession have a practitioner's degree. Certainly, though, it may be possible to get a job with a certificate or associate's degree in some places.
As of September 2011, there are 11 training schools on the practitioner list for orthotist-prosthetists, and there are only 5 programs on the technician list. See the link below to access those two lists.
Once trained, then you can find jobs with manufacturers of the orthopedic and prosthetic devices, some stores that sell the devices, the federal government, and hospitals and medical clinics.
National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education: List of Practitioner and Technician Training Schools