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Program Description

Just the Facts

Orthotist/Prosthetist. A program that prepares individuals, in consultation with physicians and other therapists, to design and fit orthoses for patients with disabling conditions of the limbs and/or spine, and prostheses for patients who have partial or total absence of a limb or significant superficial deformity. Includes instruction in biomechanics, gait analysis, pathomechanics, kinesiology, pathology, neuroanatomy, materials science, diagnostic imaging, patient analysis and measurement, impression taking, model rectification, assistive/restorative technology and engineering applications, product finishing, diagnostic and definitive fitting and alignment, power devices, postoperative management, and patient counseling and follow-up.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree

High School Courses

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Additional Information

If you enjoy the mechanics of design and you want to help others, a program in prosthetics and orthotics could be for you.

There are two levels within the profession -- practitioner or clinician and technician. The practitioner or clinician is constantly involved with patient care. The technician assists in the creation of the prosthetic or orthotic devices and only occasionally sees the patient.

Clinician programs range from four-year degree programs to 16-month programs for people who already hold a degree in a related field such as nursing or kinesiology.

At the University of Washington, students must undergo a two-year preparatory phase before going on to the two-year bachelor of science degree program. The preparatory phase ensures that all prerequisites are met and students gain the basic know-how to succeed in the bachelor program.

Technician programs are for those who are more interested in the craft and design aspect of prosthetics and orthotics. They are generally one or two years long and end in an associate of science degree, a certificate or diploma. Generally, you can enroll in these programs immediately after graduating high school.

"Basically all you need is a high school diploma, or GED," says Gail McClellan. She coordinates the two-year technician program at Spokane Falls Community College.

However, McClellan warns that students must write a difficult placement test before acceptance. The earlier you apply, the better your chances. "The day we receive [the application] is the day you go on the list," she says.

For any prosthetics or orthotics program, you must be able to manipulate 20 to 25 pounds for long periods of time and be comfortable around large power tools and equipment.

Dan Blocka, coordinator of both the clinician and technician programs at a community college, says the major skill his school looks for in prospective students is communication, particularly for those seeking a career as a clinician. "You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you can't relate to people, you're going nowhere."

High school students can prepare by taking as many biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, computer science, advanced mathematics, human anatomy and human physiology classes as they can.

Art is of particular importance for the prosthetics aspect of the technician, says McClellan. "You will be fabricating a limb for somebody -- they want it to be as lifelike and natural as possible."

You can also increase your chances of acceptance by volunteering at rehabilitation centers or private facilities.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics
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Orthotics and Prosthetics Information
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