Orthotists and prosthetists need at least a master’s degree and certification before entering the field. Both orthotists and prosthetists must complete a 1-year residency before they can be certified.
All orthotists and prosthetists must complete a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. These programs include courses such as upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, spinal orthotics, and plastics and other materials.
All graduate degree programs have a clinical component in which the student works under the direction of an O&P professional. Most programs require at least 500 hours of clinical experience, split equally between orthotics and prosthetics.
Master’s programs usually take 2 years to complete. Prospective students can have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline if they have fulfilled prerequisite courses in science and mathematics; requirements vary by program.
Most O&P professionals become certified by passing the exam administered by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC). To qualify for the exam, an O&P professional must have completed a master’s program in orthotics and prosthetics. Applicants must also have a 1-year formal residency in orthotics or prosthetics before sitting for the exam. Professionals who want to be certified in both orthotics and prosthetics need to complete a year of residency for each specialty and pass both sets of exams.
Communication skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to communicate effectively with the technicians who often create the medical devices. They also must 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 designed and fit properly.
Dexterity. Orthotists and prosthetists must be good at working with their hands. They may design orthotics or prosthetics with intricate mechanical parts.
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.
Organizational skills. Some orthotists and prosthetists own their practice or work in private offices. Strong organizational skills, including good recordkeeping, are critical in both medical and business settings.
Patience. Orthotists and prosthetists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.
Physical stamina. Orthotists and prosthetists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such and 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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition