Career Exploration: What is Prosthetics & Orthotics?

One of the most innovative fields in Science and Healthcare is Prosthetics and Orthotics. When individuals lose limbs, sustain injuries in sports, or require a brace of some sort, it is Prosthetics and Orthotics professionals who step in to help these people recover and regain movement. So…

What is the difference between Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P)?

Orthotics is the practice of evaluating, fabricating, and custom fitting orthopedic braces. These braces are usually used to modify the function of a limb, joint, or body segment. Prosthetics on the other hand is the practice of evaluating, fabricating, and custom fitting artificial limbs. This area focuses on enhancing the function and lifestyle of individuals with limb loss. Both of these areas combine knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and engineering.

What level of education do I need?

To become a Practitioner of O&P, you must earn a master’s degree from an O&P graduate program. Here are a list of accredited graduate programs offering degrees in O&P: opcareers.org/education/practitioner_programs/

Some individuals become Technicians, Assistants, Pedorthists, and Fitters. While the salaries of these careers are less than those working as practitioners, these careers are in high demand and do not require graduate level coursework.

How much do O&P professionals make?

Practicioners earn on average $75,000 a year, Assistants around $43,000, Technicians at $45,000, Pedorthists at $52,000, and Fitters at $39,500 per year according to a 2013 report by the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association. Variance of course is expected based on location, years of experience, practice setting, and benefits.

What is the career outlook?

The demand for new O&P professionals, across all areas, is increasing. With 72 million Americans projected to be 65 years or older by 2030, along with increases in average rates of heart disease and obesity, O&P professionals can expect to see a boom in demand in the coming years. Approximately 24% of current O&P professionals are 55 or older and expected to retire in the next 10 years. This drives the demand for qualified students even higher.

Want to learn more? Check out opcareers.org for links to scholarship opportunities, O&P professionals to network with, and other frequently asked questions. As always feel free to schedule an appointment with a Career Coach to help you put your O&P plan into action!

By Aaron Brutkiewicz
Aaron Brutkiewicz Graduate Intern & Career Coach Aaron Brutkiewicz