How to Become an Orthotist or Prosthetist
Many colleges, universities, and training programs are available to provide O&P education promoted by The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE).
Orthotists and Prosthetists require a bachelor’s degree before they can become certified. However, requirements for associated careers, such as fitters, assistants, and technicians will often not be as stringent.
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)
You first must earn your bachelor's degree so you can go on to complete a Graduate Program. There is no set major you should focus on while going for your undergrad, but you will need classes in Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, Physics and Psychology.
Also, you need to keep a GPA of a 3.0 and have a minimum of 21 hours in science courses to be considered for a graduate program. An undergrad course load might look like the following, if you take a pre-professional or pre-medical route:
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2. Earn a Master's Degree (2 Years)
To become an O&P specialist, you must complete a master's degree in prosthetics and orthotics (M.S.P.O), which usually take about 2 years to complete.
These programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and will teach you about upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, spinal orthotics, and plastics and other materials.
The graduate degree programs will give you hands-on-training as they have clinical training integrated into the curriculum.
During the clinical training, you work under O&P professional to learn the ropes and gain the 500 hours of clinical experience you will need in orthotics and prosthetics.
A graduate program could look like the following:
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Choose one, depending on focus:
3. Complete a Residency Program (1 Year)
After you graduate, you must complete a 1-year residency to be able to sit for the certification exam. You can complete a residency in either Orthotics or Prosthetics unless you want to be certified in both, then you will need to complete a residency program in each of the fields and pass both exams.
4. Earn the Required License & Certification
The state license requirements vary and you will need to check with your state for the details. In those states that require a license, you will also need your national certification as well.
Most O&P professionals become certified by passing the exam administered by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC). You can expect this when it comes test time: You must pass all three tests which are independent of each other and may be taken in any sequence.
The exams test your knowledge of clinical aptitude in orthotic and prosthetic practice.
The three-hour, 165 question, multiple choice exam assesses your knowledge of patient and practice management. Knowledge assessed on the written exam includes:
- Disease process
- Material science
- Ethics and professionalism
Exam 3-hour interactive exam uses simulated scenarios to test your analytic and clinical problem solving skills. The cases include topics such as:
- Prescription criteria
- Device recommendation
- Technical implementation
- Follow-up protocols
Clinical Patient Management (CPM) Exam
About five hands-on practical assessments of your skills through direct examiner and patient model interaction in a clinical environment, along with two video based scenarios.
Must perform specific tasks while demonstrating and describing the orthotic or prosthetic recommendation, fitting criteria, patient instructions and follow-up plans involved in the provision of care.