Orthotist & Prosthetist - How to Become an Orthotist or Prosthetist

Orthotist & Prosthetist

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Orthotist and Prosthetist Job Description

The loss of a limb can occur from a number of reasons such as disease, combat injuries, accident, or even birth defects. In order to help patients live more normal lives and achieve greater mobility, prosthetics (artificial limbs) and orthosis (braces) are provided by technicians known as orthotists and prosthetists. These technicians are often referred to as O&P practitioners.




In performing their job O&P Practitioners will evaluate the patient’s needs as well as studying their gait, mobility, range of motion, and muscular development to help develop a plan to improve the patient’s quality of life. Preparing an artificial limb or brace is a lengthy process and involves the O&P Practitioner taking measurements, preparing the limb for the prosthesis or brace, formulating the appliance, and helping to fit it once it is finished.

Working in association with Orthotists and Prosthetists are Pedorthists who will make or modify footwear to assist in regaining or improving mobility. These specialists provide foot orthoses and shoes for this purpose. Other O&P practitioners provide breast prostheses after mastectomy, and footwear for diabetics. O&Ps are helped as well by technicians who repair or manufacture prostheses, as well as certified technicians who assist with patient care.

The O&P field is often attractive to those who may have a need for these, or have a family member or friend who does. There is a high level of career satisfaction associated with this profession when the benefits of these appliances is so obvious. Advances in this field, including computer imaging, microprocessors, and myoelectric joints make the O&P career especially exciting.





Must know anatomy and how the human body works and moves so they can better solve the issues facing their patients.


The ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks simultaneously.


Must be able to interact with patients and their families regardless of background.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 


Must be able to clearly convey thoughts and ideas to gauge patient's issues and convey to them the best path to treatment.


Must be compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.


They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time. They also must help their clients have patience--especially if they are trying to overcome a difficult injury.

Problem Solving

Must be able to use knowledge to gauge issues and determine the best route to recovery.


Must work well with your hands and be nimble.


Working Conditions


You will find O&P practitioners working in hospitals, laboratories, private practice, rehabilitation facilities, and clinics where the making, repair, and modification of these devices is done.

Orthotist and prosthetist practitioners are currently in high demand and the need for these technicians is expected to go even higher in the coming years. Factors contributing to this need include an aging population, diabetes, and obesity. As with most medically related fields, the need for O&P technicians will continue to rise, with demand much in advance of supply.



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. A

lso, 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:


Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year


  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • English 101
  • English 102
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab

Sophomore Year

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology 
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Electives

Junior Year


  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology 
  • Electives



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:


Grade Level Example Courses

First Year Summer (9 Credits)


  • Gross Anatomy (2 credits)
  • Gross Anatomy Lab (2 credits)
  • Kinesiology (2 credits)
  • Kinesiology Laboratory (1 credits)
  • Clinical Foundations (2 credits)

First Year Fall (14 Credits)

  • Lower-Limb Orthotics (4 credits)
  • Transtibial Prosthetics (4 credits)
  • Material Methods in Prosthetics and Orthotics (3 credits)
  • Biomechanics (2 credits)
  • Biomechanics Lab (1 credits)
  • Integrated Internship I 

First Year Spring (15 Credits)


  • Scientific Inquiry I (3 credits)
  • Spinal Orthotics (4 credits)
  • Transfemoral Prosthetics (4 credits)
  • Orthopedic Pathology (3 credits)
  • Professional Issues (1 credits)
  • Integrated Internship II 

Second Year Summer (0 Credits)

  •  Internship

Second Year Fall (13 Credits)

  • Scientific Inquiry II 3 or (6 credits)
  • Lower-Limb Orthotics II (4 credits)
  • Upper-Limb Orthotics (3 credits)
  • Neuroscience (2 credits)
  • Neuroscience Laboratory (1 credits)
Second Year Spring (8 Credits) 
  • Prosthetics and Orthotics
  • Healthcare Management (2 credits)
  • Upper-Limb Prosthetics (4 credits)
  • Integrated Internship III
Choose one, depending on focus:
  • Scientific Inquiry III (2 or 4 credits)

  • Advanced Pediatric Examination and Intervention (2 credits)

  • Clinical Practice Gerontology (2 credits)

  • Prosthetics and Orthotics Teaching Assistant (3 credits)


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.

Exam Descriptions:

Written Exam

The three-hour, 165 question, multiple choice exam assesses your knowledge of patient and practice management. Knowledge assessed on the written exam includes:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Kinesiology
  • Disease process
  • Pathologies
  • Material science
  • Ethics and professionalism

Written Simulation 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. 


Salary Outlook