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Medical Appliance Technicians

At a Glance

  • Work as assistants to orthotists, prosthetists, and podiatrists
  • Sometimes work with patients, but mostly work alone
  • Usually work a standard 40-hour week
  • Usually train on the job

Career summary

Medical appliance technicians build, fit, and repair artificial limbs, braces, and supports.

Now made of high-tech materials such as graphite and carbon, prosthetics use sophisticated design and computer chips so that their wearers are more mobile (and faster) than ever. Medical appliance technicians fit prosthetics so the sockets and joints are more comfortable and easy to use.

Medical appliance technicians assist and are supervised by the following specialists:

Technicians read prescriptions and detailed information about what patients need.

For prosthetic devices appliance technicians build a plaster cast of the patient's limb. Technicians lay out parts and use precision measuring instruments. They cut, carve, or grind the material for the prosthetic, using hand or power tools. Technicians may use plastic, metal, and other materials. They drill holes for rivets, and glue, rivet, or weld the parts together. They mix pigments to match patients' skin color and apply the mixture to the device. Finally, they polish and shape the device as needed. Technicians may cover or pad devices with rubber, leather, felt, or plastics.

For orthotic devices, technicians use a similar process. They make a wax or plastic impression. For example, for an arch support, they make an impression of the patient’s foot. They bend, form, or shape the material according to measurements.

Technicians test devices, both off and on the patient, for proper alignment and movement. They fit devices onto patients and make adjustments. Some technicians teach patients how to use these devices. Most technicians repair and maintain the devices they make.

Related careers

This career is part of the Manufacturing cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to medical appliance technicians.

Common work activities

Medical appliance technicians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, medical appliance technicians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Medical appliance technicians frequently:

It is important for medical appliance technicians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for medical appliance technicians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Medical appliance technicians need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study to consider


To work as a medical appliance technician, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are only a few accredited formal training programs in the US for medical appliance technology. They grant a certificate or an associate degree. In these programs you learn how to build and repair orthotics and prosthetics. In addition, you learn to use tools and equipment. You also study anatomy and physiology.

Many employers prefer applicants who have at least taken related college-level coursework in medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology.

On-the-job training

Most medical appliance technicians learn their skills on the job. One way to train as a technician is to enroll in a two-year program of supervised experience and training. In this program, you work under the guidance of a certified orthotist or prosthetist. You begin working as a helper and gradually learn new skills as you get experience. Afterwards, training may be required intermittently.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements (external link). You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. They prefer to hire trainees who have taken high school classes in shop, geometry, and algebra. Some employers may prefer applicants with formal training from a community college.

Many hospitals prefer to hire nurses' aides or licensed practical nurses as trainees for some medical appliance technician positions.


Experience in patient care is very important. Working as an aide will provide an insight into job duties, responsibilities, and drawbacks. Experience can also be gained through volunteer work in nursing homes or other health care facilities.

Costs to workers

Expenses include uniforms, reference books, educational services, and registration and/or certification. Some workers pay dues for professional association or union membership.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Medical appliance technicians (SOC 51-9082)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $13.71 $17.06 $21.99 $27.46 $31.86
Monthly $2,376 $2,956 $3,811 $4,759 $5,521
Yearly $28,510 $35,490 $45,730 $57,120 $66,270
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $14.37 $18.25 $23.20 $28.82 $32.69
Monthly $2,490 $3,163 $4,021 $4,995 $5,665
Yearly $29,891 $37,956 $48,259 $59,956 $67,998
    Vancouver Hourly $11.41 $12.75 $14.33 $16.68 $29.16
Monthly $1,977 $2,210 $2,483 $2,891 $5,053
Yearly $23,753 $26,537 $29,814 $34,700 $60,661
United States Hourly $11.58 $14.56 $18.84 $24.22 $30.35
Monthly $2,007 $2,523 $3,265 $4,197 $5,260
Yearly $24,090 $30,280 $39,190 $50,370 $63,130

Wages vary with the technician's experience and level of responsibility. Wages also vary with the size and type of employer.

Medical appliance technicians who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include health insurance, sick leave, and paid vacation.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Medical Appliance Technicians (SOC 51-9082)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 268 21.3% 16.1% 43
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 10 40.0% 13.4% 2
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 11 18.2% 15.2% 1
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 30 20.0% 14.6% 5
    King County 123 21.1% 19.6% 20
    Pierce County 14 21.4% 15.2% 2
    Snohomish County 37 10.8% 12.4% 5
United States 15,500 12.9% 5.2% 2,200

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow faster than average. As the population grows and more insurance companies cover orthotic and prosthetic appliances, demand for technicians will grow. In addition, research and development in new technologies and materials will result in more people with disabilities wanting new appliances. Interest in sports competition by people with disabilities may also produce growth in this occupation.

Other resources

American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (external link)
7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 760
Bethesda, MD 20814
American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics (external link)
330 John Carlyle Street, Suite 210
Alexandria, VA 22314
American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (external link)
330 John Carlyle Street, Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster