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Orthotic and Prosthetic Specialists

At a Glance

  • Orthotists create braces, supports, and corrective shoes
  • Prosthetists create replacement limbs, such as arms, legs, hands, or feet
  • Work closely with doctors, assistants, and patients
  • Sometimes wear lab coats and safety gear
  • Have a master's degree
  • May need a license

Career summary

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists design, build, and fit orthopedic braces, surgical supports, and artificial limbs.

#No alternate titles CJ

Orthotists and prosthetists design, build, and fit:

Orthotists and prosthetists often work with doctors to help decide on appliances and prescriptions. They read and review prescriptions from doctors. They examine patients, taking measurements of the affected parts of the body.

They may make plaster casts directly from the patient's body to be sure the devices fit comfortably. They use measurements to make models and layouts.

Orthotists and prosthetists may send their design to assistants or technicians to build the product. Some build the appliances themselves out of materials such as wood, plastic, and composite metals. They form, saw, mold, shape, grind, polish, buff, and sew components together.

When devices are ready, orthotists and prosthetists work with patients to fit, test, and evaluate them. They make sure the fit is good and all the parts are working properly. They make adjustments and changes to improve the fit.

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists show patients how to use their appliances. They counsel patients to help them gain confidence.

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists research new designs, materials, and technologies. They discuss designs with patients and coworkers. They teach student doctors, assistants, technicians, and rehabilitation counselors about orthoses and prostheses.

To update their skills, orthotic and prosthetic specialists attend conferences and seminars. They write and publish their findings. They sometimes present their findings to their colleagues.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to orthotic and prosthetic specialists.

Common work activities

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, orthotic and prosthetic specialists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists frequently:

It is important for orthotic and prosthetic specialists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for orthotic and prosthetic specialists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists 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 directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an orthotic and prosthetic specialist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

To work in this occupation you need 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.

Orthotic and prosthetic technicians need an associate degree or on-the-job training.

On-the-job training

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.

Following graduation from a master's degree program, you complete a residency program in either prosthetics or orthotics. Residency lasts one year. If you want to become certified in both orthotics and prosthetics you need to complete one year of residency training for each specialty. After your residency, you take additional exams to become board certified.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be physical and occupational therapy specialists. This military occupation includes orthotic and prosthetic specialists. Training lasts from 11 to 31 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link). Orthotic and prosthetic specialists need a strong background in science. Be sure to take science courses through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

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 that orthotists and prosthetists be certified or eligible for certification within two years of being hired. When workers are not yet certified, employers prefer they have a technical certificate, related experience, or a completed residency program.

For technicians, 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. For clinical assistants, who may fabricate products or supervise technicians, employers may be willing to train people who have technical certification and experience.

Costs to workers

Orthotic and prosthetic specialists must pay for uniforms, reference books, educational services, and registration and/or certification. Some workers pay dues for professional association or union membership.

#Put fees in licensing section & checked this info 3/14/11, cj.


Orthotic and prosthetic specialists who perform assessments, design and maintain, or adjust prostheses and orthoses must be licensed by the State of Washington. Licensing requirements include:

The state application fee for both orthotists or prothetists is $265 each. Continuing education of 45 hours is required every three years for license renewal. The renewal fee is $125 annually for each license. For more information on state licensure, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Orthotics and Prosthetics Credentialing (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504

For more information on becoming a certified orthotist or prosthetist, contact the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics (external link).

#Checked above licensing info & updated fees 2/22/12 lh. Checked info 4/15/13 cj. fine 3/25/14 lh. Added references requirement 3/11/15; rest ok cj. Updated licensing fees 1/12/16 cj. I had added need for 3 professional refs in 2015 but not seeing through standard route, so deleted. Must have been dreaming in 2015! 12/12/16 cj. No change to fees 2/26/18 lh. Added personal data questions & jurisprudence exam; rest the same, 4/8/19 cj.

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).


Orthotists and prosthetists (SOC 29-2091)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $25.14 $28.32 $33.93 $40.79 $49.15
Monthly $4,357 $4,908 $5,880 $7,069 $8,518
Yearly $52,290 $58,910 $70,560 $84,850 $102,230
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $25.37 $28.48 $33.59 $40.47 $48.45
Monthly $4,397 $4,936 $5,821 $7,013 $8,396
Yearly $52,779 $59,243 $69,888 $84,183 $100,773
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $21.00 $28.04 $32.94 $37.84 $41.88
Monthly $3,639 $4,859 $5,709 $6,558 $7,258
Yearly $43,677 $58,328 $68,516 $78,710 $87,093
    Vancouver Hourly $25.26 $28.71 $34.68 $43.44 $58.60
Monthly $4,378 $4,975 $6,010 $7,528 $10,155
Yearly $52,538 $59,723 $72,138 $90,356 $121,888
United States Hourly $19.27 $25.38 $33.23 $42.31 $52.30
Monthly $3,339 $4,398 $5,759 $7,332 $9,064
Yearly $40,090 $52,790 $69,120 $88,010 $108,780

Wages vary with the worker's experience and level of responsibility. They also vary with the size and type of employer. Technicians in training earn about half the wage of orthotists and prosthetists.

Full-time orthotists and prosthetists usually receive health and retirement benefits.

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.

Orthotists and Prosthetists (SOC 29-2091)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 215 22.3% 16.1% 24
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 17 17.6% 15.2% 1
    King County 105 22.9% 19.6% 12
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 15 53.3% 13.8% 3
    Pierce County 20 10.0% 15.2% 1
    Snohomish County 24 8.3% 12.4% 2
    Spokane County 13 15.4% 13.9% 1
United States 9,100 19.8% 5.2% 900

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will be very strong due to the increase in the aging population. However, this is a very small occupation and very few jobs will be created.

As the population grows and more insurance companies cover orthotic and prosthetic appliances, demand for these workers should grow. In addition, research and development in new technologies and materials will result in more people with disabilities wanting new appliances.

Job openings will occur as people retire or leave their job for other reasons.

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
Careers in Orthotics and Prosthetics (external link)
Engineer Girl! (external link)
National Academy of Engineering
Explore Health Careers: Orthotist and Proesthetist (external link)
Technology Student Association (external link)
1904 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1540


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster