Frequently Asked Questions
- Is this the right career for me?
- Where would I work?
- Who needs orthotic and prosthetic services?
- What if I have a college degree in an unrelated field?
- How can I find out more about O&P or get some real-life experience working in an O&P setting?
- What resources are available to help me pay for my O&P education?
- Can an occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) transition into O&P without having to obtain additional education?
- What should I do to become more familiar with the day-to-day job responsibilities of an O&P professional?
- As a graduate from an O&P program, how can I find a job?
- Is it possible to work full-time while training to be a fitter, pedorthist, technician, or assistant?
- What happens after I finish school?
Is this the right career for me?
The various O&P careers are ideal for individuals with a wide range of skills and interests, including:
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Passion for helping others
- Excellent hand skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Aptitude for math and science
Many people enter the O&P profession because they or a family member use a prosthesis or orthosis, or they work in an O&P facility or related field of rehabilitation, such as physical or occupational therapy. Others come to the profession out of undergraduate majors such as engineering, bioengineering, athletic training, kinesiology, or biology. Still others wish to enter a new profession with a greater personal impact on the world.
If this sounds like you, you owe it to yourself to research the exciting career opportunities in orthotics and prosthetics.
Where would I work?
O&P professionals work in settings including:
- O&P patient care facilities
- Physicians' offices
- Retail outlets
- Fabrication laboratories
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Specialty clinics
- Patients' homes
- Long-term care facilities
- Mastectomy boutiques
- Specialty stores
- VA facilities
- Cancer care centers
Some O&P professionals specialize in one area of care such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or sports medicine, while others choose to be generalists.
Who needs orthotic and prosthetic services?
Orthotic and prosthetic patients can be any age, size, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, but they all have one thing in common: They need the services of caring and trained O&P professionals. Some need short-term care as a result of an injury. Others have conditions that require lifelong care.
Orthotic patients need external support to a part of the body because of neuromuscular or skeletal conditions such as cerebral palsy, scoliosis, spina bifida, traumatic brain injury, stroke, plagiocephaly, multiple sclerosis, sports injuries, and back strain. Other patients may require orthoses because they have foot conditions as a consequence of diabetes, high or flat arches, or repetitive stress.
Prosthetic patients may have been born with limb deficiency or have experienced amputation due to trauma, cancer, infection, or abnormalities in blood vessels or nerves.
Most patients have evolving orthotic and prosthetic needs. As a result, patient and professional often have a long relationship and strong bond.
What if I have a college degree in an unrelated field?
Regardless of your background, there is a place for you in O&P. Job shadowing, interning, or volunteering in an O&P setting is a great place to start.
Technicians, assistants, pedorthists, and fitters generally require a high school diploma, GED, or college-level studies. To be certified, O&P professionals at these levels must complete special training courses, gain experience, and take examinations.
All who seek to enter the profession at the practitioner level must earn a master's degree from an O&P graduate program.
How can I find out more about O&P or get some real-life experience working in an O&P setting?
Go to the Talk to an O&P Professional page. Click on your state to find a list of professionals willing to answer your questions or provide you with an opportunity to see them at work. If there is no one close to you, email for assistance.
What resources are available to help me pay for my O&P education?
With any college program, start by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is used to determine your eligibility for federal, state, and college-sponsored financial aid including grants, loans, and work-study programs. Visit www.fafsa.ed.gov for details. In addition, your school may offer scholarships that have separate application requirements. Find out more about O&P scholarships. If you are a veteran or a dependent spouse or child of a veteran, the Montgomery GI Bill may pay for your education and some of your other expenses while you study to become an O&P professional. Visit www.benefits.va.gov to learn more. You may also qualify for funding through the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program if you meet the eligibility criteria. Visit www.doleta.gov/tradeact for details.
Can an occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) transition into O&P without having to obtain additional education?
All levels of O&P will require some O&P-specific training. You should check with the school you wish to attend to see which of your credits are transferable and what courses you'll need to complete.
What should I do to become more familiar with the day-to-day job responsibilities of an O&P professional?
View videos that show O&P professionals on the job. Use the Talk to an O&P Professional in Your Area page to contact someone and see if he or she is willing to allow you to job shadow. Visit the facility to see what a typical day might be like. If you attend or plan to attend a HOPE Careers Consortium member program, speak with the school's career navigator for more details.
As a graduate from an O&P program, how can I find a job?
Prior to applying to O&P schools, you should intern or volunteer with a facility in your area. Maintain that relationship because that facility may one day become your employer. It is also critical to stay informed about what is going on in the profession. Students can do so by joining O&P professional organizations and attending their meetings. A list of these organizations can be on the Education page. In addition, several O&P publications list job openings and employment opportunities. Your school may offer career placement services. If you attend a HOPE Careers Consortium member program, seek out the guidance of your career navigator.
Is it possible to work full-time while training to be a fitter, pedorthist, technician, or assistant?
Although it can be quite challenging to attain an O&P education while juggling a full-time career, several O&P schools have implemented programs to make this easier. Distance- and blended-learning programs are tailored to those who hold a job while in school. Students may be required to combine online work and home studies with clinical experience on campus. Please contact individual schools or explore this site for the latest information on online education options.
What happens after I finish school?
Whether you have graduated from a fitter course or pedorthist, technician, assistant, or practitioner program, you will need to pursue certification by ABC, BOC, or both. Don't forget to keep building your career network by participating in O&P meetings and events. These relationships could make a big difference in your life as you look for mentors, friends, and prospective employers.