Below are answers to some of the most common questions regarding the orthotic and prosthetic profession raised by students, parents, counselors, and those considering a career change.
How do I become an O&P practitioner?
Step 1: Be ready. Try to meet as many of the prerequisites for an O&P master's program as an undergraduate as you can. Prerequisites typically include anatomy, physiology, biology with lab components, physics, chemistry, and abnormal psychology.
Step 2: Make sure the career is for you. Volunteer, job shadow, or speak with practicing orthotists and prosthetists. Graduate programs look favorably upon those who have sought out O&P experience prior to applying. Use the "Talk to an O&P Professional in Your Area" to begin exploring your options.
Step 3: Choose the right graduate program for you. Each O&P graduate program is different. Visit the schools and select the program that works best for your learning style, goals, and wallet.
Step 4: Apply to the programs of your choice. Each school will have different deadlines and admission requirements. Investigate these thoroughly before you begin to apply.
Step 5: Complete a CAAHEP-accredited O&P master's program. While you may ultimately opt to practice only orthotics or prosthetics, your master's program will include training in both disciplines.
Step 6: Complete an NCOPE-approved residency. You may complete a one-year residency in orthotics or prosthetics, two one-year residencies in orthotics and prosthetics, or an 18-month residency in both orthotics and prosthetics. To learn more about residencies, visit the NCOPE website.
Step 7: Become certified to practice. There are two national certifying agencies: the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC) and the Board of Certification/Accreditation (BOC). While the two agencies may have slightly different requirements, you will have to pass an exam to become certified in either orthotics or prosthetics. To become certified in both disciplines, you will take two different exams.
Step 8: Get licensed. This step does not apply to O&P practitioners in all states, but several states do require O&P practitioners to become licensed in order to practice there. To find out if your state requires licensure, click here.
Where can I find information on careers and schooling in O&P?
Here on our website you will find information on and links to the various schools that offer O&P education for the practitioner, pedorthist, fitter, assistant, and technician levels. You can also use the "Talk to an O&P Professional in Your Area" feature of this website. These O&P professionals, listed by state, are willing to answer your questions.
What are my education options if I studied marketing in college? Have a master's in engineering? Have been a registered nurse for five years?
No matter what your background, get some real-life experience working in an O&P setting—whether it be through job shadowing, interning, or volunteering.
All who seek to enter the profession at the practitioner level must earn a master's degree from a CAAHEP-accredited O&P graduate program.
How can I find out more about O&P if I live far from any of the O&P schools?
Go to "Talk to an O&P Professional in Your Area". Here, you can click on your state and find a listing of O&P professionals willing to answer your questions or provide you with an opportunity to come in and see them at work. If there is no one close to you, feel free to contact the Academy at (202) 380-3663 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We may be able to connect you with someone in your area.
Are there scholarships available?
Some O&P schools may offer scholarships. Check with the school of your choice for more information on the scholarships and other financial aid that may be available. The Academy offers scholarships through its O&P Educational Development Fund for students currently enrolled in O&P education programs, as does the Orthotic and Prosthetic Education and Research Foundation (OPERF). Visit www.operf.org for more information. In addition, if you are a military 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 (www.gibill.com). For more information, visit our scholarships page.
What should I do to become more familiar with the day-to-day job responsibilities?
Go to www.opcareers.org. Use the link on the homepage to "Talk to an O&P Professional in Your Area". Contact someone and see if he or she is willing to allow you to job shadow. Visit the facility and see what a "typical" day might be like.
Is O&P a career where an occupational therapist (OT) or physical therapist (PT) could make a transition without having to obtain additional education?
Most likely the answer is no. O&P has transitioned to an entry-level master's degree profession. You should check with the school you wish to attend to see which of your credits are transferable.
As a graduate from an accredited O&P program, how would I go about finding a job?
As recommended 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 the Academy. You can network with O&P professionals at chapter and national meetings. You'll also make connections when you complete your residency. In addition, several O&P publications list job openings and employment opportunities.