Fabricates, repairs, and maintains devices.
- High school diploma, GED, or college degree
- Technician education program, or two years of work under the supervision of a certified practitioner or technician
- Certification exam
A prospective technician may enjoy working with his or her hands and using power tools like band saws, drill presses, vacuum systems, heat guns, blades, and variable speed routers, as well as technology like lasers, robotics, Bluetooth, computer-aided design and manufacturing, 3-D printers, advanced materials, and myoelectrics.
The technician fabricates, repairs, and maintains orthopedic braces and artificial limbs to provide the best possible fit, function, and appearance in consultation with the practitioner. The technician is an expert in techniques used to fabricate devices, skilled in the use of hand and power tools, and trained in the selection and use of appropriate materials.
The O&P technician's domain is away from the exam room, in a lab or shop. They work with some of the most technologically advanced materials in the world, which must be lightweight but strong enough to accommodate the user. These materials include titanium, thermoplastics, fiberglass, carbon fiber, silicone, plaster, and urethane.
The orthotic devices that technicians fabricate for patients provide 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 orthotic devices because they have foot conditions as a consequence of diabetes, high or flat arches, or repetitive stress.
The prosthetic devices they fabricate may be used by patients who are born with limb deficiency or have experienced amputation due to trauma, cancer, infection, or abnormalities in blood vessels or nerves.
O&P technicians may decide to fabricate devices for their entire careers, or they may opt to transition into careers as O&P assistants, orthotic fitters, pedorthists, practitioners, or a combination of any of these. For more information on any of these O&P careers, visit www.opcareers.org.
O&P technicians can come from any educational or occupational background. Some technicians come from other O&P roles. Some have a background in other healthcare professions. Still others start as servers, woodworkers, massage therapists, teachers, chiropractors, or craftsmen. Others enter the profession after graduating from high school or earning a GED. Anyone who wants to improve people's lives and work with their hands can become an O&P technician. An ideal technician candidate has a passion for helping others succeed. Other qualities include:
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Aptitude for math and science
- Excellent hand skills
O&P technicians do rewarding work and are in great demand throughout the country.
According to the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association's 2013 Compensation and Benefits Report, a certified technician earns approximately $45,000 per year. Uncertified technicians earn approximately $36,000.
In 2014, there were 616 certified technicians. Twenty-one percent of this group was 55 years of age or older and likely to retire over the next 10 years. It is critical that more qualified students enter O&P technician programs to assure access to quality care for individuals with amputations and orthopedic impairments.
There are two paths to a career as a technician.
The first is to complete a NCOPE-accredited technician program.
The second option is to obtain a high school diploma, GED, or college degree and then work for two years under the supervision of a certified practitioner or technician in orthotics, prosthetics, or both.
To obtain certification, you will have to pass exams from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC). To learn more about the requirements for certification, please visit the ABC website.