Orthotists and prosthetists held about 11,100 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of orthotists and prosthetists were as follows:
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||32%|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||30|
|Health and personal care stores||12|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||9|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||8|
Orthotists and prosthetists who fabricate orthotics and prosthetics may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain materials, but there is little risk of injury if workers follow proper procedures, such as wearing goggles, gloves, and masks.
Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.
Orthotists and prosthetists typically need a master’s degree and certification to enter the occupation. Both orthotists and prosthetists must complete a residency before they can be certified.
All orthotists and prosthetists must complete a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. These programs include courses in upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, spinal orthotics, and plastics and other materials used for fabrication. In addition, orthotics and prosthetics programs have a clinical component in which the student works under the direction of an orthotist or prosthetist.
Master’s programs usually take 2 years to complete. Prospective students seeking a master’s degree may have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline if they have fulfilled prerequisite courses in science and math. Requirements vary by program.
Orthotics and prosthetics programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
Following graduation from a master’s degree program, candidates must complete a residency that has been accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Candidates typically complete a 1-year residency program in either orthotics or prosthetics. Individuals who want to become certified in both orthotics and prosthetics need to complete 1 year of residency training for each specialty or an 18-month residency in both orthotics and prosthetics.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require orthotists and prosthetists to be licensed. States that license orthotists and prosthetists often require certification in order for them to practice, although requirements vary by state. Many orthotists and prosthetists become certified regardless of state requirements, because certification demonstrates competence.
The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) offers certification for orthotists and prosthetists. To earn certification, a candidate must complete a CAAHEP-accredited master’s program, an NCOPE-accredited residency program, and pass a series of three exams.
Orthotists and prosthetists typically have an interest in the Building, Thinking and Helping interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people.
If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking or Helping interest which might fit with a career as an orthotist and prosthetist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Orthotists and prosthetists should also possess the following specific qualities:
Communication skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must have excellent communication skills. They must be able to communicate effectively with the technicians who often create the medical devices. They must also be able to explain to patients how to use and care for the devices.
Detail oriented. Orthotists and prosthetists must be precise when recording measurements to ensure that devices are designed and fit properly.
Leadership skills. Orthotists and prosthetists who work in their own offices must be effective leaders. They must be able to manage a staff of other professionals in their office.
Organizational skills. Some orthotists and prosthetists own their practice or work in private offices. Strong organizational skills, including good recordkeeping, are critical in both medical and business settings.
Patience. Orthotists and prosthetists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.
Physical dexterity. Orthotists and prosthetists must be good at working with their hands. They may design orthotics or prosthetics with intricate mechanical parts.
Physical stamina. Orthotists and prosthetists should be comfortable performing physical tasks, such as working with shop equipment and hand tools. They may spend a lot of time bending over or crouching to examine or measure patients.
Problem-solving skills. Orthotists and prosthetists must evaluate their patients’ situations and often look for creative solutions to their rehabilitation needs.
The median annual wage for orthotists and prosthetists was $75,440 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,730, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,040.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for orthotists and prosthetists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Medical equipment and supplies manufacturing||$78,430|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||77,490|
|Ambulatory healthcare services||76,560|
|Health and personal care stores||64,550|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||60,600|
Most orthotists and prosthetists work full time.
Employment of orthotists and prosthetists is projected to grow 17 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 1,000 openings for orthotists and prosthetists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Demand for orthotists and prosthetists is projected to rise due to the aging population, the growing prevalence of obesity and diabetes, and the continued occurrence of trauma events. However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth is expected to result in only about 1,900 new jobs over the projections decade.
The growing size of the older population and the consequent rise in age-related health issues, such as osteoarthritis and injuries from falls, will increase the need for devices that help improve bodily function and relieve pain. In addition, rising obesity rates will place greater demand on orthoses to alleviate foot and heel pain, and prosthetic care will be needed to address amputations and other complications from diabetes.
Trauma event survivors, such as those who have experienced industrial or car accidents, will need orthotic and prosthetic care to regain or improve mobility.
For more information about orthotists and prosthetists, visit
American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists
Board of Certification/Accreditation
For a list of accredited programs for orthotists and prosthetists, visit
Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
For a list of accredited residency programs for orthotists and prosthetists, visit
National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education
For more information about certification for orthotists and prosthetists, visit
American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics