Medical Appliance Technician: Job Description and Requirements

Medical appliance technicians are skilled manufacturers who design, fit and create medical devices, such as limb prosthetics, orthotic arch supports and joint braces. Read further to learn the requirements and benefits of this occupation.

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Career Definition

Combining manual fabrication skills with an interest in medicine, a career in medical appliance technology involves designing, fitting, creating and maintaining medical devices such as prosthetics, arch supports and braces. Medical appliance technicians usually work for medical supply manufacturers and laboratories, but some work for private care clinics and hospitals, fulfilling physicians' prescriptions and requests for devices that assist patients in dealing with injuries, birth defects and amputations. Their job responsibilities include working directly with patients to take casts or impressions, manufacturing the appliances, fitting and adjusting them to the patient and tending to repairs on an ongoing basis.

How to Become a Medical Appliance Technician

Required Education

Aspiring medical appliance technicians should acquire a high school diploma, and strong performances in mathematics, biology and wood shop classes are helpful, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While some employers are willing to hire high school graduates and train them on the job, most prefer some formal education, particularly in a medical appliance technology program accredited by The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Associate degree and certificate programs take one year and afford the candidate extra insight into medical appliance materials, anatomy and biomechanical principles, as well as a clinical rotation to gain on-the-job experience.

Skills Required

Medical appliance technicians specializing in prosthetics or orthotics can earn certification from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC), either by passing an examination or meeting such criteria as a minimum number of on-the-job hours, employer recommendations and qualifying coursework. Certification is not required, but it can bolster a specializing medical appliance technician's job prospects. In addition, a medical appliance technology career requires manual dexterity, excellent problem-solving skills and a concern for helping others.

Career Outlook

Medical appliance technicians will see slower than average employment growth in the coming years, estimated at 6% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. The majority of medical appliance technicians had earnings ranging from around $11 per hour to roughly $27 per hour in 2012, with the middle half making between approximately $14 and $22 per hour. Opportunities for advancement are also available: many specializing medical appliance technicians work toward becoming prosthetists or orthotists, who work directly with patients to determine the medical device needs that are then passed along to the medical appliance technician for manufacture.

Alternate Career Options

Orthotist and Prosthetist

Completing a master's degree, including a 1-year residency for certification, these professionals evaluate patients, measure them, design devices, take molds, select materials and instruct patients on their devices' care and uses. According to the BLS, they earned a median annual wage of $62,670 in 2012 and could look forward to much faster than average employment growth of 36% from 2012-2022.

Medical Equipment Repairer

With an associate's degree in engineering or biomedical technology, these repairers then seek employment installing, maintaining and fixing patient care devices, such as ultrasound equipment, electrical wheelchairs and x-ray machines. Anticipating much faster than average job growth of 30% during the 2012-2022 decade, per the BLS, medical equipment repairers took home an annual median salary of $44,570 in 2012.

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