Schools with Orthotics and Prosthetics Programs: How to Choose

Orthotic and prosthetic programs focus on conceptualizing, creating, fitting and measuring artificial limbs and body braces. Master's degree programs are available at some colleges and universities throughout the U.S. that prepare individuals for careers as orthotists and prosthetists, and a few schools offer undergraduate degrees for technicians. All 50 states have licensing requirements for orthotists and prosthetists.

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How to Select an Orthotic and Prosthetic School

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a master's degree is the industry standard for getting into the field of orthotics and prosthetics. Students also need to undertake a yearlong residency before they can be certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. A small number of undergraduate degrees are available for prospective technicians. Community colleges may offer technician programs, while higher-level degrees are found at universities.

Summary of Considerations

  • Onsite facilities
  • Area of focus

Onsite Facilities

Schools with on-site orthotic and prosthetic facilities could be useful and could give students the opportunity to gain a greater amount of hands-on experience. Students may choose to enroll in 2+2 or 3+1 bachelor's degree programs, which divide the general education requirements and the clinical learning experiences at on- or off-site facilities.

Area of Focus

Students interested specifically in orthotics or in prosthetics may enroll in programs that favor one over the other, or programs that instruct solely in one category. Programs offering the study of both disciplines are widely available, though students may be required to enroll in two separate post-graduate residency programs for certification.

Orthotic and Prosthetic Program Overview

Associate Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics

Associate degree programs in orthotics and prosthetics can qualify students for certification as orthotics technicians and entry-level employment and can be completed in two years. General education courses can transfer to bachelor's degree programs and internship opportunities may be available. Coursework can include:

  • Upper extremity prosthetics
  • Lower extremity prosthetics
  • Orthotic bracing of legs, arms, spine and neck

Bachelor's Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics

Bachelor's degree programs in orthotics and prosthetics can be completed in four years and qualify students for residency programs as well as certification and employment. Upper and lower extremity prosthetics are studies, as well as upper and lower extremity orthotic braces. Courses may include:

  • Materials science
  • Artificial limb design
  • Kinesiology

Certificate in Orthotics or Prosthetics

Certificate programs in orthotics and prosthetics are generally offered as post-baccalaureate programs, focus only on prosthetics or orthotics, and may be completed in 1-2 years or less. Clinical experiences are typically required at this level. Coursework commonly includes the development of prosthetics for upper extremities, lower extremities and the spine, or orthotics for below the knee, above the knee or upper limbs. Specific course topics include:

  • Plastics, materials and processes
  • Musculoskeletal pathology
  • Kinesiology
  • Clinical gait analysis

Master's Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics

Master's degree programs allow students to study not only the practical applications of orthotics and prosthetics, but research and theoretical concepts behind them as well. In addition to the study of specific orthotic and prosthetic development, coursework includes:

  • Biostatistics
  • Advanced physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Neuroanatomy
  • Physics
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