Prosthetics Education Requirements

A prosthetics education prepares someone to design, create and fit artificial limbs. The work of a prosthetist is similar to the work of an orthotist, someone who makes and fits orthopedic braces. As a result of their similarities, a prosthetics education is usually combined with orthotics into one degree program.

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Transition in Prosthetics Education

In 2007, clinical experts and educators in prosthetics and orthotics met with representatives of the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), the accreditation board for educational programs in orthotics and prosthetics. Because prosthetists and orthotists have more responsibilities than ever before and because of advances in science and technology, it was decided that from 2010 onward, no new undergraduate programs would be accredited. Entry-level programs would only offer master's degrees. It was further decided that all current accredited undergraduate programs must be replaced by master's programs by 2012 at the latest (www.ncope.org).

Education Requirements Prior to 2012

Prior to 2012, there were two accredited approaches to prosthetics education. The first was a bachelor's degree either in orthotics and prosthetics or in health sciences with a prosthetic option. The second was a post-baccalaureate certificate; this could be earned in prosthetics, orthotics or a combination of the two. After students received either the degree or the certificate, a 1-year residency approved by the NCOPE was required. This was followed by a national certification examination through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC).

Education Requirements Beginning in 2012

Beginning in 2012, all accredited programs should be at the master's level. As early as 2009, transition programs were created for those who had already earned a bachelor's degree or certificate and were working as prosthetists and orthotists. These shortened programs result in a Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics.

Entry-level master's programs also appeared by 2009. Courses required in these programs include such topics as anatomy and physiology, neuroscience and neuroanatomy, prosthetics and orthotics materials, prosthetic management of upper and lower limbs, gait pathokinesiology, histology and research. A 1-year NCOPE-approved residency is still required, followed by the ABC national certification exam. Some states also require a license.

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