In order to become a prosthetic technician, a person must usually complete a prosthetic technician program. Many community colleges have certification programs offered in this specialty, often called a prosthetics and orthotics degree. Most of these programs take about two years to complete. Oftentimes, a person who wants to become a prosthetic technician must complete a two-year internship as well, learning practical skills under the guidance of a supervisor. It also is possible for a person to become a prosthetic technician through an apprenticeship rather than by attending college. Apprenticeships usually take about four years to complete, but technicians who complete college certification programs often have an easier time finding a job.
A person who wants to become a prosthetic technician should have certain characteristics and skills. Making prostheses is both an art and a science. Strong mechanical ability and a desire to do hands-on work is very important. Prostheses need to be detailed and precisely fitted, so attention to detail, manual dexterity, patience, and a desire to do precision work are crucial to success as a prosthetic technician. Prosthetic technicians need to operate a wide variety of machines and tools to manufacture prostheses as well and must be comfortable using all of these tools.
Prosthetic technicians need to be able to build prostheses that suit a particular patient's needs and fit perfectly in or on the prosthetic site. They may need to blend colors and paint the prosthetic to match the patient's skin tone to achieve a good cosmetic result. A familiarity with human kinetics, physical therapy, biology, or other health professions will be a definite asset for someone who wants to become a prosthetic technician.
It is possible to become a prosthetic technician through an apprenticeship after achieving a high school diploma, but a college-educated certified prosthetic technician will likely enjoy better job prospects and faster career advancement. Career advancement may include supervisory roles, more specialized work, or further education to become a prosthetist. Orthotic technicians are similar to prosthetic technicians, but these professionals construct and fit braces and supports instead of prostheses. Some technicians may work with both orthotics and prostheses, depending on their place of employment.
Prosthetic technicians work in health care settings, rehabilitation facilities, and medical device manufacturing settings to build, fit, and repair prosthetic body parts such as arms, legs, and ears. This is a vital service for people who are disabled or have been injured and can be a very rewarding career because it directly and personally helps other people. Prosthetic body parts restore mobility and functionality and can help a person regain independence and life satisfaction. Prosthetic technicians work with and under the supervision of prosthetists, medical professionals who design prostheses for patients and help the patient integrate the prosthetic into his life.