Orthotic and/or prosthetic education occurs in two forms: baccalaureate degree and certificate programs. Only three schools offer baccalaureate programs in prosthetics and orthotics: California State University, University of Texas and University of Washington. Certificate programs are offered at an additional five institutions including Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago.
Degree programs are based on a standard 4-year curriculum, and certificate courses range from 6 months to 1 year for one discipline to 18 months to 2 years for both disciplines. Prerequisite courses vary quite a bit between programs, but typical requirements include at least 1 course each in: biology, chemistry, physics (the master’s program requires one calculus based physics course), psychology, algebra or higher math (the master’s program requires 2 semesters of calculus), human anatomy, human physiology. If a combined human anatomy/physiology course is taken it should be 2 semesters in length. Gross human anatomy with dissection is recommended at some schools and required at others. Other recommended courses include kinesiology, biomechanics, material science, public speaking, art/drawing/sculpture classes and business courses.
As the population grows and more insurance companies cover orthotic and prosthetic appliances, demand for these workers should grow. In addition, research and development in new technologies and materials will result in more people with disabilities wanting new appliances. Interest in sports competition by people with disabilities may also produce job growth in this occupation. The demand for orthotic and prosthetic services is expected to increase by 25% for orthotic care and 47% for prosthetic care by 2020.