Starting a career as an Orthotist/Prosthetist involves designing and building medical supportive devices to restore function or compensate for muscular and skeletal disabilities. They construct devices such as splints, braces, footwear and artificial body parts. These professionals help their patients regain mobility by fitting them with orthopaedic braces and artificial limbs. These experts play a vital role in various medical fields such as neuroscience. 


This career is gaining prominence as a result of accidents, birth defects, and conditions which require prosthetic or orthotic interventions. Therefore, a career as an orthotist/prosthetist provides an opportunity to significantly improve the lives of people who are experiencing difficulties with their mobility. This career is one of the careers which is in high demand in the healthcare sector. However, it requires one to be highly skilled and knowledgeable to succeed in this field. 


In this piece, I will discuss the steps to take in pursuing a career as a prosthetist or orthotist. Additionally, I will list the skills needed to succeed in this career.  


Orthotics: This is the area of medicine that gives patients braces, splints, or customised shoes.


Prosthetics: This is the area of medicine that develops and makes prosthetic limbs that, as much as possible, replicate the lost limb. 

Professionals in these fields can work in both orthotics and prosthetics as they carry out the same functions and responsibilities. However, you can also decide to specialise in one area.


How to Become an Orthotist or Prosthetist

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: You must obtain a bachelor’s degree before you can pursue this career. This will give you the foundational knowledge of the body systems which will be helpful in your career pursuit. Additionally, this foundational knowledge will enable you to scale through a master’s or a doctorate. You can obtain a bachelor’s degree in areas such as Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry or Psychology. 
  2. Obtain a Master’s Degree: You need a master’s degree to start a career in this field. A master’s degree will instruct you on spinal orthotics, plastics, and other materials, as well as orthotics and prosthetics for the upper and lower extremities. Additionally, it will give you the chance to have hands-on training in this field. You should complete a master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics.
  3. Gain Practical Experience: After graduating, you must complete a residency program in this field. You can do this in places such as hospitals, rehabilitation centres NGOs and humanitarian organisations. This experience will enlighten you on real-world challenges and how to handle them. Additionally, this residency program is a major requirement for you to be licensed as an orthotist or prosthetist.
  4. Obtain your License: After studying and participating in the residency program, you will be awarded with a license or certificate. This will demonstrate your expertise in the field. Additionally, this will give you the authority to practise and attend to patients as an orthotist or prosthetist. You can obtain certificates such as the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) Certification or any other offered by the regulatory body in your country. 
  5. Build a Professional Network: You need to build a professional network to be efficient in this career. You can do this by joining professional associations and attending conferences. This can enable you to have access to collaboration, knowledge and growth opportunities. Additionally, it can give you access to mentors and peers in this career which can be valuable to your career growth.


Skills Needed to Become an Orthotist/Prosthetist

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Detail Oriented
  3. Patience
  4. Physical dexterity
  5. Physical stamina
  6. Patience
  7. Problem-solving skills
  8. Empathy
  9. Active Listening
  10. Service Orientation 


Areas of Specialisation to Work in Orthotist/Prosthetist


  1. Pediatric Orthotics and Prosthetics: These professionals focus on offering orthotic and prosthetic therapy for kids with musculoskeletal and congenital limb disorders.
  2. Spinal Orthotics: They specialise in orthotic devices for people who need spinal assistance or have spinal diseases such as scoliosis.
  3. Neurorehabilitation Orthotics: These experts focus on orthotic devices to increase accessibility and independence for those with neurological diseases such as cerebral palsy or stroke.
  4. Upper Extremity Prosthetics: Generally, they concentrate on creating and assembling prosthetic limb devices for patients who have had upper limb amputations.
  5. Lower Extremity Prosthetics: Generally, they concentrate on creating and assembling prosthetic limb devices for patients who have had lower limb amputations.
  6. Geriatric Orthotics and Prosthetics: They emphasise the needs of senior citizens who rely on prosthetic or orthotic devices to preserve their freedom as well as their standard of life.
  7. Sports Medicine Orthotics: They concentrate on orthotic devices made for sportsmen to improve performance and guard against accidents. 


Universities in Africa that Offer Biology

  1. Cairo University, Egypt
  2. University of Lagos, Nigeria
  3. Ain Shams University, Egypt
  4. University of Johannesburg, South Africa
  5. Alexandria University, Egypt
  6. University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
  7. Mansoura University, Egypt
  8. University of Cape Town, South Africa
  9. Assiut University, Egypt
  10. University of Monastir, Tunisia
  11. Sohag University, Egypt
  12. University of Nigeria, Nigeria
  13. Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria
  14. University of Ibadan, Nigeria
  15. Tanta University, Egypt
  16. Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
  17. University of Carthage, Tunisia
  18. Durban University of Technology, South Africa
  19. University of Ilorin, Nigeria
  20. Covenant University, Nigeria
  21. University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria
  22. Jimma University, Ethiopia
  23. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria
  24. University of Annaba, Algeria
  25. Hawassa University, Ethiopia
  26. University of Uyo, Nigeria


In Conclusion, a career as an orthotist/prosthetist is a rewarding career with the opportunity to make a positive impact on lives. However, a career as an orthotist/prosthetist demands continuous learning and research. This is because this field is constantly evolving with innovations developing. Therefore, you need to give room for continuous growth and development to remain relevant in this field. 


Good luck!

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