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Working As an Orthopedic Technician

  • Getting Information
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $30,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Orthopedic Technician Do

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians construct, fit, or repair appliances and devices, including dentures, eyeglasses, and prosthetics.

Duties

Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically do the following:

  • Follow detailed work orders and prescriptions
  • Determine which materials and tools will be needed
  • Bend, form, and shape fabric or material
  • Polish and shape appliances and devices, using hand or power tools
  • Adjust appliances or devices to allow for a more natural look or to improve function
  • Inspect the final product for quality and accuracy
  • Repair damaged appliances and devices

In small laboratories and offices, technicians may handle every phase of production. In larger ones, technicians may be responsible for only one phase of production, such as polishing, measuring, or testing.

Dental laboratory technicians use impressions, or molds, of a patient’s teeth to create crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental appliances. They work closely with dentists, but have limited contact with patients.

Dental laboratory technicians work with small hand tools, such as files and polishers. They work with many different materials, including wax, plastic, and porcelain, to make prosthetic appliances. In some cases, technicians use computer programs to create appliances or to get impressions sent from a dentist’s office.

Dental laboratory technicians can specialize in one of six areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, or ceramics. Technicians may have different job titles, depending on their specialty. For example, technicians who make porcelain and acrylic restorations, such as veneers and bridges, are called dental ceramists

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are also commonly known as manufacturing opticians, optical mechanics, or optical goods workers.

Although they make some lenses by hand, ophthalmic laboratory technicians often use automated equipment. Some technicians manufacture lenses for optical instruments, such as telescopes and binoculars. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians should not be confused with dispensing opticians, who work with customers to select eyewear and may prepare work orders for ophthalmic laboratory technicians.

Medical appliance technicians construct, fit, and repair medical supportive devices, including arch supports, facial parts, and foot and leg braces.

Medical appliance technicians use many different types of materials, such as metal, plastic, and leather, to create a variety of medical devices for patients who need them because of a birth defect, an accident, disease, amputation, or the effects of aging. For example, some medical appliance technicians make hearing aids.

Orthotic and prosthetic technicians are medical appliance technicians who create orthoses (braces, supports, and other devices) and prostheses (replacement limbs and facial parts). These technicians work closely with orthotists or prosthetists.

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How To Become An Orthopedic Technician

Dental or ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians typically need a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training.

Education

Ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. There are some postsecondary programs available at community colleges or technical or vocational schools in dental laboratory technology and ophthalmic laboratory technology, but these are not common. High school students interested in becoming dental or ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians should take courses in science, math, computer programming, and art.

Training

Most dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians learn their skills through on-the-job training. They usually begin as helpers in a laboratory and learn more advanced skills as they gain experience. For example, dental laboratory technicians may begin by pouring plaster into an impression to make a model. As they become more experienced, they may progress to more complex tasks, such as making porcelain crowns and bridges. Because all laboratories are different, the length of training varies.

Important Qualities

Detail oriented. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must pay attention to detail. Technicians must follow work orders and prescriptions accurately and precisely. In addition, they need to be able to recognize and correct any imperfections in their work.

Dexterity. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians must work well with their hands because they use precise laboratory instruments.

Interpersonal skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians need to be able to work effectively with others because they may be part of a team of technicians working on a single project. In addition, they need good communication skills to ensure safety when they work with hazardous materials.

Technical skills. Dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians need to have an in depth knowledge of how different tools and materials work. They also must understand how to operate complex machinery. Some procedures are automated, so technicians must know how to operate and change the programs that run the machinery.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification is not required for dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians or medical appliance technicians. However, technicians may choose to earn specialty certifications because they show professional competence in a specialized field.

The National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBC) offers certification as a Certified Dental Technician (CDT). Certification is available in six specialty areas: orthodontic appliances, crowns and bridges, complete dentures, partial dentures, implants, and ceramics.

To qualify for the CDT, technicians must have at least 5 years of on-the-job training or experience in dental technology or have graduated from an accredited dental laboratory technician program. Candidates also must pass 3 exams within a period of 4 years.

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABCOP) offers certification for medical appliance technicians. Technicians are eligible for the certification exam after completing an accredited program or if they have 2 years of experience as a technician under the direct supervision of a certified medical appliance technician.

Advancement

In large laboratories, dental and ophthalmic laboratory technicians and medical appliance technicians may work their way up to a supervisory level and may train new technicians. Some may go on to own their own laboratory.

Medical appliance technicians can advance to become orthotists or prosthetists after completing additional formal education. These practitioners work with patients who need braces, prostheses, or related devices.

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Orthopedic Technician Career Paths

Orthopedic Technician
Surgical Technician Registered Nurse Team Leader
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Surgical Technician Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Surgical Technician Technician Field Service Technician
Service Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader Assistant Manager
Branch Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader Office Manager
Business Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Specialist Consultant
Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Consultant
Partner
6 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Technician Maintenance Supervisor
Facilities Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Emergency Medical Technician Instructor Research Associate
Laboratory Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Physician Assistant Physician Office Manager
Practice Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Physician Assistant Assistant Professor Chairperson
Chief Executive Officer
8 Yearsyrs
Physician Assistant Assistant Professor Project Manager
Purchasing Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Radiologic Technician Laboratory Technician Shift Supervisor
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Radiologic Technician Clinical Instructor Registered Nurse Supervisor
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Radiologic Technician Lead Technician Manager
Co-Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Patient Care Coordinator Senior Customer Service Representative
Lead Operator
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Coordinator Office Manager Purchasing Manager
Director Of Materials Management
7 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as an Orthopedic Technician?

Top Skills for An Orthopedic Technician

  1. Patient Care
  2. Surgical Procedures
  3. Orthopedics
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Managed fast paced environment while managing patient care/medical representative management for physicians* Implemented staff and outreach education within community.
  • Provided on-call orthopedist and neurologist with surgical procedures, traction application, casting and splinting assistance.
  • Conducted weekly training regarding orthopedics and hospital polices and procedures.
  • Coordinated the outpatient orthopedic clinic to run at maximum efficiency.
  • Back Office duties to include room patients, recording vital signs, dressing changes, staple removals and cast removals.

Orthopedic Technician Demographics

Gender

Male

47.8%

Female

38.6%

Unknown

13.6%
Ethnicity

White

60.6%

Hispanic or Latino

17.4%

Black or African American

12.2%

Asian

6.2%

Unknown

3.6%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

61.3%

Swedish

6.5%

Portuguese

3.2%

German

3.2%

Marathi

3.2%

Braille

3.2%

Hindi

3.2%

Urdu

3.2%

Korean

3.2%

Bengali

3.2%

Swahili

3.2%

Italian

3.2%
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Orthopedic Technician Education

Schools

University of Phoenix

13.4%

Grossmont College

11.8%

University of Maryland - University College

7.9%

American University

6.3%

Northeastern University

6.3%

University of Akron

4.7%

San Antonio College

4.7%

Southern Crescent Technical College

3.9%

Wright State University

3.9%

Community College of the Air Force

3.9%

Kaplan University

3.9%

Northern Virginia Community College

3.9%

Del Mar College

3.1%

San Diego State University

3.1%

Walden University

3.1%

George Mason University

3.1%

Griffin Technical College

3.1%

University of Central Florida

3.1%

Broward College

3.1%

Anne Arundel Community College

3.1%
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Majors

Nursing

16.6%

Medical Assisting Services

10.7%

Medical Technician

10.7%

Business

8.9%

Special Education

8.4%

Kinesiology

4.7%

Health Care Administration

4.7%

Biology

4.4%

Psychology

3.9%

Criminal Justice

3.5%

Physician Assistant

3.0%

Health Sciences And Services

3.0%

Athletic Training

2.9%

Management

2.7%

Medicine

2.5%

General Studies

2.2%

Nursing Assistants

2.0%

Computer Science

1.8%

Medical Clinical Sciences

1.7%

Liberal Arts

1.7%
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Degrees

Other

29.4%

Bachelors

27.8%

Associate

16.1%

Masters

12.0%

Certificate

9.4%

Diploma

3.4%

License

1.1%

Doctorate

0.8%
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Updated May 19, 2020