Much like the way every snowflake in a flurry has its own unique geometric pattern, every human being is built slightly differently. Because of this, it is particularly difficult to come up with one size fits all hardware meant to replace parts of the human body. The medical appliance technician is a craftsman trained in the creation of one or more of the aforementioned categories of medical equipment. Following a specific formula from the prescription of a specialist doctor, each piece of medical hardware is built, shaped, and polished from scratch.
Medical appliance technicians are lumped into two primary categories. Orthotic technicians are responsible for the creation of orthoses, temporary devices meant to support, immobilize, or bear the load normally supported by an injured limp. Supports and braces are their specialties. Prosthetic technicians are responsible for the creation of prostheses, which are permanent replacement body parts made of artificial materials. This includes the obvious, such as replacement arms and legs, but also encompasses replacement facial parts and hearing aids.
Medical Appliance Technician Education $35,670
High School or GED
High School or GED
Like other crafting positions nestled in the medical field, the medical appliance technician does not require any education beyond a high school diploma or GED to qualify to become one. Some community colleges and vocational schools offer courses for a two-year degree in the field, but employers are not quite yet on board with the need to demand advanced credentials for the position. Given the actual practice of medicine is not done by a medical appliance technician, there is no need for formal continuing education, as is required for doctors, nurses, and the like. Instead, the medical appliance technician learns by doing the job. This makes maintaining credentials for the position as easy as going to work on time and doing a good job.
Advancement as a Medical Appliance Technician
The medical appliance technician suffers from two rather familiar issues when it comes to advancement. First, the position is designed to support medical doctors. As such, the position is completely reliant upon them for its ability to persist and any form of advancement cannot remove this from the technician. Secondly, as a crafting position within a credential-conscious whole, the medical appliance technician is expected to maintain production of medical hardware regardless of title.
Together, these both retard the growth of wages for all but the most skilled of workers while forcing advancement within the career track to not move into totally new positions, but instead into specializations. The goal of career medical appliance technicians is to become qualified to produce and then specialized in the production of particularly expensive or delicate medical appliances, as this brings home the big bucks.
The primary concern of those wanting to bring the skills of a craftsman into the medical world is the outlook for medical appliance technicians as a whole. Unlike other technicians that follow this basic premise, like the ophthalmic laboratory technician, the absolute number of medical appliance technicians is expected to increase at approximately 1/3 the rate of the job pool at large over the next decade. This is primarily due to continuing success in the automation of the construction of the less finicky pieces of various medical hardware.
In the near future, attrition at the lower levels of the career path will make it highly difficult for new medical appliance technicians to get into the field, while those with specializations will be capable of staying ahead of the machines long enough to make a career out of it. In either case, this path is under siege by computers and robots, making it a career path that should be watched closely, and perhaps reconsidered.