The Pros and Cons of a Medical Device Technician Career
Medical device technicians build and repair medical support devices such as prosthetic joints or limbs, orthotic devices, and hearing aids. Continue reading the pros and cons to see if this career matches your goals.
|Pros of a Medical Device Technician Career|
|College degree is not required (on-the-job training is available)*|
|Excellent job benefits (paid vacation, sick leave, health insurance)**|
|Job provides variety (measuring patients, making molds, fabricating and repairing devices)**|
|It's rewarding to help improve patients' lives***|
|Cons of a Medical Device Technician Career|
|Slower-than-average job growth (7% between 2012 and 2022)*|
|Burns or cuts could result from contact with equipment**|
|Frequent exposure to contaminants**|
|Possibility of exposure to disease from sick patients**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **iseek.org, ***American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists
Job Description and Duties
Medical device technicians construct devices such as arch supports, leg braces, hearing aids and prosthetic limbs by following work-order instructions or prescriptions from medical professionals. They select the materials and shapes for new devices and build them using a variety of tools to complete the job. The tools they use include drill presses, power sanders, saws, glue guns, blow torches and a wide variety of other devices. Medical device technicians also disassemble, repair and reassemble defective products.
Medical device technicians who specialize in orthotic or prosthetic devices are known as orthotic or prosthetic technicians. Most medical device technicians work in laboratories, but some work in stores that carry personal healthcare products.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical device technicians earned a mean annual wage of $39,000 in 2014. The number of jobs in the field is projected to only increase by 7% between 2012 and 2022, with about 800 jobs being added to the field.
A high school diploma or GED is required for entry-level employment as a medical device technician. As much as a year of on-the-job training may be necessary before an inexperienced technician is allowed to fabricate a prosthetic appliance without help. Medical device technicians need to have good near-vision in order to read prescribed specifications and mechanical knowledge to use various tools and equipment needed for device fabrication. Medical device technicians should have the expertise to troubleshoot problems and repair medical appliances.
Additionally, the following abilities are important in this profession:
- Manual dexterity
- Complex problem-solving skills
- Arm-hand steadiness
- Critical thinking
- Deductive reasoning
Job Postings From Real Employers
Some entry-level jobs for medical device technicians don't require a postsecondary education. Employers typically post ads describing the type of work the medical device technician can expect to perform. Following are some actual jobs that were posted in April 2012:
- A medical device manufacturer in California sought a medical device repair technician with at least two years of experience to repair returned devices. Candidate must have had experience in soldering and electromechanical repair.
- A manufacturer in Colorado wanted to hire medical device test technicians for second shift to troubleshoot, test and repair electromechanical devices using oscilloscopes, voltmeters and other test equipment. Prior experience was required and an associate's degree was preferred. All chosen candidates would be required to undergo a drug test and background check.
- A prosthetics company in Massachusetts was looking for an orthotic technician with at least one year of experience to build prosthetic devices in its laboratory.
How to Gain an Edge in the Field
Although certification isn't a requirement for employment as a medical device technician, employers prefer applicants that have been certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics (ABC). In order to receive ABC credentials, a medical device technician must complete specific education and work experience requirements before becoming eligible to take the certification exam.
Some employers prefer to hire technicians who have taken courses in the medical field. A small number of schools offer certificate or associate programs in medical device technology. A typical curriculum includes courses in medical device design, anatomy, medical terminology, manufacturing materials and medical device ethics. Completion of a medical device technology program provides graduates with the foundation to work in a medical device manufacturing environment and gives them an edge in the job market.
Other Careers to Consider
If the medical device field interests you, but you'd like a career that offers higher pay, you may want to continue your education so that you can become an orthotist or prosthetist. Orthotists and prosthetists are medical device technicians who specialize in leg braces, artificial limbs and other medical supports. They design and build these devices by following the instructions on doctor's prescriptions. They measure patients and make molds of the body part to create an appliance with a good fit. A master's degree is typically required to work in this medical specialty.
According to the BLS, orthotists and prosthetists earned a mean annual wage of $71,000 in 2011. The number of jobs in the field is projected to increase by 12% between 2010 and 2020, which is higher than projected for medical device technicians who don't specialize in orthotics and prosthetics.
Ophthalmic Laboratory Technician
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians follow prescriptions from optometrists, opticians and ophthalmologists to cut and polish lenses and assemble eyeglasses. Additionally, some in this occupation fabricate lenses for telescopes, binoculars and cameras. Formal education beyond high school generally isn't required to work in this field. Ophthalmic laboratory technicians earned a mean annual wage of $30,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. This is lower than the wages of medical device technicians, but the job prospects are better, with jobs projected to increase by 13% between 2010 and 2020.