Orthopedic Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about an orthopedic technician's job duties, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the ups and downs of an orthopedic technician career.
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Pros and Cons of an Orthopedic Technician Career

Orthopedic technicians work in a similar capacity as clinical medical assistants, but specialize in helping physicians treat bone and joint conditions or injuries. Evaluate the pros and cons of a career as an orthopedic technician to determine if it is the right position for you.

Pros of an Orthopedic Technician Career
Strong job growth in the healthcare industry (30% job growth for surgical technologists, 29% for medical assistants between 2012-2022)*
Technicians may qualify for a position with a high school diploma**
Orthopedic technicians assist and educate patients and their families*
Positions available in physician's offices, hospitals and clinics***

Cons of an Orthopedic Technician Career
Position may be physically demanding**
Stress can occur in emergencies**
Continuing education is required to remain current in the latest techniques and trends in the field**
Technicians working in hospitals may be required to work nights and weekends*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **St. Louis University, ***Central Texas College.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Orthopedic technicians work with physicians to treat patients with bone and joint injuries or conditions. They apply splints, casts and braces and instruct patients in the care and use of orthopedic devices. They also take patients' medical histories and vital signs, prepare patients for examinations and administer medications under the direction of a physician or nurse. Technicians remove casts and splints, adjust crutches and orthopedic devices and position patients for treatment. Some technicians assist orthopedic surgeons in the operating room.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 30% increase in employment opportunities for surgical technicians between 2012 and 2022. They also predict an increase of 29% for medical assistants during the same period. Central Texas College shows the hourly rate for orthopedic technicians is between $13 and $15 per hour. Medical assistants earned an annual median salary of $30,000 in 2013, according to the BLS.

What Are the Requirements?

The training requirements for orthopedic technicians vary by employer. The minimum qualification is a high school diploma and experience or training in orthopedics. Some employers require job candidates to complete a formal training program as a medical assistant or in orthopedics. Training and certification in CPR may also be required.

As a technician, you must be knowledgeable about the plasters used in orthopedics, casting and traction techniques, orthopedic devices, surgical procedures, medical terminology and the musculoskeletal system.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers looking for orthopedic technicians prefer applicants with experience providing care to patients in an orthopedics facility. Some employers require formal training from a medical assistant training program and others seek candidates with an advanced education. Below are some examples of job postings for orthopedic technicians available in April 2012:

  • An employer in Massachusetts is seeking an orthopedic technician to assist with patients in a community-based hospital. The technician will escort patients to the examination room, take medical histories, vital signs and perform procedures, such as applying and removing casts, braces and removing sutures. Candidates must have a high school education, certification as an orthopedic technician and experience in the field to qualify.
  • A Pennsylvania employer is looking for an orthopedic technician to assist surgeons and athletic trainers in its outpatient facilities. The orthopedic technician will complete patient documentation, apply casts and splints, educate patients on exercise programs and adjust crutches. The employer requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and an athletic trainer certification. Candidates with a different combination of experience and education may qualify for the position.
  • An employer in Nebraska is searching for an orthopedic technician to prepare patients for examinations, take vital signs and assist the medical staff with patient treatment. The candidate must have completed a medical assistant training program and have at least one year of experience in the field.
  • A Maryland employer is looking for an orthopedic technician to assist physicians in patient examinations, apply and remove casts and splints and keep patients moving through the facility. Candidates must have a minimum of a high school education and complete a one-year training course in orthopedics. The candidate must have at least two and a half years experience as a medical aide and two years in orthopedics.

How to Stand Out in the Field

While not all employers require certification from a nationally recognized organization, obtaining an orthopedic technologist credential may help you stand out in the field. Candidates can qualify to take the certification examination from the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists by completing two years of full time work in an orthopedic facility under the supervision of a physician or by completing an orthopedic technologist training program (www.nbcot.net).

Other Careers to Consider

If a career working with patients is appealing, but the salary information for an orthopedic technician is a deterrent, a career as an occupational or physical therapy assistant may be a better fit. Occupational therapy assistants help patients perform everyday activities after an injury, disability or illness. Physical therapy assistants guide patients through physical therapy exercises and treatments. Both occupational and physical therapy assistants must have associate's degrees to qualify for a position. The national median salary for a physical therapy assistant in 2011 was $51,000 and occupational therapy assistants earned $52,000 during the same period, according to the BLS.

Nursing is another career that involves working closely with patients. Licensed practical nurses provide direct care to patients, take medical histories and work under the direction of a registered nurse or physician. You can enter the field after completing a one-year training program. The median annual salary for 2011 was $41,000, according to the BLS.

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