Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
To get on a course that could lead to a career as an orthotist, useful subjects include:
- Human Biology
- Engineering Science
Work placements and volunteering
You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.
A Foundation Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to start your career journey as an orthotist. Learn more about relevant Foundation Apprenticeships in:
College and university
Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.
At college, you could do an HND in Engineering Systems.
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
In Scotland, University of Strathclyde offers a four-year pre-registration undergraduate programme in Prosthetics and Orthotics, approved by the HCPC.
For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.
As an orthotist, you’d provide aids to correct problems or deformities of a patient’s nerves, muscles or bones.
You'll assess your patient’s condition to design and fit orthoses to aid movement, stop deformities from progressing, or relieve discomfort.
Orthotists treat people from head to toe for a variety of problems including:
- back pain
- knee pain
- sports-related injuries
- foot pain
- limb or spinal deformity
Using measurements, casts, digital imaging, computer-aided design and computer-aided modelling, you would design and fit surgical appliances such as:
- neck collars
Working with doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists, you’ll provide advice to ensure the patient receives appropriate rehabilitation and aftercare support.
What you’ll do
Some of the typical tasks of an orthotist include:
- assessing a patient's needs and taking measurements
- fitting surgical devices
- using the latest techniques and technologies to design orthoses
- explaining designs to orthotic technicians so the final product can be produced
- following up with patients to see how they are managing with their device
- carrying out assessments to ensure the device is functioning properly
- making adjustments or repairs if needed
- supervising students and healthcare support workers
You’ll need these skills:
- caring for people
- working in a team
- communicating with people
- problem-solving skills
- persuading and motivating people
- critical thinking skills
Who you’ll work with
Prosthetists work with other healthcare professionals including:
- orthotic technicians
- occupational therapists
- healthcare support workers
You could work in:
- private clinics
To work as an orthotist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
Did you know?
There are over 1,000 registered prosthetists and orthotists in the UK and more than 65 orthotists working in the NHS in Scotland.
Learning and development
During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with continuing professional development (CPD). The British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO) provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.
With training and experience, you may choose to specialise in a particular area of practice such as:
- sports injuries
- working with children
You could also progress to senior and specialist orthotist roles. As head of an orthotics and prosthetics service, you would be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget.
There are also teaching and research opportunities.
As an NHSScotland orthotist, you must be a member of the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Once you become a qualified orthotist, you can also join: