Prosthetist

Prosthetists design and create artificial limbs for people who need them. They care for patients who have arms or legs missing at birth; or lose limbs through accident, injury or amputation.

To work in the NHS, prosthetists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course that could lead to a career as a prosthetist, useful subjects include:

  • Human Biology
  • Physics
  • Engineering Science
  • Maths
  • English

Doing Foundation Apprenticeship in Engineering or Social Services and Healthcare in S5 or S6 could give you valuable work experience.

Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot.

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

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.

The role

As a prosthetist, you would provide a prosthesis to people who have lost arms or legs through amputation; or were born with missing limbs.

You’d closely with the patient to understand their needs and goals. For example, some prostheses are specially designed for a particular use or activity, such as sports.

After measuring the patient, you would make a model of the remaining limb where the artificial limb will be fitted. You would then fit the prosthesis once it has been made, to ensure comfort and performance.

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 a prosthetist include:

  • assessing a patient's needs and taking measurements
  • fitting artificial limbs
  • using the latest techniques and technologies to design prostheses
  • explaining designs to prosthetic 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 or limb is functioning properly
  • making adjustments or repairs if needed
  • supervising students and healthcare support workers

Top skills

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:

  • prosthetic technicians
  • physiotherapists
  • occupational therapists
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • healthcare support workers

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospitals
  • private clinics

Useful information

To work as a prosthetist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

There are over 1,000 registered prosthetists and orthotists in the UK and more than 30 prosthetists working in the NHS in Scotland. Prosthetists can also work for organisations that provide NHS services.

Learning and development

The professional body for prosthetists and orthotists in the UK is the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists (BAPO). You can become a member once you’ve qualified as a prosthetist.

During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with continuing professional development (CPD). The BAPO provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.

Career progression

With training and experience, you may choose to specialise in a particular area of practice such as:

  • diabetes
  • working with children

You could also progress to senior and specialist prosthetist 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.