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How to become a prosthetist

To become a prosthetist in the NHS, you must complete a pre-registration undergraduate degree programme approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

What is a prosthetist?

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

Starting your career as a prosthetist

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 
  • English
  • Maths  

Speak to your guidance teacher about subjects offered at your school.

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

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 access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need. 

Pre-registration undergraduate degree programme

In Scotland, the University of Strathclyde offers a four-year pre-registration undergraduate programme in Prosthetics and Orthotics, approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). 

After graduation, you must register with the HCPC. You can then apply as a newly qualified  for vacancies in the NHS.

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

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

You’d work 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 make sure patients receive appropriate rehabilitation and aftercare support. 

Tasks include: 

  • assess a patient's needs
  • taking measurements 
  • fit artificial limbs 
  • use the latest techniques and technologies to design prostheses 
  • explain designs to prosthetic technicians so the final product can be produced 
  • follow up with patients
  • carry out assessments to make sure the device or limb is functioning properly 
  • make adjustments or repairs if needed 
  • supervise students and healthcare support workers

You'll need these skills:

  • caring 
  • collaboration
  • communicating
  • problem-solving
  • persuading and motivating people 
  • critical thinking

Prosthetists work with other healthcare professionals, including: 

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

You could work in: 

  • hospitals 
  • private clinics

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. 

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. 

Professional bodies

When you become a qualified prosthetist, you must register with the HCPC to work in the NHS. You can also join the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists.

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