Medical appliance technicians fabricate, fit, maintain, and repair orthopedic braces, artificial limbs, joints, arch supports, and other surgical and medical appliances.
Dental laboratory technicians construct and maintain crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental prosthetics as prescribed by a dentist.
Ophthalmic laboratory technicians make prescription eyeglass or contact lenses.
There are about 90,000 U.S. jobs for medical, dental, and ophthalmic laboratory technicians. Sixty percent of salaried jobs are in medical equipment and supply manufacturing laboratories, which usually are small and privately owned.
Most such technicians learn their craft on the job; however, many employers prefer to hire those with formal training in a related field.
There are 4 programs accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). They offer either an associate degree or a one-year certificate. Courses include human anatomy and physiology, orthotic and prosthetic equipment and materials, and applied biomechanical principles.
Training in dental laboratory technology is available through community and junior colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and the U.S. Armed Forces. Formal training programs vary greatly both in length and in the level of skill they impart.
Voluntary certification is available through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC). Applicants are eligible for an exam after completing a program accredited by NCOPE or obtaining two years of experience as a technician under the direct supervision of an ABC-certified practitioner.
Graduates of 2-year training programs for Dental Laboratory Technicians need additional hands-on experience to become fully qualified.
The National Board for Certification, established by the National Association of Dental Laboratories, offers certification in dental laboratory technology. Certification is voluntary.