A new degree at St. Petersburg College will help meet the growing number of patients needing artificial limbs and braces.

The Orthotics and Prosthetics Technology Associate Degree will be available to students in the fall.

Program Director Arlene Gillis says the Associate in Science degree will teach students the fundamentals of designing and fabricating prosthetic and orthotic devices. Gillis says it’s the only one of its kind in the state of Florida.

Industry research suggests the number of patients needing this type of care is expected to increase.

"We have an aging population, along with the returning vets, there's a need for prosthetic and orthotic care,” said Gillis.

Gillis said the demand is only going to continue to increase in the upcoming years as current practitioners retire.

“With the current population of prosthetists and orthotists being slightly under 6,000 nationally and many of those are set to retire in the next five years, there'll be a high demand," she said.

St. Petersburg College hopes adding this step to its current program helps fill that need. The college currently offers a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics.