The O&P EDGE 2011 Salary Survey

By Laura Hochnadel

How much do you earn? It's a simple question, but for some it's an inquiry that resides outside the realm of polite, day-to-day conversation. In a professional setting, however, knowing how much others in your chosen career path earn could tip the balance between getting a job, pricing yourself out of a market, or selling yourself short. Orthotic, prosthetic, pedorthic, and post-mastectomy professionals often tell us how rewarding their jobs are, but they also ask us why there isn't more benchmarking data out there-not just clinical data, but career-related data as well. There do not seem to be a lot of independent sources that offer industry-specific salary data at low or no charge to O&P and related professionals. The O&P EDGE is hoping to change that.

Earlier this year, we asked orthotic, prosthetic, pedorthic, and postmastectomy professionals across the United States to complete a survey that asked about compensation-related issues, types of care provided, as well as workplace and personal demographics. We are proud to present the results of this inaugural, benchmarking survey.

Geographic Distribution and Gender

The O&P EDGE 2011 Salary Survey, which was open from May 17 through June 16, was viewed more than 2,000 times and completed by 376 individuals.* After filtering out respondents from outside the United States, we received 349 complete, usable surveys from 271 men and 78 women scattered across all regions of the country.**

*The survey allowed one response per IP address. All responses were anonymous.
**Respondents were asked to identify the state in which they work. One respondent, who indicated "all over" as a region, is excluded from these results.

How the Survey Was Promoted

The survey was promoted in print through The O&P EDGE and electronically through the EDGE Direct e-newsletter, The O&P EDGE page on Facebook, and our Twitter account, as well as through e-mail invitations to practitioners in our database. We also promoted the survey on the American Association of Breast Care Professionals (AABCP) website, the Pedorthic Newswire e-newsletter, the National Commission on Orthotic & Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) page on Facebook and its resident listserv, the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) page on Facebook, and the Board for Certification/Accreditation, International (BOC) page on Facebook. We would like to thank each of these organizations for their help and cooperation in getting the news out to the profession.


Personal Demographics

Into what age range do you fall?

Eighteen percent of the overall respondents are under the age of 29, while 6 percent are over the age of 60. This could be indicative of a positive trend of individuals entering the profession versus individuals nearing retirement age. The results also indicate an upward trend of women entering the profession: 23 percent of the female respondents are under 29 years of age as compared to 13 percent of the male respondents.



What is the highest level of education you have attained?

Today's O&P, pedorthic, and post-mastectomy professionals are a well-educated workforce: 46 percent of the respondents have earned a bachelor's degree, 15 percent have earned a master's degree, and 12 percent have earned an associate degree. A greater percentage of women (28 percent) than men (11 percent) hold master's degrees, while a greater percentage of men (49 percent) than women (37 percent) hold bachelor's degrees. Two male respondents indicated that they had earned doctorate degrees.

Most rewarding aspect of the job, other than compensation:


"Having a positive impact on peoples' lives, meeting so many interesting people, creative problem solving, the art of O&P, working with different materials and products."

Practitioners who entered the profession prior to 1986 were grandfathered in to lower educational requirements when a bachelor's degree became the required entry-level degree. Beginning in 2013, the entry-level education requirement for individuals seeking to become an orthotic and/or prosthetic practitioner will be a master's degree, which many believe will raise the status of the profession in the eyes of the medical and allied healthcare communities. Others, however, wonder if the heightened education requirement may become a barrier to entry.

Respondents were polled on highest level of education overall. Certificates and degrees earned cover all disciplines, not just O&P and related professions.


Professional Demographics

Certifications Held

Survey participants were asked which certifications they hold, if any. Selections included all 14 ABC professional certifications and all six BOC professional certifications. Respondents were also able to select non-certified orthotist/prosthetist/pedorthist/ technician/fitter and "other."

Out of 349 respondents, 261 reported a total of 389 certifications. Of the 389 certifications, 342 (88 percent) have ABC certifications and 47 (12 percent) have BOC certifications.

We received responses from 37 non-certified O&P, pedorthic, and post-mastectomy professionals. Board-eligible O&P individuals and residents are included in this category. While 49 individuals (11 percent of the male respondents and 23 percent of the female respondents) reported "resident" as a specialty, approximately one-third of these individuals already hold an orthotics or prosthetics certification. Fifty-one respondents selected "other," with the majority being licensed orthotists or licensed prosthetists.

Most rewarding aspect of the job, other than compensation:


"Travel time out of the office, but most of all diversity in patient population and being able to help individuals resume a productive and active lifestyle after receiving an orthotic device."

ABC and BOC Statistics

According to an ABC representative, as of August 2011, ABC had issued a total of 14,088 certifications (across all ABC professional certifications). BOC representatives state that as of August 2011, BOC had issued a total of 3,175 certifications (across all BOC professional certifications). Some individuals have earned multiple certifications, and some have earned certifications from both national certifying organizations; therefore, the actual number of individuals certified by ABC and BOC would logically be fewer than the combined total of these numbers.

What is your specialty?

When asked about their specialties-be it overall job category or population served-more than 68 percent of the male respondents and more than 51 percent of the female respondents reported orthotics and prosthetics, with an emphasis on lower-limb versus upper-limb care. Thirty-one percent of the male respondents and 15 percent of the female respondents indicated pedorthics as a specialty. Men who reported fabrication as a specialty outnumber women by a nearly three-to-one margin. Regarding populations served, pediatrics ranked highest among both male and female respondents, followed by geriatrics and veterans.

Because respondents were asked to check all applicable answers, percentages equal more than 100. Male and female respondents are combined in the graph below.


Facility/Company Information

Most rewarding aspect of the job, other than compensation:


"The patients themselves. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a patient week after week come in riding a wheelchair and then all of a sudden start walking into your office because of you."

"Helping others stand, walk, and even run when they thought that they never had a chance."

"Watch patients' happiness when they walk in the shoes I have designed with proper inserts and orthotics."

Growing Need for Orthotic, Prosthetic, and Pedorthic Care

According to the Amputee Coalition, an average of 507 amputations are performed each day in the United States. New developments in the O&P field are also allowing a larger variety of people with disabilities to obtain new devices. With the increasing incidence of obesity- and aging-related diabetes, a record number of soldiers returning from war with amputations, the high prevalence of foot and ankle problems in the general population, and the fact that one-in-eight females born today are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer (based on current statistics from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institute of Health), the need for O&P, pedorthics, and post-mastectomy professionals will continue to increase.

What type(s) of care, products, and/or services does your facility provide?

More than 85 percent of our respondents provide orthotic and prosthetic care. This includes practitioners, fitters, technicians, and assistants. Sixty-seven percent provide pedorthic care, and 23 percent provide post-mastectomy fittings. The majority of those who fell under the "other" category (9 percent) are durable medical equipment (DME) providers.

Because respondents were asked to check all applicable answers, percentages equal more than 100.

What best describes the type of the orthotic, prosthetic, pedorthic, or postmastectomy facility at which you work?

The majority of respondents, 63 percent, work at a standalone facility or a facility that has multiple locations within a single state. Twenty percent work in multiple location/regional or multiple location/national facilities, 10 percent in a hospital or rehabilitation facility, and eight percent fall in the "other" category. "Other" includes central fabs, manufacturers, and educational institutions. Three respondents indicated that they are mobile practitioners and do not work out of a specific brick-and-mortar location.


Salary and Benefits

What is your annual level of compensation?

Twenty-eight percent of the male respondents reported that they earn more than $100,000 per year, compared to 6 percent of the female respondents, while 31 percent of the female respondents reported that they earn less than $40,000, compared to 8 percent of the male respondents. Possible reasons for this discrepancy include the fact that O&P has traditionally been a male-dominated profession; there are more male-owned than female-owned facilities; and there are more women than men in the lower-paying positions, such as fitters and assistants, which are typically compensated at lower rates than clinicians. According to our respondent demographics, more women than men are entering the field, so their entry-level salaries are understandably lower than the salaries of established professionals. Overall, 13 percent of respondents report earning less than $39,999 per year; 36 percent earn between $40,000 and $69,999; 27 percent earn between $70,000 and $99,999; and 24 percent earn more than $100,000.

Factors that influence compensation levels include certifications held, years of professional experience in the field, supervisory capacity, and employer size.

Salary comparisons do not include non-certified respondents or respondents who checked the box marked "other."

Salary by Certification

Prosthetists/orthotists command the highest salaries among our survey cohort, with 77 percent earning more than $70,000 per year. The majority of orthotists (44 percent) earn between $40,000 and $69,999. Prosthetists' salaries are fairly evenly distributed between the $40,000-$69,999; $70,000-$99,999; and $100,000-plus ranges. Thirty-nine percent of pedorthists earn between $40,000 and $69,000. A comparable percentage of fitters (34 percent and 36 percent, respectively) earn less than $39,999 and between $40,000 and $69,999. Fifty-eight percent of the assistants and technicians earn salaries in the $40,000-$69,999 range. However, these latter two categories had the smallest amount of respondents, so these numbers are not necessarily statistically significant.

While not recorded as part of these results, residents who responded to the survey earn $30,000 per year, on average.

Results are based on 261 respondents who have a combined total of 389 certifications. Due to rounding, percentages may not equal 100 percent. Participants were encouraged to check all applicable answers, and thus may have chosen more than one.

Salary by Years of Professional Experience

The majority of O&P professionals with less than one year of experience earn less than $39,999. Conversely, the majority of O&P professionals with 10-19 years of experience (53 percent) and 20-plus years of experience (80 percent) earn more than $70,000 per year. The majority of the respondents with 1-4 and 5-9 years of experience earn salaries in the $40,000-$69,999 range.

Salary by Gender and Experience

Most rewarding aspect of the job, other than compensation:


"Making a difference in someone's life; i.e., fitting them with a new feminine bra and a prosthesis to make them feel 'whole' again."

Forty-three percent of the female respondents indicated having four years of experience or less; 22 percent of those reported annual compensation of less than $39,999, and 20 percent reported annual compensation in the $40,000-$69,999 range. Conversely, 17 percent of male respondents indicated having four years of experience or fewer, but only 5 percent of those recorded annual compensation of less than $49,999, and 10 percent reported annual compensation in the $40,000-$69,999 range.

At the upper end of the spectrum, 39 percent of the male respondents have more than 20 years of professional working experience, 21 percent of whom reported annual compensation in excess of $100,000. Nineteen percent of the female respondents have more than 20 years of experience, 5 percent of whom earn annual compensation in excess of $100,000.

Due to rounding, percentages may not equal 100.

Salary by Employer Size

Almost 25 percent of our total respondents work for companies with fewer than ten employees, while 20 percent work for companies with more than 1,000 employees. Of those respondents who report annual earnings of more than $70,000, 36 percent work for companies with fewer than 99 employees, while 15 percent work for companies with more than 100 employees.

Due to rounding, percentages may not equal 100.

Salary Based on Supervisory Capacity

Sixty-three percent of our male respondents are employed in a supervisory capacity, compared to 39 percent of our female respondents. Consequently, the male respondents earn considerably more than the female respondents.

Due to rounding, percentages may not equal 100.


Benefits

What benefits do you receive?

All but one of the respondents reported receiving some sort of benefits, with the overwhelming majority receiving paid holidays and vacation time (94 percent), insurance (85 percent), paid sick leave (79 percent), paid continuing education and/or certification reimbursement (75 percent), and 401k (67 percent). As an added incentive, 36 percent of the respondents also receive a cash bonus and/or a commission.

Reported insurance benefits are not limited to medical, dental, or optical. Fifty-four percent of the respondents receive life insurance, 53 percent receive malpractice/liability, and 49 percent and 44 percent receive short-term and long-term disability, respectively.

Because respondents were asked to check all applicable answers, percentages equal more than 100.

What factors contribute to your employment choices?

For this question, we asked respondents to rate how a variety of factors contribute to their employment choices. Ratings were based on a scale of one to five, with one being the least important and five being the most important. The chart at the bottom right reflects factors ranked as either a four or a five.

More than 70 percent of our respondents indicated that location, salary, benefits, and company reputation are top priorities when choosing employment. Respondents indicated that stock options (12 percent), ownership potential (27 percent), and company size (32 percent) were less important in their employment decisions.

Because respondents were asked to check all applicable answers, percentages equal more than 100.

Using the Results

This survey is intended as a benchmark and should be used as a point of reference. It is not intended to present conclusive, scientific results or to provide guidance about what company to work for or in what region a person should work. Choosing the right employer is an individual choice based on myriad factors that could not be represented in a single survey.

Salary and compensation data can be both practical and advantageous to employers and employees alike. In addition to using professional demographic, salary, and benefits comparisons as a negotiation tool, such data may also provide employees with the incentive to advance their careers. Employers may use this data to assess their pay scales and help them to attract qualified personnel.

Would you like to see The O&P EDGE conduct additional targeted salary and compensation surveys in the future? Please let us know what measurement criteria are important to you.

Laura Hochnadel can be reached at