The O&P EDGE 2013 Salary Survey

By Laura Fonda Hochnadel

"Paying people fairly is good for business,"
writes Bill Coleman, a Salary.com contributing writer.

"Underpay, and employees will eventually look for a better offer.
          Overpay, and the payroll budget and profitability will suffer."

(www.salary.com/compensation-surveys/)

money

But what is "fair pay" anyway? It depends. What constitutes fair pay can depend on the employee's education and experience level. Will he or she be supervising others? If so, the additional responsibilities may warrant a higher wage than someone who is not employed in a supervisory capacity. Are you a mom-and-pop patient care facility trying to keep afloat under the pressure of increased documentation requirements and audit scrutiny, or are you a large regional or national company with increasing profits and a well-versed compliance department watching your back? Are you in a well-populated area or a rural area where the cost of living is lower and the patients fewer and farther away? There is also more to fair pay than compensation-the benefits an employer offers can be factored into the equation.

Earlier this year, The O&P EDGE started this conversation by asking orthotic, prosthetic, pedorthic, and postmastectomy professionals across the United States to complete a survey that asked about compensation-related issues, types of care provided, and workplace and personal demographics. We are proud to present the results of our 2013 benchmarking salary survey.

TIME ZONE DISTRIBUTION, GENDER, AND COMMUNITY TYPE

graph graph
number of responses

The O&P EDGE 2013 Salary Survey was open from April 16 through June 14. More than 550 individuals completed it. After filtering out those surveys that did not provide salary data, we received 383 usable surveys from 115 women and 268 men distributed across the continental-U.S. time zones. The number of female respondents increased 47 percent from the 2011 Salary Survey, while the number of male respondents remained relatively consistent as did the time zone and geographic distribution.

PERSONAL DEMOGRAPHICS

INTO WHAT AGE RANGE DO YOU FALL?

number of responses

Compared to 2011, there was a marked decline in the number of respondents in the 40-49 and 50-59 age groups and an appreciable increase in the 35-39 age group. Our data shows that more young women are entering O&P than young men, which is consistent with the 2011 survey data. For the 2013 survey, 18.8 percent of the female respondents and 12.3 percent of the male respondents are under the age of 29, as compared to 2011 data, at which time 23 percent of the female respondents and 13 percent of the male respondents were under age 29.

WHAT IS THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF EDUCATION YOU HAVE ATTAINED?

Respondents were polled on their highest level of education overall, regardless of discipline. The data shows that there has been a slight uptick in the education level of the respondents as compared to the 2011 survey. There was a 2.4 percent increase in the number of respondents reporting an associate degree as the highest level of education they have attained, a 4.7 percent increase in individuals with a bachelor's degree and/or post-bachelor's degree certificate, and a 3 percent increase in respondents with a master's degree.

Among the most significant changes in OP&P education programs in the past two years have been increases in the minimum education levels required to enter various disciplines in an effort viewed by many as a way to enhance the profession's status within allied healthcare. In 2011, there was a shift in pedorthic education requirements for programs seeking accreditation by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), whereby the program must be housed at a two-year college or greater, and the educational institute must award a minimum of a certificate at the completion of the program. The minimum entry-level education requirement for those seeking to become an orthotic and/or prosthetic practitioner was elevated to a master's degree program in January. Professional organizations have also ramped up their orthotic, prosthetic, pedorthic, and post-mastectomy education and training offerings.

There remains a debate among O&P professionals whether the move to an entry-level master's degree program for O&P practitioners will be a barrier to entry or validation of practitioners' expertise and knowledge.

graph

WHAT CERTIFICATIONS DO YOU HOLD?

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) and the Board of Certification/Accreditation, International (BOC), offer 19 certifications. The 115 female respondents hold a total of 134 certifications across all disciplines, and the 268 male respondents hold 316 certifications across all disciplines. Of the 21 women and 30 men who responded "other," the majority are O&P residents, many of whom already are certified in one discipline.

graph
graph

FACILITY / COMPANY INFORMATION

WHAT BEST DESCRIBES YOUR JOB FOCUS?

The majority of our respondents, 71.8 percent, listed lower limb as their job focus, which is not surprising among prosthetists given that upper-limb amputations are not as common as lower-limb amputations. This trend also held true across other disciplines such as orthotists, assistants, and technicians. Among the answers listed for those who chose "other" are diabetic shoes, cranial molding helmets, and management. Because respondents were asked to provide up to three focuses, percentages equal more than 100.

graph

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING BEST DESCRIBES THE TYPE OF ORTHOTIC, PROSTHETIC, PEDORTHIC, OR POST-MASTECOMY FACILITY AT WHICH YOU WORK?

The purpose of this question was to take a look at the various types of facilities at which O&P professionals work. About 8 percent more respondents indicated that they work at a multiple location (state or regional) facility than in the 2011 survey. The numbers for single location and national facility remained relatively flat between the two surveys. New to this year's survey were additional, more specifically deliniated categories such as research/educational institute, manufacturer/distributor, central fabrication, and retail. Those who checked "other" are employed by a nonprofit organization; a mastectomy boutique/salon for hair, wigs, and massage; a multi-physician orthopedic/surgical practice; or a hospital-owned durable medical equipment (DME) facility.

graph

WHAT FACTORS CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR EMPLOYMENT CHOICES?

Respondents were given a list of choices and were asked to rate on a one-to-five scale, with one being least important and five being most important, those factors that contribute to their employment choices. The average values are depicted in this graph. While location, salary, benefits, and company reputation show a fairly tight comparable analysis, what the graph doesn't show are the actual numbers and that the most common ranking for these four choices was either a three or four. For instance, out of 383 respondents, 143 ranked location at a four, 197 ranked salary at a four (compared to 104 who ranked salary at a five), 188 ranked benefits at a four, and 154 ranked company reputation at a four.

graph

MOST REWARDING ASPECTS OF THE JOB, OTHER THAN COMPENSATION:

graph

COMPENSATION

AVERAGE SALARY BY CERTIFICATION

The average annual salaries were examined for the 354 respondents who reported they work on a full-time basis. Salary reporting was rounded to the nearest $500. The difficulty in calculating the average salaries by discipline is that 17.5 percent of the survey respondents hold one or more certifications. Thus, salary data was allocated to the highest discipline. For instance, because it would be impossible to account for all combinations of multi-certified individuals, a certified orthotist who is also a certified shoe fitter was grouped under "orthotist." This then precluded us from counting the salaries for the very few O&P professionals who are dually certified in, for example, pedorthics and prosthetics or as an assistant and fitter, as well as for those disciplines for which there were fewer than three respondents. As an additional note, dually certified mastectomy fitters are categorized under "fitter" rather than mastectomy fitter to keep that category singly focused.

graph

As mentioned in the personal demographics section, more women are entering the profession than men. This is further supported by the contrast in the amount of entrylevel O&P experience between female and male respondents: 32.2 percent of the female respondents have between one and four years of O&P experience as compared to 16.5 percent of the male respondents.

graph

SALARY BY YEARS OF PROFESSIONAL O&P EXPERIENCE

Based on the survey results, it appears that employers are apt to pay a premium when hiring employees with more experience. Having said this, it should be noted that more women than men reported having careers in the lower-paying O&P disciplines, which skews comparisons of average salaries based on other criteria.

graph

Other factors that might influence compensation level include supervisory capacity and tenure. However, salary comparison based on supervisory capacity and tenure between genders may be skewed by the women filling more of the lower-paying O&P job functions than men.

SALARY BASED ON SUPERVISORY CAPACITY

graph

SALARY BASED ON TENURE WITH CURRENT EMPLOYER

graph
graph

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, our Twitter account, and on the OandP-L listserv, as well as through e-mail invitations to practitioners in our database who receive monthly marketing "blasts." We also promoted the survey on the American Association of Breast Care Professionals (AABCP) website, the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) page on Facebook, the Board for Certification/ Accreditation, International (BOC) page on Facebook, and the Orthotic Prosthetic Technological Association (OPTA) 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.

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 cannot 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.

Laura Fonda Hochnadel can be reached at

Would you like to see The O&P EDGE conduct other types of surveys in the future? Let us know what topics are of interest to you.