The O&P EDGE : 2015 Salary Survey

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By Laura Fonda Hochnadel
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It's a way for employers to determine market wages and offer their employees competitive salaries, it's a guide for newcomers to the profession to estimate their future salaries and educational return on investment, and it provides information for current professionals to negotiate salaries-or even to know that their current salaries are, in fact, fair.

The salary survey can also show movement in the profession, such as an outflow due to people retiring, a slowdown in people entering the profession, or a gender shift in entry-level practitioners, especially when comparisons can be made to earlier data.

We are proud to present the results of our 2015 salary survey:

The O&P EDGE 2015 Salary Survey was open from April 27 through July 22. We received 425 responses with 353 usable surveys from which we could pull data and analyze. Of the respondents, 81 were women (23 percent) and 264 were men (74 percent); 8 people declined to answer this question.

Into what age range do you fall?

The number of women under the age of 29 years and between the ages of 35 and 39 in this year's survey represents a significant increase-upward of 9 percent in each of these categories-compared to 2013 results. Yet there was about a 9 percent decrease in women respondents between the ages of 30 and 34 compared to 2013.

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What is the highest level of education you have attained?

There is an uptick in respondents with master's degrees for 2015. The chart below shows the educational breakdown between the genders. Several of the universities that offer National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE)-accredited O&P master's degrees have reported increased numbers of women students. The trend seen in the chart below may be indicative of these enrollment increases.

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What best describes your job focus?

The majority of our respondents, 82 percent, listed their job focus as "lower limb," and 49 percent as "foot and ankle." Among the most common answers listed for those who chose "other" was cranial remolding and management-level positions. Because respondents were asked to provide up to three focuses, percentages equal more than 100.

Which of the following best describes the type of orthotic, prosthetic, pedorthic, or post-mastectomy facility at which you work?

Among this year's respondents, the most notable change compared to the 2013 data was a 5 percent increase in those who work at a national facility. Due to rounding, annual totals do not equal 100 percent.

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What factors contribute to your employment choices?

Respondents were asked to rate 11 factors that contribute to their employment choices, using a one-to-five scale, where one is least important and five is most important. The perennial top four choices, shown on a weighted-average basis, are company reputation, salary, benefits, and location.

What best describes the type of community in which you work?

This year saw a significant increase in respondents who reported working in moderate city/suburban settings and a notable decrease in respondents who reported working in major metropolitan area/urban settings. Higher salaries are often earned in major metropolitan areas/urban settings to accommodate for the higher costs of living; between 2013 and 2015, the average yearly salary reported by those working in major metropolitan areas/urban settings increased by $11,000.

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Distribution of Certifications Among Respondents

Among the 81 women who responded, there are 89 certifications and 15 "other" responses. Among the 264 men who responded, there are 252 certifications and 43 "other" responses. The majority of responses in the "other" category include residents and board-eligible practitioners.

Average Annual Salary by Years of Professional Experience

The salary data reported in this chart represents only O&P professionals whose primary certifications/job functions include orthotists, prosthetists, or prosthetist/orthotists; it does not include those whose primary certifications/job functions are fitters, assistants, technicians, or pedorthists, as the number of these respondents were low and the inclusion of their data would distort the data for the larger cohort. Instead, general salary data about these groups is reported in the detailed breakdown by discipline.

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Average Annual Salary for Practitioners Who Have a Master's Degree in O&P, per Years of Experience

Because a master's degree in O&P is now the entry-level education requirement to become a certified prosthetist, certified orthotist, or certified prosthetist/orthotist, questions have arisen from the incoming students about the value of their education relative to experience. To answer that question, a comparison would need to be made between the salaries of those with a master's degree in O&P and of those without a master's degree in O&P.

At this time, the number of respondents with a master's degree in O&P is relatively low, and does not provide an accurate measure, nor is it a valid determinant of trends. Salary data for those respondents with a master's degree in O&P is provided, based on years of experience, for general information only.

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Non-Certified Technicians

In June, the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) released its analysis projecting O&P workforce supply and patient demand over the next ten years. One item of note related to O&P technicians. Specifically, the report stated "a large (but unknown) proportion of technicians do not become certified." Further, an article in the July 2014 issue of The O&P EDGE, "How to Build a Technician," reported, "Experts are divided about whether technicians should have a formal education before entering the field." Toward this end, compensation data is provided for the eight respondents who identified themselves as non-certified O&P technicians. Given the small number of respondents, this is provided for information only, and is not indicative of compensation trends.

Salary Range:
$20,000-$79,000 (n=8)

Adjusted range:
$35,000-$48,000 (n=5)

Adjusted average:

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Quota Requirements

Only 66 respondents (19 percent) indicated they are required to meet quotas, most of whom went on to specify that, in actuality, they had to meet budget requirements or revenue goals, rather than quotas. A handful of others said that while numbers are not specifically mentioned, meeting certain financial/patient care goals is encouraged indirectly.

"I don't require it yet, but I'm heading in that direction," said one facility owner. Another facility owner said, "All practitioners are worked with individually to assess their capabilities and help them achieve a balance of work and time off that fits their personal needs."

One respondent added this comment to describe his quota requirements: "Budgeted numbers created by clearly intoxicated individuals."

And another wrote, "Patient care is not the priority so much as making profit. Each practitioner is held responsible for making money. Quality product and patient care is not stressed, but must be maintained on a personal level."

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Which benefits do you receive?

Compared to 2013, the most notable changes in benefits are a nearly 10 percent increase in respondents receiving a 401k/retirement plan, a nearly 5 percent decrease in respondents receiving a company car/mileage reimbursement, an 8 percent increase in insurance for dependents, and a more than 4 percent increase in insurance for self.

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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 environment 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.