The employment outlook for prosthetists and orthotists is excellent. Currently, there are not enough prosthetists and orthotists to meet the growing demand nationally for their services. Specifically, in December of 2005 there were only 5254 ABC certified practitioners in the United States (1) of which only 154 were in the state of Georgia (2).
More than 4.1 million Americans use orthoses (braces) for disabling conditions such as stroke, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as for orthopedic impairments due to sports activities, other physical trauma, birth defects and advanced arthritis (3). Over the next two decades, the number of disabled patients is likely to grow to over 42 million (4). In 2005 it was estimated that a potential 1.3 million people may have been without adequate orthotic care. This shortage will continue to be even more significant in areas with a large elderly population that rely heavily on orthotists for rehabilitation from age-related injuries and illness (4-6).
In 1996, there were 1.5 million Americans with amputations. Every year an additional 125,000 people lose a limb as a result of complications of vascular disease, trauma, or cancer (7). Predictions indicate the elderly population will increase markedly in the next two decades (7) and because vascular disease increases with age, there will likely be an increase in the amount of vascular reconstruction and amputation (6). The advent of improved prosthetic designs and new lighter weight materials will likely increase the rate of use of prostheses by amputees (4). Due to the predicted shortage of prosthetists, only two thirds of the total population of amputees will be able to obtain prosthetic care by 2010 (4).
The prolongation of life, advances in materials science and technology, along with changes in health care delivery have created expanding opportunities for clinicians, researchers, and educators in prosthetics and orthotics.
A starting annual gross salary for new graduates entering residency is generally between $30,000 and $40,000 depending on geographic location and practice setting (8).
A recent Salary and Compensation Survey indicates that a practitioner certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics earns an estimated annual gross salary of:
- $50,000 with less than two years of experience
- $60,000 with two to five years of experience
- greater than $70,000 with five years of experience
- greater than $100,000 with 15 or more years of experience (8)
- Salaries may vary by region, type of practice and other factors. Salaries usually increase with experience.
- Personal communication, Tom Derrick, American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics, May 10, 2005.
- Russell JN, Hendershot GE, LeClere F, Howie J, Adler M. Trends and differential use of assistive technology devices: United States, 1994. Vital and Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. 1997:292.
- Nielsen CC. Issues affecting the future demand for orthotists and prosthetists, a study prepared for the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education [report], Health Care Research, Evaluation and Education; November 1996.
- Nielsen CC. Issues affecting the future demand for orthotists and prosthetists: update 2002. A study prepared for the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education [report], Health Care Research, Evaluation and Education; May 2002.
- Nielsen CC. Etiology of Amputation. In Lusardi MM and Nielsen CC (eds.) Orthotics and Prosthetics in Rehabilitation. Boston: Butterworth Heinemann, 2000;327-336.
- Campbell PR. Population projections for state by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin 1993-2020. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census. Washington, D.C., 1994.
- Orthotics and prosthetics careers employment opportunities. December 4, 2002. Available from URL:http://www.opcareers.org/employment/index.html.
- Orthotics and Prosthetics Compensation Report. Alexandria: American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association; 2007.