What is a Prosthetist
Professionals who design, make, and fit artificial limbs for patients are called prosthetists. They help people regain bodily functions by replacing arms, legs, hands, and feet with prosthetic devices. Patients lack limbs, or lose them, as a result of injuries, diseases, disorders, and birth defects.
A prosthetist examines a patient, taking measurements and making impressions to determine the size, shape, and design of the needed device. They then select the appropriate materials, create the prosthesis, and ensure that it properly fits the patient. Training people how to use their devices, as well as repairing and modifying prostheses, are part of the job description.
Prosthetists generally are also trained as orthotists, who make and fit orthopedic braces and appliances. Those who specialize in both areas are known as O&P practitioners. For more information on prosthetists, please check out our orthotist job description page.
Most prosthetists work in clinics, offices, and other medical facilities. These sites are usually safe and clean environments, with good lighting. Prosthetists, particularly those employed in laboratories, operate heavy medical equipment that must be moved and positioned.
Prosthetists, as a rule, work full-time, 40-hour weeks. Most have day jobs, with weekends and holidays off. Few of these professionals are self-employed, so their employers determine their schedules.
Mean Annual Prosthetist Salary
The average annual prosthetist salary is $69,960. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and divid that value by the total number of employees. Practitioners in the bottom 10 percent of earners made less than $34,150, while those in the top 10 percent received more than $111,030. In addition, the typical benefits package (including health insurance and retirement pay) was valued at about $20,000 a year.
Prosthetist Salary: Quick Summary
|2012 Mean Salary||$69,960 per year
$33.64 per hour
|Top 10% Salary||$111,030 per year
$53.38 per hour
|Bottom 10% Salary||$34,150 per year
$16.42 per hour
|Number of Jobs, 2012||7,890|
Prosthetist Job Outlook and Prospects
The number of positions for prosthetists in the United States is expected to rise by about 3,000 (36 percent) from 2012 to 2022. That would be more than double the job-growth rate of the average occupation.
A major reason for the increased demand is the aging population. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to the loss of limbs, are more common in older people. Technological innovations like computer imaging, microprocessors, and myoelectric joints also are creating more jobs in the field. At last report, graduates of O&P programs had a 100 percent employment rate.
Prosthetist Salary: Factors of Influence
When considering orthotist salary and prosthetist salary, there are a number of factors that must be kept in mind. The mean annual wage for O & P professionals is $69,960. However, this mean doesn’t accurately reflect the disparity in salaries, which ranges from $34,150 among the lowest-paid, to $111,030 in the highest-paid 10%.
This range in salaries is due, in part, to education and experience, with specialization a particular area for consideration. More than these, though, is the industry worked, and perhaps most importantly, the geographic location.
Education and Specialization
Employers mandate that prosthetists have at least bachelor’s degrees from college or university programs recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Students study anatomy, biology, chemistry, math, physiology, physics, and psychology. Many prosthetist jobs require a master’s degree.
Professionals with degrees in related fields may become qualified to practice as prosthetists by completing one-year certificate programs. A year of residency training, working with an O&P practitioner, is also typically required.
In addition, prosthetists usually are expected to earn credentials from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics. The organization administers exams in orthotics and prosthetics, both of which must be passed to be a certified O&P practitioner.
The designing, creating, fitting, altering, and repairing of prostheses call for a range of skills. Some practioners specialize as pedorthists, who make artificial feet and specially designed shoes. Others concentrate on prosthetic arms, legs, or other limbs. Certified fitters specialize in making devices comfortable and functional. Registered technicians and assistants help prosthetists make, repair, and modify devices.
The major employers of prosthetists are private medical practices, specialty clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities. Some of those trained in this field work in laboratories, where they design and make prostheses.
Others work for companies that manufacture prosthetic materials to sell or rent. Health and personal-care stores, as well as the federal government (including the military), also hire those trained as prosthetists.
As of 2012, Rhode Island boasted the highest average salary for prosthetists ($99,330). However, the state had only 60 such jobs. Next on the list were Nevada, where 90 positions averaged $92,000; Louisiana, with just eight prosthetist jobs averaging $85,610; Indiana, where 260 positions averaged $85,180; and Connecticut, with 90 jobs at $81,450. Metropolitan areas with the highest pay rates were Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla.
The states with the most jobs for prosthetists in 2012 were California, 810 (with an average salary of $73,100); Florida, 620 ($69,980); Illinois, 400 ($67,350); Ohio, 390 ($73,390); and Georgia, 390 ($67,620). In Chicago, Ill., there were 320 prosthetists (nearly twice as many as in any other metropolitan area).
Prosthetist Salary: Top 5
|Top Paying Metropolitan Areas||Top Paying States||Top Paying Industries||States with Highest Employment Level|
|Cleveland, OH: $97,990||Rhode Island: $99,330||Medical Equipement and Supplies Manufacturing: $77,160||California: (810 jobs) $73,100|
|Washington, D.C: $91,230||Nevada: $92,00||Health and Personal Care Stores: $72,510||Florida: (620 jobs) $69,980|
|Cape Coral, FL: $87,670||Louisiana: $85,610||Offices of Physicians: $71,510||Illinois: (400 jobs) $67,350|
|Warren, MI: $86,790||Indiana: $85,180||Federal Executive Branch: $69,580||Ohio: (390 jobs) $73,390|
|Virginia Beach, VA: $85,930||Connecticut: $81,450||Offices of Dentists: $69,010||Georgia: (390 jobs) $67,620|