The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies orthopedic techs as medical appliance technicians, and often refer to them as orthotic or prosthetic technicians. Orthopedic techs work closely with orthopedic physicians, fitting people for crutches, braces, splints and prosthetic limbs. They bend, form and shape these devices for proper fit, and repair or adjust them as needed. These technicians also place and remove casts on patients with fractures, and assist with minor surgeries. As an orthopedic tech, you can expect to earn a salary averaging nearly $40,000 annually.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary of orthopedic techs was $38,200 as of May 2012, according to the BLS. If you were among the top 10 percent in earnings, you'd make over $56,340 annually. To become an orthopedic tech, the minimum requirements are a high school diploma and one year of experience working with orthopedic patients in a clinic or hospital. Some employers prefer hiring those with one or two-year degrees in orthopedic technology. These programs are offered through community colleges or technical schools. Upon completion, students can become certified through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. Other essential qualifications include compassion, a knowledge of physiology, anatomy and medical technology, attention to detail, physical strength and stamina, and analytical and interpersonal skills.
Salary by Industry
An orthopedic tech's salary can vary somewhat by industry. In 2012, they earned the highest annual salaries of $51,200 working in colleges, universities and professional schools, reports the BLS. Those employed by offices of health practitioners and outpatient centers also earned comparatively high salaries, of $49,170 and $47,130, respectively. If you worked in a general medical and surgical hospital, you'd make $39,880 per year, which is slightly above the industry average of $38,200. In the medical equipment and supplies manufacturing industry, you'd make slightly less at $37,510 annually.
Salary by State
Orthopedic techs earned the highest salaries, $68,820 per year, in Nebraska, based on 2012 BLS data. They also earned relatively high salaries, $58,620 and $45,040, in Michigan and New Hampshire, respectively. Your salary as an orthopedic tech would be closer to the industry average in Florida, at $37,610 annually. In Texas and New York, you'd earn $36,120 and $33,880, respectively.
The BLS projects a 4 percent increase in jobs for medical appliance technicians, including orthopedic techs, between 2010 and 2020, which is slower than the growth rate of 14 percent for all occupations. A growing demand for braces and orthopedic footwear among aging baby boomers should increase job opportunities for orthopedic techs. Your services in this field may also be in greater demand, as more seniors need prosthetics after losing limbs to diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Medical Appliance Technicians Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Medical Appliance Technicians
- Saint Louis University: Orthopedic Technician
- Blue Ash Education Center: What is an Orthopaedic Technologist?
- The Medical Careers Institute at Coordinated Health: Orthopedic Technology Diploma Programs
- Southern Crescent Technical College: Orthopaedic Technology
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images