Demand for health care workers is predicted to grow twice as fast as the national economy in the next eight years when 5.6 million jobs are expected to be available, according to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
When including jobs in health care-related positions, such as hospital accountants, pharmaceutical sales representatives and doctor’s office secretaries, the study anticipates that the health care industry will grow from 15.6 million jobs in 2010 to 19.8 million jobs in 2020.
Postsecondary education demand in health care is expected to grow quicker than any other field other than STEM, which is referred to as the science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors, and education occupations, the study reveals. In fact, postsecondary education and training are believed to be required for 82 percent – or 4.6 million – of those 5.6 million new health care jobs.
“In health care, there are really two labor markets: professional and support,” says Anthony P. Carnevale, the Center’s director and the report’s lead author. “Professional jobs demand postsecondary training and advanced degrees while support jobs demand high school and some college. There is ‘minimal mobility’ between the two, and the pay gap is enormous: The average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker.”
The study also finds that health care employers successfully compete for the same talent as science and engineering fields because the necessary skills are similar, and educational programs have an appealing alternative for science and engineering students. Still, although health care and STEM skills have their similarities, health care employees typically place higher value on developing social bonds as opposed to focusing on achievement and independence.
Nurses are becoming more skilled, the study shows. Only 37 percent of entry-level registered nurses attained at least an associate’s degree in 1980; however, this number reached 80 percent by 2008. Among minorities, 46 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of African Americans under the age of 40 hold bachelor’s degrees as opposed to 51 percent of white nurses.
Twenty-two percent of health care workers in the United States are foreign born compared to 13 percent of all national workers, the study finds. These foreign workers are typically from the Philippines, India and China.
The study also shows that doctors and physicians are the highest income earners in the country and usually come from affluent backgrounds.