Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wanted in 2020: Five million more health care workers

Demand for healthcare will grow twice as fast as the national economy over the next eight years, creating 5.6 million new jobs, according to a study released last week by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Work in the healthcare industry is supported by people in a host of related jobs, such as hospital accountants, pharmaceutical sales representatives, doctor's office secretaries and the like. If you include all of these behind-the-scenes players, the healthcare industry will grow from 15.6 million jobs in 2010 to 19.8 million jobs in 2020 — 13 percent of all jobs. By 2020 we will be spending 1 out of every 5 dollars we earn on healthcare.

The demand for postsecondary education in healthcare will grow faster than in any other field except in the so-called "STEM" occupations (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and in Education-related jobs, the study shows. A total of 82 percent of those 5.6 million new healthcare jobs — 4.6 million — will require postsecondary education and training.

"In healthcare, there are really two labor markets: professional and support," said 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, he added, "and the pay gap is enormous: The average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker."

Among the study's other findings:

---Healthcare successfully competes for science and engineering talent. Because healthcare, science, and technology fields tend to require similar skills, healthcare programs at the associate and bachelor's level are often an appealing alternative for science and engineering students.

---Though healthcare and STEM skills are similar, healthcare reflects distinctly different work interests and values. People in healthcare jobs tend to value forming social bonds, while people who gravitate to STEM occupations place a greater emphasis on achievement and independence.

---Upskilling in nursing is growing especially fast. In 1980, 37 percent of entry-level registered nurses had at least an associate's degree; by 2008, that figure had increased to 80 percent.

---Rising bachelor degree requirements in nursing is crowding out disadvantaged minorities. A total of 51 percent of White nurses under 40 years old have bachelor's degrees, compared to only 46 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of African American nurses.

---Healthcare has the largest number and proportion of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers in the U.S. Among healthcare workers 22 percent are foreign born, compared to 13 percent of all workers nationally. Most foreign-born nurses come from the Philippines, India and China.

---Of all occupations, doctors and physicians are the highest income earners in the country and tend to come from mostly affluent backgrounds.

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