Prognosis for health care jobs: Excellent
By Stephanie Armour and Julie Appleby, USA TODAY
As a physician assistant, Patrick Jenkins' days are rarely dull. He
harvests veins from the leg during cardiac surgery, takes care of
patients after surgery and makes daily hospital rounds.
It's a profession he enjoys not only because it's interesting, but also because its future seems secure.
get more out of helping patients than a mere job," says Jenkins, 48, of
Evans, Ga., with the Medical College of Georgia Health System.
assistants) are caring people because they spend a lot of time with the
patients. They are highly trained and motivated. And it's a hot job."
jobs in manufacturing or high-tech rise and fall with the fortunes of
the economy, an aging population and medical advances mean health care
positions are among the fastest-growing jobs.
fast? Eight of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are in health care.
More new hourly and salaried jobs — about 19%, or 3.6 million — created
between 2004 and 2014 will be in health care than in any other
industry, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
the jobs with the fastest growth: home health aides, medical
assistants, physician assistants, physical therapist assistants, dental
hygienists, and personal and home care aides.
seeing jobs evolve even as we speak," says F. Nicholas Jacobs, CEO of
Windber Medical Center and Windber Research Institute in Windber, Pa.
"As baby boomers become baby geezers, we'll need more help, especially
with new medical advances."
on health care is rising faster than inflation and is projected to
climb from its current 16% of gross domestic product to 20% within a
decade, according to government figures released last month. More
spending means more jobs and, perhaps, better pay and benefits.
High demand for nurses
opportunities for registered nurses are expected to grow 27% or more
between 2004 and 2014. The growth is being driven in part by rising
numbers of nurses who are retiring and creating vacancies. Rapid growth
is expected in hospital outpatient facilities, such as those providing
same-day surgery, rehabilitation and chemotherapy, according to the
Department of Labor.
biggest quantity demand we're seeing right now is in nursing," says
Susan Nowakowski, CEO and president of AMN health care, an
international staffing agency based in San Diego. "We can't meet that
rising demand because nurses are in such tight supply."
nurses constitute the largest health care occupation, with 2.4 million
jobs, and about three out of five jobs are in hospitals. The median
annual earnings for registered nurses was $52,330 in May 2004.
for pharmacists is also expected to grow rapidly as current pharmacists
retire, prescription drug use increases as the population ages, and
medical advances produce new medications. Median annual wage and salary
earnings of pharmacists in May 2004 were $84,900.
care jobs are found throughout the country, but they are concentrated
in such large states as California, New York, Florida, Texas and
demand for employees in health care fields is also expected to have
ripple effects in other parts of the industry. Among the changes:
New education and preparation programs.
The need for more health care workers means greater demand for
specialized training. Some will involve more high-tech skills needed to
keep up with rapid medical advances, such as technicians who can
operate newer-generation MRI machines.
The Department of Labor projects that emergency management will be one of the fastest-growing fields through 2012.
response, the Adelphi University School of Nursing in Garden City,
N.Y., has designed a master's degree program in emergency nursing and
disaster management. The course focuses on disaster management and
being an effective leader to prepare for, respond to and evaluate
"This is very, very
exciting," says Connie Cincotta-Kraft, 44, in New York, an emergency
nurse who is pursuing her master's at Adelphi. "There's going to be a
huge need for experts in the field that can do training and consulting."
health care jobs also present opportunities for employees without
specialized training. More than 50% of workers in nursing and
residential care centers have a high school diploma or less, as do a
quarter of workers in hospitals.
Rising pay and robust benefits.
Job candidates in health care are expected to see rising pay as demand
for workers prompts employers to engage in a tug of war over talent.
Already, the average earnings of non-supervisory workers in most health
care segments is higher than the average for all private industry: The
average weekly earnings of employees in private industry is $528.56 a
week, compared with $572.83 for health care workers.
Gould, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse Regional Health Care System
in New York, says that retirement and turnover have helped spur a
shortage of nurses. Benefits already include health insurance with no
premiums for singles, dental coverage, life insurance, disability, an
employee assistance program and a pension, as well as the ability to
set individual work hours.
been very aggressive about recruiting," Gould says. "In order to
compete for a talented pool of nurses, you pay the price. ... You'll
continue to see that salaries will go up."
not all the fast-growing jobs are high paying. Three of the top 10
fastest-growing are in lower-paying segments of the industry, such as
home health aides, personal care aides and medical office assistants.
assistants, who help with clerical and other work in physician offices,
had median annual earnings of $24,610 in 2004, the Labor Department
Home health aides, who
help take care of elderly and disabled people in their own homes, have
median hourly earnings of $8.81. Personal health aides, who provide
mainly housekeeping help, have median hourly earnings of $8.12.
Health care providers are expected to boost recruiting efforts as
employers fight for available talent. More might do their own in-house
training or cover ongoing education, and they might turn increasingly
to outside recruiters to find good hires.
Long, a managing partner at Christian & Timbers, an executive
search firm, is already seeing the heightened war for health care
professionals, such as scientists and researchers who work for
pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.