Health care has been one of the biggest political issues during the past decade and it's also been one of the biggest drivers of job growth. Since 2012, employment in the health-care industry has grown 30%, adding nearly 3.7 million jobs to the economy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you're entering the workforce or thinking about switching careers, health care a good field to consider — even if you're not willing to head to medical school.
Over the next decade, health-care jobs are expected grow at a clip three times as fast as the overall job market, according to the BLS's latest Occupational Outlook Handbook. By 2028, the industry will add another 2.7 million jobs, accounting for nearly a third of all job growth.
Jobs are growing because there's more consumer demand for health care, says Michael Wolf, the division chief for occupational employment projections at BLS. Some of that comes from swelling ranks of older Americans, but medical advancements have also opened up care options.
"There's more that can be treated, and that increases demand for health care," Wolf says.
Of the 15 fastest-growing jobs in the BLS projections, nine are in the health-care industry. Here are the some of the roles projected to have the most openings, how much they pay, and what degree (if any) you'll need:
Here's what to consider when assessing some of these fast-growing jobs.
If you're elderly and want to maintain your independence, home care is cheaper than going into a nursing home. But the flip side of that is that if you are a home health aide, your salary is still probably very low — the median is just $24,060 a year, which works out to about $11.50 an hour.
Part of this is because home health workers are paid by the hour, and agencies often have trouble giving their workers a full 40 hours each week. Even though an estimated one out of every seven new jobs in the next decade will be in home care, Medicaid has yet to catch up to a reality where more people live at home longer into their golden years, says Vicki Hoak, executive director of the Home Care Association of America.
Despite this, depending on where you live, being a home health aide can be a financially viable career. According to a recent study on college value by Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce, which Grow has covered previously, many of America's best short-term and long-term value schools are practical nursing programs, which train home health aides.
Team-based care — which the National Academy of Medicine defines as "the provision of health services to individuals, families, and/or their communities by at least two health providers who work collaboratively with patients and their caregivers" — has become an increasingly common health-care model over the past few decades.
"The idea about that is to try and maximize the efficiency of the workers by devolving some of the less complicated tasks to lower-skilled workers," says Wolf. "So, rather than have exclusively physical therapists working with people, you have physical therapists devising a treatment plan, and then physical therapy assistants working with the individuals to implement that plan."
The trend toward team-based care helps explain the sharp projected growth for physical and occupational therapy aides and assistants, physician assistants, medical assistants, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners. Collectively those roles account for more than a million jobs now, with hundreds of thousands of new openings expected in the coming decade.
They also earn far more than home health aides, with median salaries for physician assistants and nurse practitioners both exceeding $100,000 a year. Registered nurses, who can perform many of the same tasks as nurse practitioners short of prescribing medication, can earn nearly $72,000 a year.
While these projections are ultimately just projections and can't account for future economic setbacks or recessions, they paint a picture of an industry that's growing at a formidable pace. It's a clear sign that working in the health care industry can be a viable career path going forward, even if you don't want to be a doctor.
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