It doesn’t take a degree in history to understand that industries and companies come and go. Robots and computers have completely revamped how cars and products are built in factories, and it’s a lot harder to find a place where you can walk in and rent a movie nowadays.
But the healthcare industry, while undergoing changes of its own, keeps a steady heartbeat because people will always need doctors, nurses, and everybody who helps support them. Folks will always get sick and will always need someone to help them get better.
Ten of the 20 fastest-growing occupations are healthcare-related, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-11 edition. Also, healthcare will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs beginning in 2008 and ending in 2018, more than any other industry, largely in response to the rapid growth in the elderly population.
Most healthcare workers have jobs that require less than four years of college education; remember, not all healthcare workers are doctors and nurses. That said, employment of registered nurses is expected to grow by almost 582,000 jobs, while the number of home and personal health aides is projected to grow by 836,700 between 2008 and 2018. Employment in offices of physicians, home health care, services for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and nursing care facilities is expected to grow by two million.
About 595,800 establishments make up the healthcare industry; they vary greatly in terms of size, staffing patterns, and organizational structures. About 76 percent of healthcare establishments are offices of physicians, dentists, or other health practitioners. Although hospitals constitute only one percent of all healthcare establishments, they employ 35 percent of all workers.
A VARIETY OF CAREERS
Professional occupations, such as physician, surgeon, dentist, registered nurse, social worker, and physical therapist, usually require at least a bachelor’s degree in a specialized field or higher education in a specific health field—though registered nurses also may enter through associate degree or diploma programs. In addition to providing services, those workers may supervise other workers or conduct research.
Health technologists and technicians work in many fast-growing occupations, including medical records and health information technician, diagnostic medical sonographer, radiologic technologist and technician, and dental hygienist. Those workers may operate medical equipment and assist health diagnosing and treating practitioners. The technologists and technicians are typically graduates of one-year or two-year postsecondary training programs.
Service occupations require little or no specialized education or training. Those occupations include nursing aide, home health aide, dental assistant, medical assistant, and personal and home care aide. Nursing and home health aides provide health-related services for ill, injured, disabled, elderly, or infirm individuals—either in institutions or in the individuals’ homes. In fact, 47 percent of workers in nursing and residential care facilities have a high school diploma or less, as do 20 percent of workers in hospitals.
Anyone considering a career in healthcare should have a strong desire to help others, genuine concern for the welfare of patients and clients, and an ability to deal with people of diverse backgrounds in stressful situations. Many healthcare jobs that are regulated by state licensure require healthcare professionals to complete continuing education at regular intervals to maintain their licenses.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects rapid growth for workers in occupations concentrated outside the inpatient hospital sector, such as pharmacy technician, personal-care aide, and home-care aide. Demand for dental care will rise due to greater retention of natural teeth by middle-aged and older persons, greater awareness of the importance of dental care, and an increased ability to pay for services. Dentists will use support personnel such as dental hygienists and assistants to help meet their increased workloads.
Another occupation expected to have many job opportunities is nursing. The median age of registered nurses is increasing, and not enough younger workers are replacing those who retire. As a result, employers in some parts of the country are reporting difficulties in attracting and retaining nurses.
Healthcare workers at all levels of education and training will continue to be in demand. In many cases, it may be easier for job seekers with health-specific training to obtain jobs and advance in their careers. Specialized clinical training is a requirement for many jobs in healthcare and is an asset even for many administrative jobs that do not specifically require it.
Average earnings of nonsupervisory workers in most healthcare segments are higher than the average for all private industry. Hospital workers earn considerably more than average. Workers employed in nursing and residential care facilities and home healthcare workers earn less. Average earnings often are higher in hospitals because a greater percentage of the jobs require more education and training. The segments of the healthcare industry with lower earnings employ large numbers of part-time service workers.
As in most industries, professionals and managers working in healthcare typically earn more than other workers. Wages in individual healthcare occupations vary as widely as the duties, levels of education and training required, and amounts of responsibility.
Some establishments offer tuition reimbursement, paid training, child daycare services, and flexible work hours. Healthcare establishments that must be staffed around the clock to care for patients and handle emergencies often pay premiums for overtime and weekend work, holidays, late shifts, and time spent on call.
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