What Is the Career Outlook for the Health Care Field?

Is There a Career Opportunity for You?

When looking at the career outlook for healthcare, it's important to distinguish between a career opportunity and other types of career information.

The information on this page is adapted from a publication of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics at this page: www.BLS.gov

Making informed healthcare career decisions requires reliable career information about career opportunities in the future. Opportunities result from the relationships between the population, labor force, and the demand for goods and services.

Population ultimately limits the size of the labor force—individuals working or looking for work—which constrains how much can be produced. Demand for various goods and services determines employment in the industries providing them.

Occupational employment opportunities, in turn, result from demand for skills needed within specific industries. Opportunities for medical assistants and other healthcare occupations, for example, have surged in response to rapid growth in demand for health services.

Examining the past and projecting changes in these relationships is the foundation of the Occupational (Career) Outlook Program. This article presents highlights of Bureau of Labor Statistics projections of the labor force and occupational and industry employment that can help guide your career plans.

Population Trends & Changes

Population trends affect the healthcare career outlook and career opportunities in a number of ways. Changes in population influence the demand for healthcare services. For example, a growing and aging population has increased the demand significantly over the past couple of decades. Equally important, population changes produce corresponding changes in the size and demographic composition of the labor force.

The U.S. population is expected to increase by 23.9 million through 2014. Continued growth will mean more consumers of healthcare services, spurring demand for workers in a wide range of healthcare occupations. The effects of population growth on various occupations will differ. The differences are partially accounted for by the age distribution of the future population.

The youth population, aged 16 to 24, will grow 2.9 percent over the 2004-14 period. As the baby boomers continue to age, the group aged 55 to 64 will increase by 36 percent or 10.4 million persons, more than any other group. The group aged 35 to 44 will decrease in size, reflecting the birth dearth following the baby boom generation.

Minorities and immigrants will constitute a larger share of the U.S. population in 2014. The number of Hispanics is projected to continue to grow much faster than those of all other racial and ethnic groups.

Labor Force

Another way to look at the career outlook for healthcare is by examining the workforce available. Which groups you fall into, i.e., gender, ethnic origin, etc. may be a factor in the career opportunity you find.

Population is the single most important factor in determining the size and composition of the labor force—that is, people who are either working or looking for work. The civilian labor force is projected to increase by 14.7 million, or 10 percent, to 162.1 million through 2014 period.

The U.S. workforce will become more diverse by 2014. White, non-Hispanic persons will continue to make up a decreasing share of the labor force, falling from 70 percent in 2004 to 65.6 percent in 2014. However, despite relatively slow growth, white, non-Hispanics will remain the largest group in the labor force in 2014.

Asians are projected to account for an increasing share of the labor force by 2014, growing from 4.3 to 5.1 percent. Hispanics are projected to be the fastest growing of the four labor force groups, growing by 33.7 percent. By 2014, Hispanics will continue to constitute a larger proportion of the labor force than will blacks, whose share will grow from 11.3 percent to 12.0 percent.

The numbers of men and women in the labor force will grow, but the number of women will grow at a faster rate than the number of men. The male labor force is projected to grow by 9.1 percent from 2004 to 2014, compared with 10.9 percent for women. As a result, men’s share of the labor force is expected to decrease from 53.6 to 53.2 percent, while women’s share is expected to increase from 46.4 to 46.8 percent.

The youth labor force, aged 16 to 24, is expected to slightly decrease its share of the labor force to 13.7 percent by 2014. The primary working age group, between 25 and 54 years old, is projected to decline from 69.3 percent of the labor force in 2004 to 65.2 percent by 2014. Workers 55 and older, on the other hand, are projected to increase from 15.6 percent to 21.2 percent of the labor force between 2004 and 2014, due to the aging of the baby-boom generation

Career Outlook for Healthcare Occupations

The long-term shift from goods-producing to service-providing employment is expected to continue, which can only be good for the healthcare career outlook. Service-providing industries (which includes all healthcare careers!) are expected to account for approximately 18.7 million of the 18.9 million new wage and salary jobs generated over the 2004-14 period.

The career opportunity in healthcare is projected to grow faster, 30.6 percent, and add more jobs than any other industry supersector. About 3 out of every 10 new jobs created in the U.S. economy will be in either the healthcare and social assistance or private educational services sectors.

the career outlook for healthcare and educationHealthcare and social assistance—including private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and individual and family services—will grow by 30.3 percent and add 4.3 million new jobs. Good news for your career outlook, isn't it?

Employment growth will be driven by increasing demand for healthcare and social assistance because of an aging population and longer life expectancies. Also, as more women enter the labor force, demand for childcare services is expected to grow.

Let's look at the healthcare career outlook from a slightly different perspective...

Expansion of service-providing industries is expected to continue, creating demand for many occupations. However, projected job growth varies among major occupational groups (see chart above).

Service workers perform services for the public. Employment in service occupations is projected to increase by 5.3 million, or 19 percent, the second largest numerical gain and second highest rate of growth among the major occupational groups.

Food preparation and serving related occupations are expected to add the most jobs among the service occupations, 1.7 million by 2014. However, healthcare support occupations are expected to grow the fastest, 33.3 percent, adding 1.2 million new jobs.

When looking at the career outlook for all occupations, computer and healthcare occupations are expected to grow the fastest over the projection period. In fact, healthcare occupations make up 12 of the 20 fastest growing occupations, while computer occupations account for 5 out of the 20 fastest growing occupations in the economy.

In addition to high growth rates and career opportunity, these 17 computer and healthcare occupations combined will add more than 1.8 million new jobs. High growth rates among computer and healthcare occupations reflect projected rapid growth in the computer and data processing and health services industries.

Education & Training Also Influence Career Outlook

Your career outlook is also influenced by the amount of education and training that you have. If you want to take advantage of every career opportunity, then you need to pay attention to this important career information.

For many health care careers, a minimum of a bachelors or associate degree is required—physician assistants, physical therapist assistants, dental hygienists, forensic science technicians, veterinary technologists and technicians, diagnostic medical sonographers, and occupational therapists assistants.

On-the-job training is a significant requirement for other fast-growing healthcare careers' outlook: physical therapist aides, medical assistants, home health aides, dental assistants, and personal and home care aides.

So, as you can see, the career outlook for most healthcare occupations is extremely rosy. If it's career opportunity you want, you'll have it! But you'll also want to seek out career information for your specific healthcare career before making a final decision.

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