Between 1960 and 2013, the average life expectancy for men and women in the United States rose from 70 to nearly 79 years. During that same period, the general population of the United States grew older with the baby boomers. Add 32 million Americans gaining access to healthcare insurance through Obamacare, and you have a seller’s market for healthcare pros, especially in the ranks of primary care.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts three million new healthcare jobs will be created by 2020, a 29 percent increase in only seven years. But even as the demand skyrockets, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the United States will face a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by 2020. That number is expected to grow to more than 130,000 by 2025. During this period, the shortage of registered nurses, the single largest healthcare profession, will approach 260,000.
Hospitals are dealing with their limited pools of physicians by leaning more heavily on nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The job market for advanced-practice nurses such as NPs and certified nurse-midwives, who must have postgraduate education, remains hot. Salaries for these workers average 35 percent higher than those of hospital staff nurses. In addition, the physician assistant profession will add about 25,000 new jobs before 2020, expanding by nearly 30 percent. With full-time PAs in strong demand, median pay is more than $91,000, while those working in specialty settings like orthopedics or dermatology can earn more.
One of the fastest growing healthcare professions does not require any medical training, or even a graduate degree. As new forms of technology enter the doctor’s office and operating room, the healthcare system is being transformed by artificial intelligence, robotics and bioinformatics. This translates into an extraordinary rise in demand for information technology workers within the healthcare sector. Hospitals are on an IT hiring binge across the United States. Institutions are searching for qualified people to develop and install new information systems—and then manage them or train existing workers to do so. According to the BLS, online advertisements for healthcare IT jobs tripled between 2009 and 2010. The IT workforce is expected to grow by 20 percent in the coming decade.
While job growth is stagnant in many areas of the economy, the growing number of seniors and patients new to the health insurance system means that the demand—and pay—for healthcare workers will only increase in the next few years.