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Several million healthcare workers needed by 2020

Monday July 9, 2012
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Regardless of the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the United States will need 5.6 million new healthcare workers by 2020, according to a study.

The study, by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce, also found that 4.6 million of those new workers will need education beyond high school.

“In healthcare, there are really two labor markets — professional and support,” Anthony P. Carnevale, the report’s lead author and director of the Center on Education and Workforce, said in a news release. “Professional jobs demand postsecondary training and advanced degrees, while support jobs demand high school and some college.”

There is “minimal mobility” between the two, Carnevale said, “and the pay gap is enormous — the average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker.”

Among the study’s findings:

• In 2008, 80% of entry-level RNs had at least an associate’s degree, up from 37% in 1980.

• Rising degree requirements in nursing may be crowding out disadvantaged minorities, according to the authors: 51% of white nurses under age 40 have bachelor’s degrees, compared with 46% of Hispanic nurses and 44% of African-American nurses.

• Healthcare has the largest number and proportion of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers of any industry in the U.S. Among healthcare workers, 22% are foreign-born, compared with 13% of all workers nationwide. Most foreign-born nurses come from the Philippines, India and China.

• Only 20% of healthcare professional and technical occupations earn less than $38,000 a year, and almost 50% earn more than $60,000.

• More than 70% of healthcare support workers make less than $30,000 per year, but that percentage is still better than most available alternatives for workers of that skill and education level, according to the report.

• Healthcare successfully competes for science and engineering talent. Because the healthcare, science and technology fields tend to require similar skills, healthcare programs at the associate and bachelor’s level often are appealing alternatives for science and engineering students.

• One difference between the fields: People in healthcare jobs tend to value forming social bonds, while people who gravitate to science, technology and engineering occupations place a greater emphasis on achievement and independence, the researchers found.

To read a PDF of the executive summary of the report, visit http://bit.ly/MBpzig. To read a PDF of the full report, visit http://bit.ly/N2RUfN.


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