Several Million Healthcare Workers Needed by 2020

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The United States is going to need 5.6 million new healthcare workers by 2020, according to a new study be researchers at Georgetown University. All but 1 million of those new workers are going to require post-secondary education, according to this article on Nurse.com.

The report’s lead author explains that there are really two labor markets in healthcare — professional and support. The professional jobs demand college and often advanced degrees, while the support jobs require a high school diploma and often at least some college.

There isn’t a lot of movement between those two groups, and there is a big pay gap — the average professional worker makes 2.5 times as much as the average support worker.

In terms of the potential nursing shortage, the greatest need is for nurses with more education, as hospitals are increasingly looking for bachelor’s degrees.

• 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.

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