Study: Regardless of Health Care Ruling, U.S. Will Need 5.6 Million More Industry Workers by 2020

Washington — June 21

Health care demand will grow twice as fast as the national economy over the next eight years, creating 5.6 million new jobs, according to a study released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Work in the health care industry is supported by people in a host of related jobs, such as hospital accountants, pharmaceutical sales representatives, doctor’s office secretaries and the like. If you include all of the behind-the-scenes players, the health care industry will grow from 15.6 million jobs in 2010 to 19.8 million jobs in 2020, equating to roughly 13 percent of all jobs. By 2020, the study suggests, we will be spending 1 out of every 5 dollars we earn on health care.

The demand for postsecondary education in health care will also grow faster than in any other field except STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and Education occupations, the study shows. A total of 82 percent of those 5.6 million new healthcare jobs — 4.6 million — will require postsecondary education and training.

Health care successfully competes for science and engineering talent. Because health care, science and technology fields tend to require similar skills, health care programs at the associate and bachelor’s level are often an appealing alternative for science and engineering students.

Though health care and STEM skills are similar, health care reflects distinctly different work interests and values. People in health care jobs tend to value forming social bonds, while people who gravitate to STEM occupations place a greater emphasis on achievement and independence.

Up-skilling in nursing is growing especially fast. In 1980, 37 percent of entry-level registered nurses had at least an associate’s degree; by 2008, that figure had increased to 80 percent.

Rising bachelor degree requirements in nursing is crowding out disadvantaged minorities. A total of 51 percent of White nurses under 40 years old have bachelor’s degrees, compared to only 46 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of African American nurses.

Health care has the largest number and proportion of foreign-born and foreign-trained workers in the U.S. Among healthcare workers, 22 percent are foreign born, compared to 13 percent of all workers nationally. Most foreign-born nurses come from the Philippines, India and China.

Of all occupations, doctors and physicians are the highest income earners in the country and tend to come from mostly affluent backgrounds.

Source: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce