It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is expanding rapidly. With the aging population and the declining state of the nation’s health, more and more people need medical attention. Projections suggest that the healthcare sector will become the largest sector of the economy over the next five years, guzzling up more than 20 percent of GDP if trends continue in the direction they’re going right now.
While the growing healthcare sector is a sign of the times, it’s actually good news for those looking for work. According to a report by Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce, an additional 5.6 million jobs will be created in the sector by 2020. What’s more, many of those positions are skilled positions or positions which provide an entryway to high paying careers.
Wages in the healthcare sector are already above those for similarly-skilled jobs in other parts of the economy. But thanks to the incredible demand for health services, and the fact that healthcare products tend to be very income-inelastic, wages are likely to shoot up further.
Whenever an industry experienced sustained growth, it puts upward pressures on wages, even as new workers are drawn into the industry. With almost guaranteed demand for healthcare products and a lack of willingness on the part of consumers to change their lifestyle habits, it appears as if the current model is here to stay for some time yet.
To put the growth of the healthcare into perspective, it’s worth looking to places like Michigan. For over a decade now, the state which once had the highest standard of living anywhere in the world thanks to the motor industry, has been on the decline.
But even in the context of a sluggish economy and high unemployment, Michigan managed to generate 540,000 new healthcare positions last year, a significant chunk of all the job creation throughout the entire country. With such demand for workers in the health sector, it’s one of the few places people can look for long-term careers where they won’t have to change jobs every five minutes just to provide an income for themselves.
With that said, it’s not all plain sailing for those looking for work in hospitals. Some jobs are being disrupted by technology right now, and the pace of innovation in some niche areas seems to be accelerating. For instance, given the way things are going, it’s probably not wise to invest in an education to become a radiologist. Radiology is very likely soon to become a career of the past, as deep learning provides a cost-effective and compelling alternative to human diagnosis.
Likewise, the role of surgeons is likely to change enormously as robots perform procedures faster, more cheaply and with greater precision than a surgeon ever could. While these changes might seem like they’d be a long way off, those looking to start their medical education now might only get to apply their knowledge in ten year’s time, during which new, job-destroying technologies may have emerged.
Given the risk of niche jobs being destroyed in the healthcare sector, the prudent thing for job hunters to do is find more generalist roles in the health sector and mold a career based on those which are most in-demand. You can find more details on medical assistant career planning and other roles here.
With that said, the general education requirements for entry into the sector are not low. Estimates suggest that millions of low-skill jobs in the healthcare industry could be destroyed over the next decade. And that the majority of new entrants into the market will be those with high levels of education. For instance, assistant nurses still need a higher degree to begin practicing in hospitals.
With that said, the future for low-skilled workers is relatively good in the healthcare sector compared to other low-skill sectors where jobs have been created since the Great Recession. We have seen the growth of restaurant and retail jobs over the last five to seven years, but these jobs carry little chance of advancement and the people working them are unlikely to see big increases in their pay.
On the other hand, advancement in the healthcare industry, even among the low skilled, is entirely possible, and given the demand for services, wages are likely to keep rising over the long term. Healthcare, for instance, was the only sector in the US economy which added jobs during the recession.
Earn More Than Six Figures
For those who do want to get some higher education, the earning potential in the sector is high. Stressful jobs, like a heart surgeon, pay in the mid six-figures. The average heart surgeon, according to Forbes, earns more than $300,000 a year. But even less stressful, high-quality jobs provide great remuneration. Pharmacists and optometrists, for instance, usually make more than $100,000, and they don’t experience anything like the on-the-job stress of their surgeon colleagues.
With that said, there are some caveats to jobs in the healthcare sector. Although people don’t realize it, health care jobs are among the most hazardous of any in the economy. People in the healthcare industry are exposed to high levels of radiation, bacterial loads, toxic pharmaceuticals and heavy lifting and stress. And this might go some way to explaining why wages are so high in the sector. It’s only worth working in healthcare and accepting all those risks to your health if you get paid more as a result.
There’s also another issue in the sector that few commentators discuss: competitiveness. The competition for top jobs is high, and decisions are not exclusively made on merit. Often, advancement in the sector depends on who you know and the relationships you form early on in your career.
It’s a good idea, therefore, to concentrate on building your network value and making sure that you maximise the potential of all the relationships you make, especially with senior staff. Show them that you’re able to take on the responsibility of higher paid roles. That way, getting a job in healthcare will be worthwhile.