Published on May 12, 2020
- Healthcare workers at the center of the pandemic are an inspiring example for students.
- While unemployment in the U.S. climbs, critical healthcare professions are in high demand.
- Coronavirus will have a lasting impact on the healthcare industry and healthcare education.
Across the country, millions of homebound Americans are taking time out of each day to recognize the heroic efforts of healthcare workers. In New York City, self-quarantined locals even lean out apartment windows to cheer for front-line workers ending their long shifts.
For current and prospective healthcare students, the pandemic offers a vivid preview of the challenges and rewards of their future careers.
Healthcare is considered recession-proof and is expected to grow more than any other industry over the next decade.
Forced to cope with limited personnel and resources, hospitals nationwide are struggling to provide adequate care for coronavirus patients. At the same time, the crisis has served to highlight how vital healthcare workers are to the overall economy.
The outstanding need for healthcare professionals won't disappear once the virus has been contained. Demand is projected to increase for healthcare workers in the coming years.
How Coronavirus Has Affected the Healthcare Industry
Today, epidemiologists, laboratorians, and registered nurses are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. The nature of the virus, which poses the biggest threat to individuals over 65, has also called on healthcare professionals involved in eldercare.
Heavy demand for geriatric health professionals is here to stay. The need for senior assistance is expected to increase dramatically between 2018 and 2028, at around seven times the average rate.
Healthcare is widely regarded as a recession-proof industry. Now, while businesses shutter, the healthcare system is finding ways to fast-track hiring.
Greater awareness of public health issues, as well as the heroic efforts of front-line workers, could also inspire more students to pursue healthcare careers.
Still, healthcare workers are represented in the current national spike in unemployment. Many healthcare services, including dentistry and chiropractic, are deemed essential, but canceled elective procedures, diagnostics, and appointments have caused layoffs and furloughs at some hospitals and clinics.
Clearly, healthcare isn't immune to the current crisis. That said, the number of healthcare employees out of work due to COVID-19 is just a small fraction of the number projected to be employed in healthcare in the coming decade.
Greater awareness of public health issues, as well as the heroic efforts of front-line workers, could also inspire more students to pursue healthcare careers. While some popular majors lead students to careers with stagnant growth outlooks, it will likely take a major upswell in the number of healthcare graduates just to meet the country's anticipated need.
High Demand Will Continue to Fuel Healthcare Growth
Healthcare jobs are projected to grow 14% between 2018 and 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That's nearly three times the average growth rate for all other occupations. Of the 10 fastest-growing jobs in the U.S., six are in healthcare.
An aging American population is projected to drive a surge in a diversity of healthcare jobs: nursing aides, physical therapist assistants, physician assistants, nurse practitioners. There's opportunity in health across the spectrum of educational paths.
The majority of the highest-paying occupations are in healthcare. Psychiatrists and anesthesiologists typically earn over $200,000 per year. Like all medical doctors, these specialists must complete at least 11 years of postsecondary education and training.
|Fast-Growing Healthcare Careers||Minimum Education Required||Median Salary||Projected Growth (2018-2028)|
|Home Health / Personal Care Aides||High school diploma or GED, vocational training||$24,060||36%|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||Associate degree||$59,200||31%|
|Physician Assistants||Master's degree||$112,260||31%|
|Nurse Practitioners||Master's degree||$115,800||26%|
|Speech-Language Pathologists||Master's degree||$79,120||27%|
|Human Service Specialists||On-the-job training, community college||$35,060||13%|
|Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians||Bachelor's degree||$53,120||11%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Entering this high-demand, high-reward industry starts with education. Educational paths to healthcare include two-year programs, four-year degrees, medical and nursing schools, and residencies.
Vocational programs and two-year degrees offer a shorter runway to entering the workforce and making a decent income. Physical therapist assistants, dental assistants, and nursing assistants all receive training in two years or less.
This pandemic has brought new attention to the importance of healthcare workers in society. The demand for these front-line professionals won't let up, even as the curve begins to flatten. Instead, we are just at the start of a decade of enormous growth for the healthcare industry.
Additional Resources for Healthcare Careers
Comprehensive education and career guidance for prospective healthcare students.
This job board, maintained by the American Hospital Association, connects healthcare professionals with top healthcare employers.