The Industry Defined
The healthcare industry is massive and encompasses people who work in almost every profession. For the purposes of this channel however, we’ve limited the scope to those careers where the work involves the caring for other people in need of medical treatment, and those who manage the caregivers. This consists of physicians and nurses, of course, but also includes therapists, technicians, assistants, and related positions that can extend to such occupations as hospital or clinic administrators.
About 545,000 establishments of widely varying sizes and structures make up the health care industry, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS). By far the greatest number of of health care establishments (about 76 percent) are offices of physicians, dentists, or other health practitioners. However, although hospitals constitute only 2 percent of all health care establishments, they employ 40 percent of all workers.
In 2004, the BLS ranked healthcare as the largest industry in the U.S. — providing 13.5 million jobs, including 13.1 million jobs for wage and salary workers and about 411,000 jobs for the self-employed.
In addition to being the largest industry, healthcare remains among the fastest-growing. According to BLS projections, 8 of the top 20 fastest-growing occupations are in healthcare, and the industry is also expected to lead in new wage and salary job creation — generating some 3.6 million between 2004 and 2014.
While the technology- and science-intensive industry certainly has its share of very highly educated workers, in fact it supports a wide range of jobs with varying educational requirements. Most workers have jobs that require less than 4 years of college education, according to BLS, although health diagnosing and treating practitioners are among the most educated workers.
According to the BLS, job opportunities in healthcare should be excellent in all employment settings because of high job turnover, particularly from the large number of expected retirements and tougher immigration rules that are slowing the numbers of foreign health care workers entering the U.S.
Wage and salary employment in the health care industry is projected to increase 27 percent through 2014, compared with 14 percent for all industries combined. Employment growth is expected to account for about 3.6 million new wage and salary jobs—19 percent of all wage and salary jobs added to the economy over the 2004–14 period. Projected rates of employment growth for the various segments of the industry range from 13 percent in hospitals, the largest and slowest growing industry segment, to 69 percent in the much smaller home health care services.