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Outlook [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Health care will generate 3 million new wage and salary jobs between 2006 and 2016, more than any other industry. Seven of the twenty fastest growing occupations are health care related. Job opportunities should be good in all employment settings.

Employment change. Wage and salary employment in the health care industry is projected to increase 22 percent through 2016, compared with 11 percent for all industries combined (table 3). Employment growth is expected to account for about 3 million new wage and salary jobs—20 percent of all wage and salary jobs added to the economy over the 2006-16 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 55 percent in the much smaller home health care services.

Table 3. Employment in health care by industry segment, 2006 and projected change, 2006-16

(Employment in thousands)

Industry segment 2006



Percent change



Health services, total

13,621 21.7



Hospitals, public and private

5,438 13.0

Nursing and residential care facilities

2,901 23.7

Offices of physicians

2,154 24.8

Home health care services

867 55.4

Offices of dentists

784 22.4

Offices of other health practitioners

571 28.3

Outpatient care centers

489 24.3

Other ambulatory health care services

216 32.3

Medical and diagnostic laboratories

202 16.8

Employment in health care will continue to grow for several reasons. The number of people in older age groups, with much greater than average health care needs, will grow faster than the total population between 2006 and 2016; as a result, the demand for health care will increase. Employment in home health care and nursing and residential care should increase rapidly as life expectancies rise, and as aging children are less able to care for their parents and rely more on long-term care facilities. Advances in medical technology will continue to improve the survival rate of severely ill and injured patients, who will then need extensive therapy and care. New technologies will make it possible to identify and treat conditions that were previously not treatable. Medical group practices and integrated health systems will become larger and more complex, increasing the need for office and administrative support workers. Industry growth also will occur as a result of the shift from inpatient to less expensive outpatient and home health care because of improvements in diagnostic tests and surgical procedures, along with patients’ desires to be treated at home.

Many of the occupations projected to grow the fastest in the economy are concentrated in the health care industry. For example, over the 2006-16 period, total employment of home health aides—including the self-employed—is projected to increase by 49 percent, medical assistants by 35 percent, physical therapist assistants by 32 percent, and physician assistants by 27 percent.

Rapid growth is expected for workers in occupations concentrated outside the inpatient hospital sector, such as pharmacy technicians and personal and home care aides. Because of cost pressures, many health care facilities will adjust their staffing patterns to reduce labor costs. Where patient care demands and regulations allow, health care facilities will substitute lower paid providers and will cross-train their workforces. Many facilities have cut the number of middle managers, while simultaneously creating new managerial positions as the facilities diversify. Traditional inpatient hospital positions are no longer the only option for many future health care workers; persons seeking a career in the field must be willing to work in various employment settings. Hospitals will be the slowest growing segment within the health care industry because of efforts to control hospital costs and the increasing use of outpatient clinics and other alternative care sites.

Demand for dental care will rise due to population growth, greater retention of natural teeth by middle-aged and older persons, greater awareness of the importance of dental care, and an increased ability to pay for services. Dentists will use support personnel such as dental hygienists and assistants to help meet their increased workloads.

In some management, business, and financial operations occupations, rapid growth will be tempered by restructuring to reduce administrative costs and streamline operations. Office automation and other technological changes will slow employment growth in office and administrative support occupations; but because the employment base is large, replacement needs will continue to create substantial numbers of job openings. Slower growing service occupations also will provide job openings due to replacement needs.

Job prospects. Job opportunities should be good 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 United States.

Occupations with the most replacement openings are usually large, with high turnover stemming from low pay and status, poor benefits, low training requirements, and a high proportion of young and part-time workers. Nursing aides, orderlies and attendants, and home health aides are among the occupations adding the most new jobs between 2006 and 2016, about 647,000 combined. By contrast, occupations with relatively few replacement openings—such as physicians and surgeons—are characterized by high pay and status, lengthy training requirements, and a high proportion of full-time workers.

Another occupation that is expected to have many openings is registered nurses. The median age of registered nurses is increasing, and not enough younger workers are replacing them. As a result, employers in some parts of the country are reporting difficulties in attracting and retaining nurses. Imbalances between the supply of and the demand for qualified workers should spur efforts to attract and retain qualified registered nurses. For example, employers may restructure workloads and job responsibilities, improve compensation and working conditions, and subsidize training or continuing education.

Health care workers at all levels of education and training will continue to be in demand. In many cases, it may be easier for jobseekers with health-specific training to obtain jobs and advance in their careers. Specialized clinical training is a requirement for many jobs in health care and is an asset even for many administrative jobs that do not specifically require it.

Office automation and other technological changes will slow employment growth in office and administrative support occupations; but because the employment base is large, replacement needs will continue to create substantial numbers of job openings. Slower growing service occupations also will provide job openings due to replacement needs.

Earnings [About this section] Back to TopBack to Top

Industry earnings. Average earnings of nonsupervisory workers in most health care segments are higher than the average for all private industry, with hospital workers earning considerably more than the average and those employed in nursing and residential care facilities and home health care services earning less (table 4). Average earnings often are higher in hospitals because the percentage of jobs requiring higher levels of education and training is greater than in other segments. Those segments of the industry with lower earnings employ large numbers of part-time service workers.

Table 4. Average earnings and hours of nonsupervisory workers in health services by industry segment, 2006
Industry segment Earnings Weekly


Weekly Hourly



Total, private industry

$568 $16.76 33.9



Health services

623 18.73 33.3

Hospitals, public and private

794 22.19 35.8

Medical and diagnostic laboratories

715 19.48 36.7

Offices of physicians

669 19.98 33.5

Outpatient care centers

658 19.33 34.1

Offices of dentists

557 20.51 27.1

Other ambulatory health care services

555 15.58 35.7

Offices of other health practitioners

498 17.27 28.8

Home health care services

429 14.78 29.0

Nursing and residential care facilities

415 12.84 32.3

As in most industries, professionals and managers working in health care typically earn more than other workers in the industry. Earnings in individual health care occupations vary as widely as the duties, level of education and training, and amount of responsibility required by the occupation (table 5). Some establishments offer tuition reimbursement, paid training, child day care services, and flexible work hours. Health care establishments that must be staffed around the clock to care for patients and handle emergencies often pay premiums for overtime and weekend work, holidays, late shifts, and time spent on call. Bonuses and profit-sharing payments also may add to earnings.

Table 5. Median hourly earnings of the largest occupations in health care, May 2006
Occupation Ambulatory health care services Hospitals Nursing and residential care services All industries

Registered nurses

$26.25 $28.12 $25.03 $27.54

Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses

16.78 16.89 18.35 17.57

Dental assistants

14.50 14.76 - 14.53

Medical secretaries

13.62 13.30 12.66 13.51

Medical assistants

12.58 13.14 11.60 12.64

Receptionists and information clerks

11.55 11.74 10.07 11.01

Office clerks, general

11.47 12.55 11.12 11.40

Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants

10.76 11.06 10.30 10.67

Home health aides

9.15 10.64 9.23 9.34

Personal and home care aides

7.23 9.17 9.36 8.54

Earnings vary not only by type of establishment and occupation, but also by size; salaries tend to be higher in larger hospitals and group practices. Geographic location also can affect earnings.

Benefits and union membership. Health care workers generally receive standard benefits, such as health insurance, paid vacation and sick leave, and pension plans. However, benefits can vary greatly by occupation and by employer.

Although some hospitals have unions, the health care industry is not heavily unionized. In 2006, only 10 percent of workers in the industry were members of unions or covered by union contracts, compared with about 13 percent for all industries.

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