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To report that healthcare jobs are seeing rapid growth in the U.S. would be nothing new. In fact, healthcare has become the fastest growing industry in the nation by a long shot, with the industry’s employment rate pacing at more than double the rate of all occupations nationwide.

In the midst of this continuing growth coupled with discussions at the policy level regarding American healthcare, what can we expect for medical jobs moving forward?

The Center on Education and the Workforce released a detailed analysis of the healthcare workforce as it relates to projected job growth, wage information and educational requirements. Join us as we dig into these findings in tandem with a wealth of information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to diagnose the fate of American medical jobs.

Healthcare jobs are growing at record pace

According to the Center on Education and the Workforce, healthcare currently accounts for 18 percent of the U.S. economy, a metric twice as high as that of other countries. It’s important to consider the fact that Americans are now living longer than ever before. Inevitably that comes with an increased need in healthcare services — in fact, it has been reported that adults age 75 to 84 use three times as much healthcare as the rest of the population combined.

The study’s findings project that by 2020, one out of every five dollars will be spent on healthcare in the U.S. This rising demand of healthcare services will lead to an additional 5.6 million jobs within the medical sector during that same time frame.

The fastest growing healthcare jobs

Based on its extensive conglomeration of data, the BLS has outlined the 30 fastest growing occupations projected through 2024, and more than half of them fall under the umbrella of the healthcare industry. If you’re curious about the specific sectors of healthcare expected to see the most rapid growth in the coming years, consider the following five focus areas:

1.  Physical therapy

Nearly all positions within the physical therapy field are experiencing unbelievable demand. This is promising news for those interested in positions ranging from entry-level to doctorate-qualified. Physical therapist assistant and aide positions are expected to grow 40 percent by 2024. With the average rate of growth for all occupations nationwide resting at just seven percent, it’s clear that demand is booming. The median annual salary for these positions is approximately $45,290.

Physical therapists are also set to see rapid growth, with a projected 34 percent increase through 2024. These doctorate-qualified physicians earn a median annual salary of $85,400.

2.  Occupational therapy

A field closely related to but distinct from physical therapy, occupational therapy is another healthcare profession seeing rapid growth. Occupational therapy assistants and aides are also projected to grow 40 percent by 2024, with a median annual salary of $56,070. Occupational therapists, who’ve earned either a master’s or doctorate in the field, are expected to see a 27 percent rate of growth within that same time frame, earning an annual income of approximately $81,910.

3.  Nurse practitioner

Qualified to serve as primary and specialty care providers, nurse practitioners — also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) — have typically earned either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). With demand of primary healthcare services increasing and primary physicians being spread thin, it’s no surprise that nurse practitioner positions are projected to grow 31 percent by 2024.

Nurse practitioners play a crucial role in filling the gap between patients and physicians, and their hard work earns them a median annual salary of approximately $107,460.

4. Home health aide

Often tasked with assisting older adults or other patients with disabilities, chronic illness or cognitive impairment, home health aides are in high demand. Job openings are projected to grow 38 percent by 2024. Much of the training for this position can take place on the job, and there is no formal educational credential required. The median annual salary for this position rests at about $22,600.

5. Physician assistant

Filling an integral piece of the healthcare provider circle, physician assistants team up with physicians, surgeons and other healthcare workers to examine, diagnose and treat patients. These professionals are needed in just about every healthcare setting, from physicians’ offices and private clinics to hospitals and outpatient care centers, and this is reflected in the impressive 30 percent growth projected for these positions through 2024. Healthcare pros of this caliber can expect to earn a median annual salary around $101,480.

The key to landing a leading healthcare job opportunity

The majority of the fastest growing healthcare occupations listed above support one of the primary claims made by the Center on Education and the Workforce study: postsecondary education and training is a critical requirement of many of the job openings within the healthcare industry.

In fact, of the 5.6 million new healthcare jobs projected, 82 percent of them will require postsecondary education or training. That is to say, 4.6 million of these job openings will require candidates who have earned at least a bachelor’s degree or postsecondary certificate. It is clear that healthcare education has never been more important than it is now.

Is your future in the healthcare field?

If you’ve considered a fulfilling career path equipped with ample opportunities industry-wide, it may be time to turn your sights toward healthcare. But as the statistics have revealed, your healthcare career goals are most likely to be achieved if you pursue a higher education degree.

Perusing the nursing and health sciences options at the undergraduate institution of your choice is a great place to start. To learn more about your options, visit The College of St. Scholastica’s School of Health Professions page.