Today's humanities majors may want to brace themselves for a panicked call from the parents, begging that they drop the philosophical treatises and start studying cellular mitosis.
That's because the latest numbers are in, and they show that health care is going to be a major job growth engine during the next decade. In its Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Labor Department has projected job growth for more than 800 jobs, and 17 of the 30 fastest-growing jobs are in health care-related fields.
NOTE: In the below table showing the 30 fastest-growing jobs over the next decade, the shaded jobs are in health care-related fields.
OccupationPercent EmploymentTotal Job Openings, 2012-2022 (thousands) Industrial-organizational psychologists 53.4% 1.3 Personal care aides 48.8% 666 Home health aides 48.5% 590.7 Insulation workers, mechanical 46.7% 17.3 Interpreters and translators 46.1% 38.1 Diagnostic medical sonographers 46% 35.3 Helpers – brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons and tile and marble setters 43% 14.3 Occupational therapy assistants 42.6% 20.5 Genetic counselors 41.2% 1.5 Physical therapist assistants 41% 45.1 Physical therapist aides 40.1% 31.2 Skincare specialists 39.8% 21.3 Physician assistants 38.4% 48.9 Segmental pavers 38.1% 1 Helpers – electricians 36.9% 32 Informational security analysts 36.5% 39.2 Occupational therapy aides 36.2% 5.1 Health specialties teachers, postsecondary 36.1% 97.2 Medical secretaries 36% 252.5 Physical therapists 36% 123.7 Brickmasons and blockmasons 35.5% 32.8 Orthotists and prosthetists 35.5% 3.8 Nursing instructors and teachers, postsecondary 35.4% 34.2 Nurse practitioners 33.7% 58.5 Audiologists 33.6% 7 Dental hygenists 33.3% 113.5 Meeting, convention and event planners 33.2% 44.2 Therapsts, all other 31.7% 12.5 Market Research analysts and marketing specialists 31.6% 188.5 Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors 31.4% 47.2
That doesn't even count the jobs in the list that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not define strictly as "health care." Industrial-organizational psychologists, personal aides, skin care specialists and substance abuse counselors are all examples of workers whose jobs might at times be considered health care-related. Add those in, and 21 of the 30 fastest-growing jobs are in health-related fields.
"With the aging of the baby boomers and now universal coverage, the demand for health care services – whether they're preventive, whether they're chronic or whether they're just regular, and including physical therapy and everything else – it's just going to grow," says Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for The PNC Financial Services Group.
That would continue a steady pattern of growth: According to Labor Department figures, health care is the only major industry category that saw growth continue virtually uninterrupted through the Recession.
That kind of growth means job security for people in these fields. However, it doesn't necessarily mean high pay. While some of the jobs that most readily come to mind when one talks about the health care industry have large paychecks – think surgeons, dentists and physicians – many others are very low-paying. Personal care aides and home health aides are the two lowest-paying jobs on this list, with median 2012 annual pay at roughly $20,000 and $21,000 per year, respectively.
While a rapidly aging population will boost the need for caretakers and health care providers, one boomer-fueled field will have less to do with improving well-being and more to do with vanity: skin care specialists.
"The desire among women and a growing number of men to reduce the effects of aging will result in rapid employment growth," the department says in its skin care specialist profile. "Good job opportunities are expected."
Which means that from a purely economic point of view, today's college students might best be served by an education that involves less Byron and more Botox. As for what sort of sense of fulfillment these two paths might lead to ... well, that's an entirely different argument.