Is Health Care Job Training a Fix for Unemployment?

Health care job growth and what it means during lean economic times.

worker in health care job

By Rebecca Noss

For many Americans the last couple of years have been a financial rollercoaster. And not the gentle kiddie-coaster variety, but the kind that makes you hang on for dear life and pray for mercy.

Those left fending for themselves in the job market know the free-falling feeling well.

With their work-lives flashing before their eyes, many are taking stock of their career options. And many reach the conclusion that training for a health care job is the solution.

But will your health care education guarantee you a job?

Is Education Your Gateway?

You can’t just plunk down your tuition money, pass a few classes, and start cashing in. But you can improve your employment odds.

The health care sector is still adding jobs, even in the midst of hard economic times. A February 2012 Spotlight report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that employment in health services actually increased during the 2007-2009 recession. The report notes that, in fact, health services employment has increased for more than 30 years, regardless of the business cycle.

Health Care Jobs: How to Pick a Winner

The Altarum Institute, a nonprofit health systems research and consulting organization in Washington D.C., offers a word of caution. Although health care workers will always be needed, hiring in general can see a delayed downturn after a long recession.

Perhaps because of a sudden influx of degree-holders in a particular specialty, or because employers lacked the confidence to hire in an uncertain time, some job seekers are finding a crowded market. This will vary depending on where you live, and where you plan to work.

Don’t rush out and enroll in the fastest training program available. Going back to school is a decision that deserves some thought:

  • Look at current job listings to learn what kinds of health care jobs are available in your area
  • Talk to employers about staffing needs and insight they have about future needs
  • Ask schools about enrollment and graduation rates
  • Research industry trends and technology changes that may impact future employment—are there other skills you already have that will add to your value as a health care employee? 

Why Health Care Education Is Still a Good Bet

While resilient, health care careers aren’t immune to economic hard times. But there are many factors that bode well for the health care industry's future. 

In the first three months of 2011, medical practices more than tripled their hiring rates over the same period in 2010, according to American Medical News. Here are more reasons you can feel secure about getting a health care education:

  • Health services are a necessity, not a luxury, so there will always be demand
  • The U.S. population is aging, which means more people will need health care
  •  Medical facilities are hiring more physician assistants, nurses and other workers to do routine patient care
  • The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) says the number of physicians is growing and that each one requires an average of 4.5 support staff
  • Recent health care reform should increase the number of people with insurance, which will increase the demand for medical services and health care workers

Health Care Jobs: Top Picks

Here are some of the health care careers that made the 2012 U.S. News and World Report list of 25 best careers: