Less-educated workers enter healthcare

The recent surge in healthcare jobs favors positions requiring less education, providing a potential pathway for lower-paid workers, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.

Between 2000 and 2011, the number of workers in 10 major healthcare occupations with a lower education level than bachelor's degree increased 46 percent, outflanking the 39 percent job growth for the entire sector, according to the report.

Healthcare workers without a bachelor's make up 61 percent of the total healthcare workforce, according to the Institution. The number is slightly lower specifically in metropolitan areas, at 57 percent, suggesting the metropolitan healthcare workforce is slightly more educated.

These figures indicate the healthcare industry "can provide people with lower levels of education a career ladder and a path toward upward mobility," Brookings fellow Martha Ross, who co-authored the study, told the Detroit Free Press.

The report found wide variation in education and earnings levels within the healthcare industry. Approximately 50 percent of registered nurses and diagnostic technicians have either some college or associate degrees and the highest median annual salary range, between $52,000 and $60,000. In contrast, personal care and home health aides tend to have high school diplomas and are the lowest paid, with a range of $21,000 to $25,000.

Most job gains for less-educated workers are in fields that pay $30,000 or less, including nursing aide and medical assistant jobs. To help such workers advance, the report calls for funding further research on how lower-educated workers can serve the healthcare "triple aim" (better patient experience, better outcomes and lower costs). Specifically, the report says, research should address job quality, employee satisfaction and team integration levels for pre-bachelor's workers.

A February study published in the Lancet found a correlation between nurses with bachelor's degrees and patient outcomes, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the report
- here's the article