November 7, 2019  |  Purdue Global  |  Updated June 28, 2023

Health care continues to experience remarkable job growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health care jobs are expected to grow 13% from 2021 to 2031 — much faster than the average for all occupations. This article will review how the industry is evolving, where the new occupations are, and what education and skills will be needed to fill them.

Strong Outlook for Health Care and Nursing Jobs Over Next Decade

With population changes, technical advances, growing health needs, and an expected surge of retiring workers, it’s an exciting time to be in the medical field. A confluence of factors will contribute to growth in this field:

  • A growing population: The U.S. population will grow to approximately 359.4 million by 2030, according to More people mean a greater need for health care services.
  • An aging population: The U.S. Census Bureau notes that by 2030, 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older — the first time in recorded U.S. history that older citizens will outnumber children. The aging population puts a greater demand on health care services because older people typically have greater health care needs than younger people.
  • Retiring health care workers: Of course, as the population ages, so do existing health care workers. The BLS reports that the number of workers who plan to retire or otherwise exit the labor force contributes to the high demand for health care workers.
  • Chronic conditions: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6 in 10 adults have a chronic condition, and 4 in 10 have two or more chronic conditions (which include heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis). As the number of Americans with chronic conditions continues to rise, additional workers will be needed to prevent, manage, and treat them.
  • Medical advances: Improvements in technology and medicine, including widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs), mean more jobs for medical records specialists and health information technologists and medical registrars, ONET reports.
  • Shortage of doctors: According to the report “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034” from the Association of American Medical Colleges, the nation faces a projected shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034. This acute physician shortage in the face of growing demand creates job opportunities for nurse practitioners as well as physician assistants.

Here’s a look at several areas showing promising opportunities as a result of these factors, along with the education, skills, and background required to enter or advance in them.

Medical Assisting Faces Talent Shortage in Face of Spiking Demand

Medical assistant jobs are expected to grow 16% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than average, according to the BLS. This holds true across health care settings including group practices, clinics, hospitals, and other types of health care facilities. Medical assistants are needed to complete both administrative and clinical duties.

To enter the field, most people will need to earn a medical assistant certificate. While the education requirements vary from state to state, employers may prefer to hire medical assistants who have completed a medical assisting program. In many cases, students can prepare for the Certified Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA) examination and other related industry certifications as part of their certificate program. Learn more about how to become a medical assistant.

Nursing Remains a Growing Field

The BLS predicts that nursing will continue to be a growing medical career field through 2031, and the growth spans most health care settings, including hospitals, health clinics, doctors’ offices, residential care facilities, and ambulatory care settings.

The demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase 46% from 2021 to 2031, the BLS reports. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are increasingly needed to provide both preventive and primary care due to the confluence of a shortage of doctors and an aging populace.

Furthermore, it’s not just the population of patients that’s aging — the nursing workforce itself is getting older. In fact, the BLS predicts an exodus of nurses from the workforce as they retire at the precise time when demand for nurses is rising.

>> Learn why APRNs are critical to improving access to care in the U.S.

For existing registered nurses (RNs) considering how to expand their skill set or take advantage of this opportunity, various paths are available:

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree: RNs with a bachelor’s degree in nursing may have better job prospects, and for current RNs looking to advance their careers, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, such as an RN-to-BSN, is considered a standard requirement.
  • Specialize in gerontology: Nurse practitioners specializing in geriatric care should continue to be in high demand as there will be more elderly people who will be living longer.
  • Share nursing knowledge: Earning a Nurse Educator Postgraduate Certificate or an online master’s degree in nursing could help prepare you to pursue career advancement in the field of nursing education.
  • Pursue executive roles: Professional nurses may want to consider managerial or leadership roles in nursing. A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and an Executive Leader Graduate Certificate are two programs that support this career path.

>> Read More: Learn the top reasons to earn an RN-to-BSN degree with Purdue Global

Management Jobs in Health Care Expected to Increase

For health care workers already working in the industry, the question is how to continue evolving your skills and experience to enhance your career outlook. Advancing into management is a pathway to consider, as employment of medical and health services managers is expected to grow 28% between 2021 and 2031 — much faster than average.

There are several ways to pursue a leadership career. Most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field; however, master’s degrees are common and sometimes preferred by employers. Degrees to consider:

Addictions and Behavioral Health Counselors Are Needed to Meet Demand

Employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors is projected to grow 22% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than average. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 46.3 million people aged 12 and older met the criteria for having a substance use disorder in 2021. That same year, 94% of people in that group did not receive any treatment.

>> View this infographic for additional stats about substance abuse.

Prepare to work in addictions:

Education programs in addictions include:

Prepare to work in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA):

Programs to help you advance in a field helping people and families with behavior disorders include:

Licensing and education requirements vary from state to state; it’s important to look for an accredited education provider that offers addictions programs approved by NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, and applied behavior programs approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board®, Inc. (BACB®).

Employment in Health Care Settings

The Center for Health Workforce Studies analyzes BLS data to report on trends in health care employment and settings. The center found:

  • Employment in home health care and outpatient care centers is surging. Between 2019 and 2029, jobs in home health care are projected to experience the greatest job growth (30%) across all health care settings; jobs in outpatient care centers are projected to grow by nearly 29%.
  • Employment in hospitals is dropping slightly. The center projects that between 2019 and 2029, employment in hospitals will decline from 39% to 37% of total health care employment.
  • Employment in physicians’ and other practitioners’ offices will grow. Between 2019 and 2029, jobs in offices of health practitioners are projected to grow by almost 12%.

Types of occupations commonly employed in these settings include the following (we’ve included a link to education programs related to that career path, though the job level and ways to get there will vary):

Technology Drives Opportunity, Creates New Specialties

Advances in technology — such as telemedicine/telehealth, wearable health tracking devices, centralized medical software, and improved medical analysis — are creating new job opportunities within health care.

The field of health care IT is growing and changing rapidly, even more so because the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in 2009 placed a greater emphasis on electronic medical records and electronic health records. Entirely new technology-driven specialties have emerged, such as health informatics, health information management, information security, and records management.

>>Read More: Learn about the flourishing field of health informatics

A Blend of Technical and Soft Skills Proves a Winning Combination

While technology is revolutionizing the industry, it won’t replace the need for qualified health services professionals. A shifting labor market means automation is taking over more routine and manual tasks, placing a greater demand on jobs that humans excel at and are required for, including non-routine interpersonal and analytical jobs. Because health care-related jobs often require personal interaction, they are more difficult to outsource or replace with automation.

This means developing your soft skills is more important than ever. While workers will need the education, training, related licensing, and experience to deliver health services, employers say it’s not only about technical or clinical experience — you also need good people skills and the ability to be patient, caring, and compassionate. To maximize career outcomes, look for health care education programs that include an emphasis on the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Team building
  • Diversity
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Leadership

Explore online health care and health sciences degree and certificate programs at Purdue Global.

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