Our national economy continues to show steady signs that the economic recovery is picking up steam and will finally take root after almost five years of frustrating unemployment data. The stock market continues to hover around its all-time high of 14,000 and the world's largest economy continues to steadily add jobs as forecasted.
Even with this seemingly good news, the economy's recovery remains painfully slow – especially for people who are chronically unemployed or underemployed. Several sectors in the economy are hiring robustly, such as health care and the automotive industry, and are forecasted to continue to do so for some time. Hospitals and physician offices are leading the charge in hiring for the health and medical science fields, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As a whole, the health care sector added 290,000 jobs for the 11 months ending Nov. 30, 2012, according to the federal jobs report. Dan Diamond, managing editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Advisory Board, took the report a step further when he stated: Health care is adding several hundred thousand jobs a year, regardless of what's going on in the broader economy, but when the broader economy hits a tailspin, then that health care job growth stands out that much more.
As Baby Boomers age into retirement by the thousands each day, they will have a growing need for care. Since seniors consume health care resources at a much faster rate, regions like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton/Hazleton with a higher-than-average elderly population will have a greater need for health care professionals than other areas of the country.
The Central Florida Health Alliance is a not-for-profit family of hospitals and post-acute services. The demographics for the area it serves mirror those of northeastern Pennsylvania. On average, this health care system has more than 140 vacancies posted every week, with the vast majority of these job listings looking for registered nurses, physical and occupational therapists, certified home health aides, pharmacists and more.
There is more good news for people who are considering a career in health care. Along with being one of the fastest growing segments of the economy, the health care industry is also one of the highest paying employment sectors. The average wage for medical practice administrators was $120,486 in 2011, according to the American College of Medical Practice Executives. At an average salary of more than $67,000 annually, nurses are well paid and in high demand. Part of the nationwide shortage of health care professionals is being fueled by retirements, an improving national economy, and the expanded services that are being mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
Our region is fortunate to have an abundance of colleges and universities that have proven track records for producing highly skilled graduates from their health and medical science programs. It is equally important, though, that high school graduates and adult learners choose careers that are in high demand. By choosing from a myriad of rewarding career options in the health care industry, graduates can secure their futures while also making a difference in their communities.
Joseph J. Grilli, M.P.A., D.P.A., is the director of Corporate and Institutional Recruitment at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa.