Workers with an Associate’s degree or less make up more than half of the total healthcare workforce in the U.S., according to a report released today by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, and those numbers are expected to climb.
The majority of pre-baccalaureate healthcare employees tend to work in 10 positions, including home health aides, registered nurses and medical assistants, according to the report. Nationally, the number of healthcare jobs held by pre-baccalaureate workers has increased by 46 percent since 2000.
Martha Ross, a Brookings Fellow, said occupations with the lowest earnings are showing the most growth.
“If you’re looking in terms of jobs, especially in a weak recovery from a really bad recession,” she said, “this type of growth is a bright spot.”
The number of less educated workers employed as personal care aides, for example, jumped 277 percent from 2000. Personal care aides earn a median annual income of about $21,000.
But where is this growth coming from? Ross said it has to do with an aging and expanding population.
“An aging population will need more of these hands on kind of services that licensed practical nurses provide, nursing aides provide, personal care aides provide,” she said.
Of the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S., Pittsburgh ranked 16th in the number of pre-BA workers holding those common occupations. According to the report, those workers make up more than 8 percent of all pre-BA workers in the area with 58,713 employees.
As the city continues to build its medical and educational economy, Ross said lower level healthcare workers will become an asset.
While growth may be positive for jobseekers, there exists the risk of rising healthcare costs, as about 57 percent of total care expenditures are attributed to labor.
But Ross argues that less educated healthcare workers should be given more responsibility to promote team-based care and bring down costs.
“We can provide better care for the amount of money that we’re spending,” she said, “and we need to do that so that we don’t end up running ourselves into bankruptcy.”