Health careers have been oversold, reports Community College Week. The number of associate degrees in health professions more than doubled in the last 10 years, while certificates increased by 240 percent. Yet “a growing number of graduates who believed their health care credential would be a ticket to a job are finding themselves with a passport to the unemployment line.”
Seeing the promise of good jobs with secure futures, students young and old have flooded into health care programs, striving to become a health care professional — a radiological technician, perhaps, or maybe a dental hygienist, a registered nurse or a physical therapy assistant.
In short, the students went where the jobs were, or where they were predicted to be.
But the recession slowed the retirement of baby-boomer nurses and other health-care workers. Laid-off workers lost health benefits and avoided hospital visits.
“Graduates have to be very persistent,” said Patricia Gray, vice-president for health care education initiatives at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio. “Right now, it is very difficult to find a job.”
The demand for health-care workers is expected to rebound soon. More than a third of nurses are in their 50s. They can’t keep working forever. Baby boomers are aging, requiring more health care. President Obama’s health-care bill should expand access to health services. At any rate, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20 percent increase in health-care jobs in the next seven years.
While a majority of associate degrees are in general studies, health professions are the second most popular choice, according to Community College Week‘s analysis of federal data. Business degrees, grew slowly over the last decade, slipping into third over the 10-year period. Degrees in law enforcement, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and education showed significant growth.