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Health Care Industry Will Create 5.6 Million More Jobs By 2020: Study

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Whether or not President Obama’s health care reform law survives its Supreme Court challenge, the number of jobs in health care is poised to boom over the next decade, according to a report released Thursday. The positions, however, will do little to alleviate the jobs crisis among the nation's unskilled workers.

"Healthcare will continue to grow fastest and provide some of the best paying jobs in the nation," the authors wrote in the report. "But the people in these jobs will increasingly require higher levels of education to enter the field and continuous certification once they are in."

With demand for health care growing at a rate twice that of the national economy, the industry is on track to create 5.6 million new jobs by 2020, according to a new study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce.

That's a lot of jobs, but the increased demand likely won't help America's most vulnerable job seekers. Many of the new jobs will require advanced degrees and continued certifications. And while the industry will create some low-skill and low-paying jobs, the path from one track to the other is "virtually nonexistent," according to the report.

Americans spent $2.6 trillion on health care in 2010 -- ten times more than in 1980. That revenue boost has, in turn, driven job growth; the health care industry last year created more than 540,000 jobs in Michigan alone, making it the largest private employer in the state, according to the Detroit News. The trend holds true at the national level too, with the health care industry remaining one of the few reliant drivers of job growth in the aftermath of the financial crisis, according to The New York Times.

Many of the healthcare jobs of the future will be concentrated among highly-educated workers. More than 80 percent of the new jobs will require postsecondary education and training, the Georgetown study found.

That's likely of little consolation to the workers most at risk of entering long-term joblessness. A recent report estimated that more than 90 million low-skill workers won’t be needed by employers by 2020 and could be subject to permanent joblessness.

The occupation poised to grow the most is nursing, but those jobs will increasingly require an advanced degree, boosting the likelihood that potential nurses from poor and minority backgrounds won't be able to enter the field. The nursing field will grow by 26 percent between now and 2020, but that still won't allow for enough nurses to meet demand -- there will be an 800,000 nurse shortfall, the study found.

"Increasingly, a bachelor’s degree is going to be a minimum requirement," the study's authors wrote. "The only question is whether new nurses need it their first day on the job, or whether they can acquire some basic occupational skills and continue their education while working -- a model that might help poor and minority students move into the field."

There is some hope for low-skilled job seekers, though. After nursing, the field experiencing the most growth is health care support occupations, according to the study. Workers in health care support typically make less than $30,000 per year, not a lot, but more than what they would normally make given their skill set.

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