Oregon Labor Market Information System
Bookmark and Share
Healthcare Practitioners and Support Workers - Vital to Our Economic Health
by Jill Cuyler-Crook
Published May-19-2014

 
A strong healthcare workforce is clearly essential to Oregonians' physical health; it is also an important contributor to the state's economic well-being. There are nearly 130,000 healthcare workers statewide which constitute eight percent of all occupational employment. The Oregon Employment Department (OED) projects these jobs to grow 20 percent by 2022, greater than the 15 percent growth projected across all occupations. Among other factors, this growth is strongly correlated to continued population growth (particularly in the state's urban areas) and an aging population in need of medical services.

Healthcare jobs are diverse in their duties, wages, and educational requirements but typically fall into one of two categories - practitioners or support.

Practitioners
 
Healthcare practitioners include workers responsible for diagnosing and treating patients, as well as those directly responsible for administering advanced medical technologies. Occupations employing the largest number of Oregonians in this group include registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and dental hygienists. Statewide, practitioners account for two-thirds of all healthcare jobs, with approximately 46 Oregonians for each healthcare practitioner. However, population-to-employment ratios vary significantly between occupations (Table 1).

Broadly speaking, wages for this group are very high, with an annual average of more than $85,000 in 2013. These jobs also demand a tremendous educational commitment. Nearly 40 percent require at least a master's degree to be considered competitive for a position, with nearly 30 percent requiring a doctoral or professional degree. Almost 45 percent require a degree at the associate's or bachelor's level. Many practitioners are also responsible for meeting licensing criteria at regular intervals throughout their careers.

Practitioner job openings are expected to be plentiful during the next decade. The Oregon Employment Department projects almost 34,000 total openings from 2012 to 2022 with 48 percent coming from newly created jobs (compared to only 40% across all occupations) and the remaining 52 percent coming from replacement openings due to retirements and turnover. The occupations with the largest number of total openings include registered nurses, physicians and surgeons, dental hygienists, pharmacists, and medical records and health Information technicians.

Table 1
Oregon's Leading Healthcare Practitioner Occupations
         
Occupation 2012 Employment Population/
Employment  Ratio*
Growth (%) (2012-2022) 2013 Average Wage Total Openings (2012-2022)
Total Healthcare Practitioner Occupations 85,268 46 19% $85,259 33,498
Registered Nurses 30,677 128 16.2% $81,137 10,907
Physicians and Surgeons 8,185 479 20.5%        N/A 3,726
Pharmacy Technicians 4,699 834 18.1% $34,882 1,316
Pharmacists 3,506 1,118 18.2% $118,759 1,475
Dental Hygienists 3,356 1,168 18.4% $80,860 1,478
Medical Records and Health Information Technicians 3,014 1,300 20.4% $39,786 1,413
Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses 2,705 1,449 19.9% $48,130 1,197
Physical Therapists 2,362 1,659 28.1% $80,566 1,244
Radiologic Technologists 1,979 1,980 17.4% $66,030 623
Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics 1,841 2,129 17.1% $39,078 817
* 2013 certified Oregon population estimates (Portland State University Population Research Center)
Support Staff
 
Practitioners alone cannot treat, cure, and manage healthcare for all people at all times. This requires a larger, coordinated network of support staff to assist with specific, day-to-day tasks crucial to patient care and administration. Occupations employing the largest number of Oregonians in this group include nursing assistants, medical assistants, home health aides, dental assistants, and massage therapists. Statewide, support workers account for one-third of all healthcare jobs, with approximately 89 Oregonians for each healthcare support staff. As with practitioners, this ratio varies significantly across occupations (Table 2).

Generally, wages for healthcare support workers are much lower than practitioners; they are also lower than wages in many other non-healthcare jobs. In 2013, the average annual wage for this group was just over $32,000 (assuming full-time work). It should be noted that jobs in healthcare support are more likely to be part-time than in the practitioner field. Most jobs require some type of non-degree postsecondary training to be competitive for a position. Workers typically receive this training at Oregon's community colleges, Job Corp training centers, or private career schools.

Healthcare support job openings are expected to be plentiful during the next decade. The Oregon Employment Department projects more than 18,000 total openings from 2012 to 2022 with 54 percent coming from newly created jobs and the remaining 46 percent coming from replacement openings. The occupations with the largest number of total openings include nursing assistants, home health aides, medical assistants, dental assistants, and massage therapists.

Table 2
Oregon's Leading Healthcare Support Occupations
Occupation 2012 Employment Population/
Employment Ratio*
Growth (%)
 (2012-2022)
2013 Average Wage Total Openings (2012-2022)
Total Healthcare Support Occupations 43,857 89 23% $32,011 18,268
Nursing Assistants 13,546 289 20.4% $27,276 5,338
Home Health Aides 7,101 552 33.8% $23,976 3,752
Medical Assistants 7,691 510 26.7% $34,497 3,520
Dental Assistants 4,476 876 10.9% $40,658 1,414
Healthcare Support Workers, All Other 2,108 1,859 18.0% $35,983 781
Massage Therapists 1,689 2,320 25.9% $50,558 616
Veterinary Assistants/Laboratory Animal Caretakers 1,222 3,207 20.5% $24,916 484
Psychiatric Aides 1,099 3,566 19.0% $30,561 418
Medical Equipment Preparers 1,207 3,247 14.4% $36,330 404
Phlebotomists 1,096 3,576 17.5% $35,227 401
* 2013 certified Oregon population estimates (Portland State University Population Research Center)
Current Supply and Demand
 
Current Employment Department job seeker and employer job listing data is overall very positive for the healthcare practitioner and support fields.

The most common practitioner occupations in which active job seekers report experience are medical records and health information technicians, registered nurses, and pharmacy technicians. The greatest numbers of current job listings are for registered nurses, physical therapists, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, and occupational therapists.

On the support side, home health aides, nursing assistants, and medical assistants have the largest job seeker counts. These three jobs also have the largest number of current job listings.

While this data is not representative of all job seekers and all employers, it is useful as a proxy for current supply and demand trends.

Table 3
Top Occupations Among Active Job Seekers and Employers Listing
With the Oregon Employment Department*
Healthcare Practitioners
Job Seekers (#) Job Listings (#)
Medical Records/Health Information Technicians (2,730) Registered Nurses (418)
Registered Nurses (735) Physical Therapists (72)
Pharmacy Technicians (705) Licensed Practical & Licensed Vocational Nurses (56)
Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians (619) Occupational Therapists (56)
Emergency Medical Technicians & Paramedics (501) Medical Records & Health Information Technicians (40)
Healthcare Support
Job Seekers (#) Job Listings (#)
Home Health Aides (5,765) Nursing Assistants (160)
Healthcare Support Workers, All Other (3,710) Medical Assistants (108)
Nursing Assistants (3,407) Home Health Aides (90)
Medical Assistants (2,728) Dental Assistants (28)
Veterinary Assistants/Laboratory Animal Caretakers (1,191) Healthcare Support Workers, All Other (21)
*iMatch Skills (Statewide; March 2014)