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The U.S. nursing boom is just getting started

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since 1969. Friday’s jobs report shows that health care, along with business services, transportation and warehousing jobs, fueled the country’s job growth.

Health care employment rose by 26,000 in September, though the bulk of those jobs came from ambulatory health care services. The U.S. has added 302,000 health care jobs over the course of 2018.

Registered nurses dominate headcount across all professions. The U.S. currently has 3,040,884 RNs and an additional 255,047 jobs are expected to be added within the next five years, representing 3% of all job creation in the country.

Within high-wage professions, software developers will see the largest percentage change (15.57%) in new jobs added, but registered nurses will still account for the largest total number of new jobs, according to a new study by online employment service CareerBuilder.

Though a tight labor market means it’s a good time for Americans to find work, there’s been high demand for health care professionals in particular. A recent study by HR consulting firm Mercer found that the U.S. needs to hire 2.3 million new health care workers by 2025 to aid the country’s aging population.

While the nursing field has a wide range of professions, registered nurses make up the largest segment of health care workers. In addition to Baby Boomers’ increased need for health care services as they live longer, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites an increased emphasis on preventive care and growing rates of chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity as core reasons that are fueling the nursing industry’s growth.

The pay off

Being a nurse is a taxing profession, as the role often requires working three back-to-back 12-hour days (often translating to 13- or 14-hour shifts), which would put significant physical and emotional strain on anyone. Still, nursing tops the list of jobs that people don’t leave, likely because of the lucrative pay.

CareerBuilder defines “high-wage” jobs as those that pay at least $23.24 per hour, with an RN’s median take-home pay pegged at $33.55 per hour. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) earn, on average, $140,934 per year, making it the top paying nursing speciality, according to PayScale.

Being a nurse in the U.S. is that much more enticing when observed through a global lens. A recent report from CapRelo, a firm that specializes in global job relocation, found that a nurse in the U.S. earns an average annual salary of $63,000, more than double the global average of $26,698. The U.S. led in average salary for nurses among 43 countries.

The boom in healthcare job growth by aging Baby Boomers’ increased need for health care services as they live longer lives.

Among low-wage professions, home health aides is the only industry expected to experience double-digit growth. CareerBuilder anticipates 22.42% growth in number of jobs added, bringing the total number to 1,134,232 by 2023. Restaurant cooks are a distant second, with the occupation expected to see 7.46% job growth over the same time period.

Overall, the report highlights that workers in high-wage and low-wage occupations are seeing the most wage growth. The report predicts that the U.S. is on track to add 8.3 million jobs (or 5.08% growth) over the next five years, but only one-fourth of the jobs will be in middle-wage careers like medical assistants and licensed vocational nurses.

CareerBuilder analyzed data from Emsi, a labor market analytics company, to review 774 occupations classified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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