The health care and social-assistance sector has been rapidly growing in recent years and is expected to generate the largest number of jobs, a total of 5.6 million, and grow at an annual rate of 3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is the most dramatic growth of any sector in the country, and it isn’t slowing down.
As the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare, kicks in, companies are ramping up hiring of health care workers.
“We are seeing and feeling [the demand] in the market right now,” says Robin Singleton, executive vice president and the national health care practice leader for DHR International, a recruiting firm responsible for placing executives. “This is my 30th year working in health care, and I haven’t seen anything like it.”
Some of the hottest jobs right now have been around for years but are now seeing increased demand, while others are more recently created. Singleton and John Blank, executive vice president and managing director in Nashville for DHR, outline the hottest jobs of the health care boom below.
Chief medical officers
Salary: The national median expected salary is $340,092, according to Salary.com.
How to become a chief medical officer: This is an administrative role that requires completion of medical school or a physician training program.
Many corporations are taking health care into their own hands by setting up clinics within their firms to manage health care costs, says Blank. The idea is if they have their own health care facilities, they can lower insurance costs, make sure their employees are healthy, and inevitably increase productivity.
This is where the need for chief medical officers come in. These are professionals who advise the board and CEO on regulatory issues and make sure their practices are in compliance.
“These are the MDs that practiced for awhile, but eventually moved into administration positions,” says Singleton.
Companies that have built medical centers on their campuses include Hewlett-Packard, Intel, and Facebook.
Medical billers and coders
Salary: The 2010 median wage for medical billers and coders was $32,350, according to the BLS. However, this seems to be the amount paid to an entry-level worker.
How to become a medical biller and coder: A postsecondary or professional certification is typically required.
“Reimbursement rates are changing a lot. Once you submit a claim, you can’t re-submit it,” says Blank. “That’s part of the ACA so you better be right the first time you submit it.”
This has led to an increased need for medical billers and coders. The BLS is predicting that the job outlook for these professionals will increase 21% between now and 2020.
Salary: The median annual wage for insurance brokers was $46,770 in May 2010, according to the BLS. However, many sales agents are paid by commission rather than a salary.
How to become an insurance broker: All agents must be licensed in the state where they work. One-third of these workers have a bachelor’s degree.
The demand for brokers has increased since the U.S. government gave online brokers permission in July to enroll clients in subsidized plans offered through the federal and state health care exchange. In short, this means you can hire a broker to research plans offered directly from the insurance company or through the government exchange.
However, Blank says this demand is only going to last for a short period of time and will slow down once Obamacare kicks in.
“You’re not going to need near as many brokers because it’ll be up to the individuals then,” he says.
Salary: According to the BLS, the median annual wage of registered nurses was $64,690 in May 2010.
How to become a nurse: Nurses must be licensed by passing a licensing examination. These workers also have a bachelor’s degree in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing school.
There’s been a nursing shortage for years in America and as the population ages, the overall demand for nurse practitioners will increase. Through 2020, the field is projected to grow 26%.
Blank says to fill this shortage, many international nurses will immigrate into the country.
“Patients deal with nurses the most throughout their experience at hospitals,” Singleton tells us. “It’s essential to make sure everything is running smoothly for the nursing staff.”
VP of the patient experience
Salary: These workers can earn anywhere from $150,000 at a small hospital to over $250,000, according to healthcarejobs.net and the University of California.
How to become a vice president of the patient experience: Typically a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nursing or business. Since this is a senior role, experience in a leadership position in a major health care provider setting is also preferred.
“This role never existed in the past,” says Singleton. “The focus now is really on showing the highest quality of care.” A lot of this comes down to making sure hospitals’ HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores don’t dip too low.
Hospitals with lower scores have a hard time getting approval for reimbursements or won’t get reimbursed as much as hospitals with higher scores.
These organizations understand that they’re competing with one another based on their patients, and the Internet has made it easier to share reviews among the public. So if a patient has a bad experience, that scenario can be shared very quickly, Singleton says.
Salary: The median annual wage for informatics officers in May 2012 was $34,160, with many metropolitan areas in New Jersey as the top-paying areas. If you move into a more senior level, as chief informatics officer, the national median annual income was about $156,874 as of January 2011, according to Payscale.com.
How to become an informatics officer: Informatics officers typically have career experience in health care, technology, or business.
“These are the MDs who take the data from patient, physician, and staff surveys and make the quality changes needed for the organization to run smoothly,” says Singleton.
These are also doctors who have moved into more of an administrative role. A federal mandate requires all medical facilities to keep satisfactory health care record keeping. To prepare for the ACA, informatics officers are needed to compiled, process, and maintain patient records in a manner consistent with ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements.
Concierge primary care physicians
Salary: According to the BLS, primary care physicians made a median salary of $202,392 in 2010, but doctors offering concierge services typically charge a standard fee for all patients or a monthly or yearly fee that’s dependent on the patient’s age.
How to become a concierge primary care physician: Physicians typically complete four years of medical school and three to eight years of internship and residency. Most concierge primary physicians work for themselves.
These are doctors who work with only a specific number of patients, says Blank. The patient pays an annual fee retainer in exchange for the services of a private-like doctor. By directly charging patients, these doctors are able to control prices and don’t have to go through health insurance companies.
As of July 2012, there were approximately 4,000 physicians offering concierge-like services, which is 30% more than the previous year, reported Lauren Silverman at Marketplace.org. The practice is fastest growing in Texas, California, and Florida.