Now more than ever, society needs skilled healthcare workers. The current shortage of medical professionals is an opportunity for the students of today to become the healthcare heroes of tomorrow. And while college is admittedly expensive, an investment in a healthcare education will pay a handsome return in the years to come, according to Dr. Johnica J. Morrow, Pre-Health Pathways advisor at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
South Dakota Mines is working hard to prepare its pre-health students to enter health professions and address these needs in rural America and across the country, says Morrow. Pre-health students at Mines are pursing degrees in traditional fields such as biology, chemistry and pre-professional health sciences, as well as in engineering fields, such as mechanical, industrial and biomedical. These students have bright futures, in part because South Dakota Mines ranks as the best in the nation for return on investment.
The healthcare industry has a great job outlook, Morrow says. By the end of 2018, there were 16.2 million people working in the healthcare sector, accounting for about 11% of all jobs in the United States. It’s also one of the fastest growing industries in the country, with around 346,000 jobs created in 2018, which equates to about 29,000 new jobs every month. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that the industry will continue to grow, projecting a 14% increase between 2018 and 2028, which will add an additional 1.9 million over that decade.
In small rural states like South Dakota, the number of jobs in healthcare is projected to grow by 6.8% between 2016-2026, with an average of 58,885 annual job openings in the industry. Much of this anticipated growth stems from having a population that is getting older as the last of the baby boomers become senior citizens. As a population ages, and a generation with a large cohort of current healthcare workers enters retirement, there becomes a greater demand for healthcare providers.
Right now, there is a major shortfall in the number of healthcare professionals needed to address this growing need for health care services. The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) estimates that there could be a shortage of more than 120,000 physicians through 2030. This shortage will have significant impacts on mortality rates and life expectancy.