Your Next Career Pivot: Healthcare?

Health-related fields are adding one-quarter of all jobs in the US. Why is this former “tortoise” field so hot?

Having spent years in retail marketing, where she’d watched firms turn to cheaper and more efficient ways to sell products, the manager wanted a safer field—one with plentiful jobs, growth opportunities, job security, and a healthy paycheck. Turns out the one to consider was never on the top of her list.

Career climbers are quietly discovering that their next pivot may be toward healthcare. New data shows that in 2023, the healthcare sector added 654,000 jobs—one-quarter of all jobs in the US economy, according to Altarum’s Health Sector Economic Indicators. Is it a flashy field? No. “It’s the tortoise,” says Greg Button, president of the Global Healthcare Services practice at Korn Ferry. “Tech and finance spike really fast, but healthcare is always growing, slow and steady.”

Driving the growth, of course, are the members of the aging baby-boomer population, who need healthcare more and more, as well as technology expansion in areas from electronic medical records to artificial intelligence. If the phrase “healthcare technology” makes you imagine robot surgeons, in practice, much of the growth is in back-office functions. “Healthcare has always been a lagger in adopting technology,” says Button.

To be sure, experts caution that not all sectors of healthcare are growing: Residential-care jobs (not nursing homes) lost jobs in December. And a bit of growth can be attributed to the pandemic and the ensuing backlogs in personal care: Patients are still catching up on screenings like colonoscopies and mammograms, a situation experts expect to finish playing out this year. But the field has attracted leaders from other industries and drawn an eye-popping $1 trillion in investment from private equity over the last ten years. That has opened job opportunities to manage and market healthcare firms for executives who might never have dreamed of moving into the field.

As healthcare has evolved, so has its manner of delivering service. The Altarum figures, for example, indicate that ambulatory care added an average of 26,700 jobs per month last year, part of an industry-wide push to keep patients out of inpatient care. “Doctors don’t want to see patients at hospitals,” says David Vied, global sector leader for medical devices and diagnostics at Korn Ferry. Ambulatory clinics and centers are often staffed by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.

Not surprisingly, some of the safest roles in healthcare include jobs for nurses, technicians, clinicians, and patient-facing assistants, as well as technicians in specialties like radiology and ultrasound. “These are lifelong positions—you’ll have a job, and can work anywhere in the country,” says Button. There’s a general shortage of many practitioner specialties: Of the twenty fastest-growing US occupations, six are in healthcare, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (including five practitioner roles): nurse practitioner, epidemiologist, physician assistant, physical-therapy assistant, occupational therapy assistant, and home health aide.

Jobs in healthcare technology are also safe bets, whether in companies that create it or in technology departments proper, say experts. Though the medical-device field often faces regulatory challenges, there’s growth in incorporating technology into devices, and Vied has seen a three- to fourfold jump in interest in medical-device positions since September. “There’s tons of curiosity, and that leads to turnover and hiring,” he says. When someone is looking for a dependable career, he steers them toward regulatory roles for products and devices. “That’s like telling someone to be an actuary. It’s not glamorous, but it’s dependable,” says Vied.


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