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A Healthy Dose of STEM Jobs

By Cameron Macht
December 2014

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STEM jobs in health care are expected to be plentiful and well-paying in the coming years.

In the last issue of Trends, we examined the Core Component of the emerging STEM field in Minnesota. STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math, is typically linked to industries like computer systems design, electromedical instruments manufacturing, architectural and engineering services, and management, scientific and technical consulting services, among others.

The STEM Core Component saw steady job growth in the state in the last decade, expanding more than twice as fast as the total of all industries from 2003 to 2013, although growth is projected to slow. But this group of STEM industries actually accounts for only 40 percent of total STEM employment in Minnesota, using the taxonomy developed by the Workforce Information Council's report "Exploring the High Tech Industry."

The health care industry has the other 60 percent. Although it is often overlooked as a high tech industry, health care obviously relies on science and technology. By reviewing STEM jobs across all industry sectors, the Workforce Information Council categorized 13 industry subsectors in the STEM Health Care Component, selecting only those sectors with a concentration level of 2.5 times the national average of STEM jobs.

These industries, which rely on a highly trained workforce to provide quality health care, are the focus of this article.

Healthy Growth in Health Care

Through 2013, Minnesota had about 335,000 jobs in STEM health care industries, according to data from DEED's Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. In the last decade, STEM health care industries added jobs nearly four times as fast as all industries in Minnesota, gaining just over 48,400 net new jobs, a 16.9 percent increase.

The largest employing STEM Health Care Component sector in Minnesota was general medical and surgical hospitals, with more than 116,000 jobs at 201 hospitals, accounting for just over one-third (34.8 percent) of total STEM health care employment. The next largest industry was offices of physicians, with about 65,000 jobs at 1,660 clinics, followed by skilled nursing homes, with about 48,500 jobs at 463 nursing care facilities.

Combined, those three sectors account for two-thirds (68.7 percent) of total STEM health care employment in the state (see Table 1).

Table 1
Employment in Minnesota's STEM Health Care Industries, 2003-2013

NAICS Industry Title

NAICS Code

Number of
Establishments,
2013

Number
of Jobs, 2013

Average
Annual
Wages,
2013

2009-2013
Job Change

2007-2013
Job Change

2003-2013
Job Change

Total, All Industries

0

165,051

2,691,763

$50,128

+4.6%

+0.1%

+4.4%

Total, STEM Health Care Industries

12,701

334,416

$55,121

+4.9%

+7.5%

+16.9%

Health and Personal Care Stores

4461

1,777

15,850

$36,088

+5.7%

+1.1%

+8.3%

Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

5419

2,928

14,397

$50,440

+14.9%

+16.1%

+56.1%

Offices of Physicians

6211

1,660

64,936

$91,052

+3.8%

+5.4%

+13.3%

Offices of Dentists

6212

1,890

15,581

$50,440

-1.8%

+0.5%

+4.9%

Offices of Other Health Practitioners

6213

2,534

13,772

$37,024

+22.5%

+31.0%

+47.7%

Outpatient Care Centers

6214

415

10,411

$65,000

+8.7%

-7.2%

+60.5%

Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories

6215

103

2,628

$66,664

+8.3%

+23.1%

+53.2%

Home Health Care Services

6216

459

21,434

$25,324

+18.5%

+49.1%

+99.3%

Other Ambulatory Health Care Services

6219

241

6,693

$50,908

+6.7%

+17.0%

+34.5%

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

6221

201

116,313

$57,512

+5.8%

+7.1%

+15.0%

Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals* (government only)

6222

22*

2,526*

$53,196*

-10.2%

-19.9%

-13.8%

Specialty (exc. Psych. and Substance Abuse) Hospitals^ (2009 data)

6223

8^

1,377^

$61,412^

ND

ND

ND

Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)

6231

463

48,498

$26,208

-5.2%

-1.1%

-6.0%

Source: DEED Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program


The fastest-growing industry sector over the last decade was home health care services, which doubled in size from 2003 to 2013. Minnesota also saw rapid job growth at outpatient care centers; other professional, scientific and technical services (which includes veterinary services); medical and diagnostic laboratories; and offices of other health practitioners (which includes chiropractors; optometrists; mental health practitioners; physical, occupational and speech therapists; and all other health practitioners).

Only two health care sectors experienced a net loss in employment over the last decade: psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals (which declined about 14 percent) and nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities), which lost just over 3,000 jobs from 2003 to 2013.

Much of that employment, however, has shifted into home health care services and to continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly, which also doubled in employment in the last 10 years, though not classified as a STEM sector.

These Jobs Require Practice and Patients

As with the STEM Core Component industries, not every job in these sectors is STEM-related. For example, offices of physicians have just as many medical secretaries as registered nurses, and just as many billing and posting clerks as licensed practical nurses. In both cases, only the nursing positions are considered STEM occupations.

The Workforce Information Council report identified 61 STEM Health Care Component occupations, primarily in the health care practitioners and technical occupational group. These occupations comprise about half of the total jobs in the STEM health care industries, accounting for 168,540 jobs in Minnesota in 2014, according to DEED's Occupational Employment Statistics program.

All 61 occupations are expected to see employment growth over the next decade, ranging from slower-than-average growth for chiropractors, dentists and nursing instructors to well-above-average growth for physician assistants, diagnostic medical sonographers, genetic counselors, nurse midwives, orthotists and prosthetists, and nurse practitioners. All of the well-above-average occupations are expected to grow more than 25 percent from 2012 to 2022.

In sum, these occupations are projected to gain more than 27,500 new jobs in the next 10 years, but they will also need new workers to fill nearly 34,500 replacement openings due to retirements or other existing workers leaving the labor force. According to DEED's Employment Outlook, the state will have 62,220 total openings in STEM Health Care Component occupations from 2012 to 2022 (see Table 2).


Table 2

STEM Health Care Occupational Employment Statistics in Minnesota, Sorted by Typical Education Needed for Entry

Occupational Title

SOC Code

Estimated
Employment,

2014

Median
Hourly Wage,
2014

Median
Annual Wage,
2014

Projected Change
in Jobs,
2012-2022

Projected Total
Job Openings,
2012-2022

Doctoral or Professional Degree

Pharmacists

291051

5,000

$62.59

$130,198

7.7%

1,710

Physical Therapists

291123

3,370

$37.61

$78,216

22.6%

1,630

Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary

251071

3,300

NA

$76,192

7.2%

610

Physicians and Surgeons, All Other

291069

3,280

$80.00

$166,400

17.7%

1,260

Family and General Practitioners

291062

2,420

$85.44

$177,718

12.8%

1,060

Dentists, General

291021

1,780

$87.12

$181,208

4.0%

520

Anesthesiologists

291061

1,570

$80.00

$166,400

21.6%

610

Veterinarians

291131

1,220

$38.74

$80,573

7.6%

520

Surgeons

291067

1,090

$80.00

$166,400

21.2%

460

Chiropractors

291011

1,020

$28.18

$58,599

0.1%

310

Internists, General

291063

590

$80.00

$166,400

11.5%

280

Optometrists

291041

510

$48.10

$100,049

13.3%

350

Obstetricians and Gynecologists

291064

390

$80.00

$166,400

13.3%

140

Pediatricians, General

291065

340

$85.21

$177,222

12.5%

150

Psychiatrists

291066

270

$80.00

$166,400

18.6%

140

Audiologists

291181

200

$36.01

$74,897

19.5%

150

Podiatrists

291081

150

$77.33

$160,832

24.4%

80

Dentists, All Other Specialists

291029

130

$85.37

$177,556

5.5%

40

Master's Degree

Nurse Practitioners

291171

2,910

$46.54

$96,811

26.1%

1,260

Speech-Language Pathologists

291127

2,210

$33.78

$70,254

11.6%

600

Occupational Therapists

291122

2,190

$32.79

$68,200

15.3%

680

Physician Assistants

291071

1,850

$48.82

$101,536

34.5%

870

Nurse Anesthetists

291151

1,150

$76.80

$159,730

19.0%

460

Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary

251072

1,110

NA

$64,295

6.0%

180

Health Diagnosing and Treating Practs., All Other

291199

310

$34.37

$71,478

5.8%

120

Orthotists and Prosthetists

292091

160

$33.06

$68,766

26.7%

70

Nurse Midwives

291161

150

$49.64

$103,266

27.5%

70

Genetic Counselors

299092

60

$33.50

$69,677

30.6%

40

Bachelor's Degree

Medical and Health Services Managers

119111

5,950

$43.00

$89,440

17.4%

2,530

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists

292011

3,350

$29.74

$61,877

17.3%

1,530

Dietitians and Nutritionists

291031

1,560

$26.62

$55,371

13.0%

420

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

299011

1,410

$32.65

$67,906

6.8%

500

Athletic Trainers

299091

860

NA

$40,782

17.1%

230

Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers

299099

520

$28.73

$59,772

5.3%

180

Recreational Therapists

291125

410

$21.65

$45,031

7.7%

110

Therapists, All Other

291129

330

$19.71

$40,985

23.9%

120

Exercise Physiologists

291128

190

$26.64

$55,402

9.5%

50

Associate's Degree

Registered Nurses

291141

57,920

$34.32

$71,387

16.9%

20,330

Dental Hygienists

292021

4,530

$34.26

$71,265

11.5%

1,710

Radiologic Technologists and Technicians

292034

4,110

$29.49

$61,330

20.7%

1,340

Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technicians

292012

3,020

$21.30

$44,303

23.4%

1,630

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

292056

2,150

$15.07

$31,353

23.8%

580

Respiratory Therapists

291126

1,570

$30.87

$64,203

17.8%

530

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

292032

1,330

$35.75

$74,361

31.1%

630

Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians

292031

910

$28.48

$59,246

23.2%

340

Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists

292035

840

$33.74

$70,183

23.9%

320

Dietetic Technicians

292051

430

$14.52

$30,200

10.5%

60

Radiation Therapists

291124

390

$35.69

$74,240

18.9%

160

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

292033

320

$37.40

$77,801

20.3%

100

Respiratory Therapy Technicians

292054

60

$23.35

$48,572

17.7%

30

Postsecondary Vocational Award (Non-degree)

Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses

292061

17,400

$19.98

$41,551

18.6%

7,490

Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics

292041

3,750

$16.65

$34,641

14.7%

1,850

Medical Records and Health Info. Technicians

292071

3,240

$19.55

$40,651

16.8%

1,510

Surgical Technologists

292055

1,930

$24.59

$51,162

18.7%

520

Ophthalmic Medical Technicians

292057

530

$19.27

$40,094

21.3%

210

Psychiatric Technicians

292053

240

$15.29

$31,788

18.6%

50

High School Diploma or Equivalent

Pharmacy Technicians

292052

7,080

$15.10

$31,424

13.8%

1,620

Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other

292099

1,750

$26.17

$54,451

20.8%

460

Opticians, Dispensing

292081

1,570

$16.43

$34,176

10.9%

660

Occupational Health and Safety Technicians

299012

100

$25.31

$52,650

9.1%

40

Hearing Aid Specialists

292092

60

$30.86

$64,173

19.1%

10

Total, All Occupations

0

2,688,580

$18.15

$37,766

7.0%

901,620

Source: DEED Occupational Employment Statistics (OES), DEED 2012-2022 Employment Outlook, Bureau of Labor Statistics


Stay in School

While these jobs are expected to be available and in demand, they won't necessarily be easy to get. Job seekers interested in the STEM health care field will need to stay in school. Well over 90 percent of the STEM Health Care Component occupations typically require postsecondary education for entry.

More than half of lower-skilled health care support occupations can be gained with a high school diploma or less. But only five of the 61 STEM Health Care Component occupations can be gained with a high school diploma or less, with the other 56 requiring at least a postsecondary vocational award. Thirteen require at least an associate's degree, nine require a bachelor's degree, 10 require a master's degree, and 18 require a doctoral or professional degree.

Combined, the occupations requiring postsecondary education account for 157,980 of the 168,540 STEM Health Care Component workers currently employed in the state. Those occupations are expected to make up an even larger portion of the employment picture by 2022, due to faster overall projected growth rates.

Help Wanted

Data from DEED's Job Vacancy Survey show strong current demand for health care practitioners and technical occupations as well, with employers reporting more than 6,000 job postings through the second quarter of 2014. After sinking during the recession, demand for health care practitioners has bounced back in recent years and is now well above pre-recession levels (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Minnesota Job Vacancy Survey Results


Similarly, 94 percent of these vacancies require postsecondary education, including 42 percent that require vocational awards or associate degrees, 22 percent that require bachelor's degrees, and 30 percent that require advanced degrees. In addition, two-thirds of the openings expect at least one year of work experience, and 93 percent require a certificate or license (see Table 3).


Table 3
Minnesota Job Vacancy Survey Details, Q2 2014

Occupational Group

Number of
Job Vacancies

Part-time
Vacancies

Requiring
Postsecondary
Education

Requiring
1+ Years
Experience

Requiring
Certificate
or License

Median
Wage Offer

Total, All Occupations

84,696

42%

36%

44%

33%

$12.05

Health Care Practitioners and Technical

6,036

41%

94%

66%

93%

$26.08

Source: DEED Job Vacancy Survey, Q2 2014


Consequently, wages were significantly higher for these STEM Health Care Component occupations than for the total of all occupations. All but one health care practitioner occupation had a higher median hourly wage offer than the total of all occupations, and most median wage offers were well over $20 per hour. Median wage offers ranged from about $11.50 an hour for dietetic technicians to nearly $55 an hour for psychiatrists and obstetricians and gynecologists. Only six of the 61 STEM Health Care Component occupations had below-average median hourly wages.

With 1,699 vacancies, registered nurses accounted for almost one-third of the total openings in the group. They had a median wage offer of $26.90 per hour. Fifty-three percent of registered nurse openings, however, were part time. Likewise, 52 percent of the 840 vacancies for licensed practical nurses were part time, with a median hourly wage offer of $17.13. Nurse practitioners had one of the highest job vacancy rates of any health care occupation with 555 openings and a median hourly wage offer of $41.54.

Job seekers looking for a chance to use their science and technology skills in a field that offers high demand, high pay and high future prospects for growth should examine Minnesota's STEM health care field.

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