World of opportunity in career and technical education: Healthcare

Dental students in a classroom watching a teacher present a lesson

Healthcare is one of the hottest career clusters in the United States by almost any metric. Compared to other career and technical education fields, it ranks among the top in categories such as percentage of gross domestic product and expected growth in employment in the near future. Unfortunately, it also stands out by virtue of the high amount of related jobs that will be left unfilled because of a lack of employees with appropriate skills.

In this blog, the third in a series of five, I will analyze the health care employment picture going forward and describe the indispensable role career and technical education plays in preparing those planning to enter the healthcare field.

The healthcare field accounted for expenditures of $2.7 trillion in 2011, which equaled a massive 18.7 percent of the U.S.’s GDP. Unlike other career fields that saw salaries stagnate, real wages for health care employees grew 90 percent from 1983 to 2010. The future remains bright. The number of those employed in professional and technical healthcare occupations, which includes nurses, pharmacy technicians and medical technologists, will grow by 31 percent by 2020. In total, 6.6 million more health care jobs will be available by the end of this decade than currently. Many of these will go unfilled unless we instill in students the technical and employability skills that will lead employers to hire them.

Nurse looking a medical memo sitting in front of a computer monitorIn many cases, this means postsecondary education. 82 percent of health care jobs require at least some postsecondary education. While many require a four year degree, 25 percent mandate an associate degree and 17 percent require some college that results in the earning of a postsecondary certificate. Students and educators should not fall into the trap of believing that health science education is the only type of education that can lead to a career in health care. IT, STEM, business management & administration and education & training can all lead students to careers that relate to health care.

Work-based learning experiences such as hospital-based classrooms, laboratory facilities and clinical internships are an important aspect of career and technical education in health care. ACTE’s two healthcare micro documentaries offer examples of such programs. The first examines the University of the District of Columbia, where students, many of whom are the first in their families to pursue postsecondary education, learn how to work ventilators and intubate patients on their way to earning degrees in respiratory therapy. Teachers describe the rewarding feeling of seeing students gain knowledge, and students celebrate their progress toward their goals of using the technical skills they learn to help others.

The second microdoc details health care education within the military by profiling a student training to become a medic at the Andrew Rader U.S. Army Health Clinic at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia. Students here receive relevant, personalized training and have the option to pass competency tests that allow them to avoid retaking courses on material they have already mastered. The featured student in this microdoc notes that his skills will be transferable to fields outside the military, and details his plan to complete a college degree and become a physician’s assistant upon completion of his service.

Health care is one of the most ascendant fields within both the U.S. economy and career and technical education. It will provide many current and future students with employment over the next several decades. To maximize the potential of our students, we must ensure that they have access to strong, relevant health care career and technical education programs.

Check out previous blogs in this series: Advanced Manufacturing, and Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics, as well as ACTE’s other microdocs and sector sheets, to learn more about the vital role career and technical education programs play in preparing our students for their future careers.


About the Author
LeAnn Wilson

LeAnn Wilson

LeAnn Wilson has served as the executive director of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) since her appointment in 2013, after having served as ACTE’s chief financial officer since 2005. Through her leadership role, Wilson has gained a deep appreciation for the work that America’s career and technical education (CTE) professionals do every day to equip their students with the skills they will need to keep our country strong, and she has strived to raise awareness of CTE among policymakers and the public. She has demonstrated exemplary leadership during her time with ACTE, including the development of sound institutional financial strategies to ensure long-term organizational stability and growth. Wilson has served in a variety of financial positions during her career, including 16 years in nonprofit association environments. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Maryland, College Park, and currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, Terry, and two daughters, Kelly and Samantha.