Skip to main content

2010 Healthcare Employment and Salary Outlook

Financial conditions and the uncertainty over healthcare reform are causing employers to hedge their bets, but certain specialties may see an uptick.

2010 Healthcare Employment and Salary Outlook

If healthcare hiring in 2010 doesn’t resume the torrid pace of the mid-2000s, it is likely to recover from the mild slowdown seen in some specialties in 2009. That’s the consensus of experts and recruiters across the industry.

“Some organizations are a little hesitant in hiring,” says Brad Ellis, leader of the healthcare division at recruiter Kaye/Bassman International in Plano, Texas. As they emerge from the difficult financial conditions of 2009, “hospitals are hiring if they’re seeing their accounts receivable diminish.”

In typically short-staffed fields like nursing, 2009’s declining vacancy rates in some specialties may reverse course in 2010.

For instance, occupational nurses -- many of whom care for workers injured in factories that may have been shuttered in the recession -- experienced a drop-off in demand starting in the last quarter of 2008. However, hiring started to pick up again in mid-2009, says Peter Ferguson, president of health and life sciences at Philadelphia-based staffing firm Yoh. "Still, we're definitely seeing more contract labor than direct hire for occupational nurses," he says.

Some Healthcare Employers Have Big Hiring Plans

If many hospitals are still tapping the brakes on hiring, other provider organizations plan to bring on workers as fast as they can.

“We expect that over the next year, we’ll hire at least 1,000 people,” says Shelly Sun, CEO of BrightStar Healthcare, a network of franchises providing home care and healthcare staff for companies. BrightStar places RNs, LPNs, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language therapists and other allied-health specialists in temporary and permanent jobs.

Laboratory testing firms, riding the wave of aging boomers and their penchant for health screening, believe they will thrive in 2010.

“We expect to hire 500 to 700 medical technologists, including cytotechnologists, histotechnologists and clinical lab scientists,” says David Norgard, vice president of human resources at Quest Diagnostics, a global medical testing company based in Madison, New Jersey. Quest also expects to hire 1,000 phlebotomists. “There is no supply excess in any of these jobs,” Norgard says. In fact, for the future, “we in the industry and government worry about having enough medical technologists to fulfill this function,” he says.

Standout Healthcare Specialties for 2010

Whatever turns the economy make take in 2010, many healthcare occupations likely will boom. “Demand for some specialties like PTs is always fierce,” Sun says.

While some nursing graduates were disappointed with the job opportunities they found in 2009, the new decade offers broad promise. “In 2010, our students will probably all have jobs before they graduate,” says Vida Lock, director of the School of Nursing at Cleveland State University.

Beyond hospitals, hiring in many nursing specialties should pick up. “Both case management nursing and occupational health nursing are very strong going into 2010,” Ferguson says.

High-paying healthcare jobs that recruiters are always seeking to fill include physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

Healthcare Salaries: Look for Moderate Increases

Accustomed to substantial annual pay raises, many healthcare workers have been disappointed over the last couple of years. Will that change soon?

“You’ll see some modest rate increases in 2010,” Sun says. “We typically pay 2 percent to 10 percent above market to recruit and retain the best people.”

Compensation in some high-demand healthcare professions will keep powering up. “Pharmacists and therapists are making big moves up in pay,” Ellis says.

Perhaps more than usual, geography will play a key role in pay in 2010. Healthcare workers in regions whose economies have fared relatively well through the real estate collapse -- including the Southeast, Texas and mid-Atlantic states -- are likely to see larger increases over the next couple of years, according to Ellis.

Nurse salaries may not jump, but they won’t stagnate either. “I haven’t heard of any pay freezes for nurses,” Lock says.

The Big Question Mark for Healthcare Jobs: Healthcare Reform

Pending healthcare reform is the wild card that could affect both pay and employment prospects for professionals in diverse healthcare fields in 2010 and beyond.

Reform could add 30 million Americans to the insurance roles, spurring tremendous growth in the demand for healthcare labor. Yet cost-containment measures built into a restructured healthcare system could constrain salaries.

“We’re waiting to see what happens and trying not to overextend in our hiring,” says Norgard. “The more people with insurance coverage, the better for us -- though some of this new business will come with price pressure.”

Articles in This Feature:

Learn more about healthcare careers.

Back to top