2012 Job Outlook for Nurses, Nurse Practitioners & Physician Assistants


Everyone worries about their job prospects, but medical professionals have less to fear. The health industry has continued to do well in terms of job growth even throughout the economic recession. Why is this the case, and will the job outlook continue to look promising in the years to come? This article explores these questions, starting with the current job landscape and finishing off with job predictions.

How It’s Going

The year 2011 wasn’t an exception to the norm in regards to medical industry employment growth. As of New Years Day, there were about 100 jobs listed under the “nurse practitioner” subheading of Nurse.com, and that’s only one of dozens of subcategories. The website posts thousands of job openings from around the country, and they don’t appear to be in short supply.

In April of 2011, The New York Times named the position of physician assistant one of the top 10 jobs due to salary ($85,000 mean) and the growth anticipated, among other things. The numbers of medical position opportunities being added is encouraging to people trying to find jobs in the health field.

Sunny Outlook

If things are going well now, they’re going to be amazing in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2010-2011 projects that the health industry will continue to see an increase in job demand. In the 2008-2018 projections section of the handbook, physician assistants are included on the list of occupations with the fastest growth, with 29,200 new jobs at an average of a 39% increase.

Of the 20 fastest growing occupations listed, half of them are healthcare related, so the industry as a whole is experiencing major growth. Physician assistant, nurse practitioner and nursing positions are expanding along with the general sector’s job expansion. Even back in 2009, an MSNBC article was predicting that 2012 would bring job security for healthcare professionals based on U.S. Labor Department statistics.

Even more promising is that registered nurses and nurse practitioners come in at first place for occupations with the largest numerical growth, with 581,500 new jobs and a 22% change. With these sort of solid, encouraging predictions for the future of both nursing and physician assisting positions, it’s easy to feel confident about the coming year.

Why the Rise?

If the predictions for growth are so positive, what’s creating this demand for jobs? The fact that the health industry will always be around is one piece of the answer, but that could simply mean that the industry would stay stagnant and wouldn’t require any other employees. So what’s coming into play in the coming years that boosting the hiring projections?

One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is the fact that the baby boomers will be retiring in the coming years. This generation will require more medical care, which in turn creates demand within the medical industry. But there’s another aspect of this event — 2008 the CRS Report for Congress said that baby boomers represented 24.3% of total employment at hospitals. Now that they’re retiring, a very large number of positions will open up and need to be filled.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also points out that work has recently been delegated from doctors and nurses to people like nurse practitioners and physician assistants in order to cut costs. This could be a contributing factor to why more and more nursing positions are opening over the years. If you add all of these causes up, it makes sense the industry is experiencing such a big employment expansion.


The history of the medical industry has generally involved job stability, and encouraging growth is expected for 2012 and the years beyond. Nursing and physician assistant positions will be specifically opening up in the future, so there’s definite opportunity to look forward to in the years ahead.