When she signed up for an eight-month course to prepare for a career as a pharmacy technician, Annice DeVore says, her plan was "to make...
MELVILLE, N.Y. — When she signed up for an eight-month course to prepare for a career as a pharmacy technician, Annice DeVore says, her plan was “to make a change in my life … I wanted a career path.”
It didn’t dawn on her that health care overall is considered a hot growth industry. “I didn’t realize it was so big until I went to school,” at the Garden City, N.Y., campus of the Sanford-Brown Institute, says DeVore, 34, a former retail cashier.
She signed up for the course in March 2007 and now is employed by LifeMed Pharmacy in Inwood, N.Y.
Such occupations — and the training programs that prepare people to work in them — are of particular interest in such challenging economic times. They appeal not only to people looking to upgrade professions, but also to those returning to the work force after a hiatus, seeking “retirement” careers or, having just lost a job or fearing being laid off, looking for a field that seems to offer security and plenty of opportunities.
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Experts encourage students to research each occupation carefully, looking not just at the demand for workers but also the supply of those newly trained who are, or will be, entering the field.
Clearly, the need for health-care workers will continue to rise, largely because of two factors: Aging baby boomers will require more services, and current health-care workers will retire, leaving their jobs to be filled.
“As economic uncertainty rises, people definitely look to fields they think have more stability,” says Gary Huth, labor-market analyst for New York’s state labor department. “There’s no question that jobs in health care will be significant,” he says, although “no field is immune to changes.” So he advises relying on Labor Department figures as a guide — but doing further research into an occupation of interest to determine the nuances of its longer-term prospects, as well as just how much it meets your personal needs.
In February, the owner of the Katharine Gibbs School in Melville, Career Education Corp. in Hoffman Estates, Ill., announced it would seek state and accrediting board approval to convert the campus to a Sanford-Brown College, which specializes in educational programs in allied health fields. The Gibbs offerings in areas such as business, criminal justice, design and health-care administration would continue, but more health-care-related courses would be added.
The change, in part, is explained by a company spokeswoman this way: “The health-care market continues to grow in this country, and Gibbs Melville is in part of a large market where our health-care schools have been successful.”
One element that feeds the sense of security around the health-care job sector is the reality that “you can’t outsource direct patient care,” says James Swift, president of the Garden City location of Sanford-Brown Institute. That’s one of 19 campuses of Sanford-Brown Institute/Sanford-Brown College, which traces its roots to 1866.
Because of the enrollment increase from 360 to 540 in the past two years, Swift says, he’s scouting for additional space, as the school has “maxed out” in the present location. Still, prospective students in any such program are advised to consider other dynamics before jumping in.
To check such things, Huth suggests reviewing the job-trends section in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov.
There also are issues related to employment conditions, he says, such as benefits and part-time versus full-time work. Indeed, Swift says recent graduates from the diagnostic medical ultrasound program may start out working on a per-day basis before landing a full-time position. And those in lower-paying fields such as medical assistant — with starting hourly pay of $12 to $16 an hour — often use the initial training to springboard to a hospital or doctor’s office job that offers tuition reimbursement they then use for training in such fields as nursing or physician assistant.
The student loan market can play a role, as “many students who attend career colleges are not from traditionally affluent backgrounds,” says Harris N. Miller, president of Washington, D.C.-based Career College Association, a membership group for for-profit, career-specific schools. Turbulent credit markets have prompted many banks recently to stop offering student loans at community colleges, for-profit universities and other less-competitive institutions across the country.
Already DeVore — in a field offering a starting salary similar to that of medical assistant — is setting her sights on advancement. From an Internet search, she learned of online pharmacy administrator training, and says she may consider it. She’s motivated, she says, “to see how much further I could go.”