Bachelor’s degrees aren’t necessarily vital to successful medical careers, according to a national study by the Brookings Institute.
The Washington D.C.-based think tank issued a report Thursday analyzing the size and growth rate of the health care workforce, specifically those workers with lower levels of education. The study focused on the 100 most populous metro areas in the nation, including Oklahoma City.
Brookings defined lower levels of education as an associate degree or less. It labeled these workers “pre-B.A.,” indicating the workers lack bachelor’s degrees.
More than 54 percent of the Oklahoma City metro’s health care workers fall under the “pre-B.A.” umbrella.
The study lists 10 health care jobs for the education level.
Two positions tied for highest median salary within the metro at $50,000 annually. The highest paying positions are registered nurses and diagnostic-related technologists and technicians. The latter group is composed of people who take X-rays and perform similar tasks.
“These are good options for people with lower levels of education,” said Martha Ross, a fellow at Brookings.
Other jobs don’t pay as well, but require even less training.
For example, nursing aides receive a median income of $21,000 in the metro, and require just three to six weeks of training.
These people, who usually work in hospitals or nursing homes, perform basic medical tasks like changing bandages and dressing wounds. They also assist in daily living needs, like changing clothes and bathing.
About 85 percent of the 10 positions are filled by women. Stereotypes are to blame, Ross said. Because caregiver occupations are seen as feminine, they are usually performed by women.
Of the 10, only one is not female-dominated: emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
The study calculated the growth in pre-B.A. workers in the medical field since 2000. The Oklahoma City metro has seen a growth of almost 60 percent.
The growth comes from demand, Ross said. The population is not only growing, but also aging. Older people usually need more medical attention she said.
There is a growing need for all positions, but more labor-intensive training makes churning workers out more difficult.
“It’s a long pipeline to get more doctors,” Ross said.
In the short term, pre-B.A. workers pick up the slack to make health care more accessible.