How Upskilling Helps Healthcare Workers

A Focus NJ analysis of data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey highlights how educational achievement and continuing education affect the lives and wages of New Jersey’s healthcare workforce.

The Census Bureau data pertains to 12 subsectors of the healthcare industry. These include the offices of medical practitioners and physicians, hospitals, outpatient care centers, home health services, nursing facilities, and others.

Focus NJ’s analysis highlights how increased educational attainment correlates with higher wages for workers in these sectors. Across 11 of the 12 healthcare subsectors studied, workers with an associate degree outearned workers with a high school diploma/GED/or alternative credential by a median of $12,320 at the subsector level. Eight of 12 workers with a bachelor’s degree outearned workers with an associate degree by a median of roughly $8,000.

The same pattern is evident when comparing wages and education at the occupation level. In 28 of 41 relevant occupations in the health services sector, workers with an associate degree outearned those with a high school diploma/GED/or alternative credential by a median of approximately $9,000. Workers with a bachelor’s degree similarly outearned their counterparts with an associate degree.

For those seeking additional education to transition between positions, the impact of continued education can be significant as well.

For example, there are relatively few educational requirements to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), with practitioners required in most cases to have a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as having completed an approved CNA training program. The median wage for these workers in 2021 was approximately $25,000 in New Jersey.

The educational requirements for licensed practical or vocational nurses are also relatively low, with LPNs requiring a high school diploma and the completion of an approved LPN program, which generally takes up to two years to complete. CPNs who complete an LPN program and make the transition from CPN to LPN stand to move into an occupation where the median wage is 65% higher ($41,854).

This analysis was conducted in partnership with the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development as part of the NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities Program.

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