5 Doctor Specialties Facing Shortages

It's no secret that doctors will be in high demand in the coming years. Baby Boomers are retiring and expected to consume more healthcare as they age. The country's working-age population, meanwhile, isn't growing fast enough to keep up.

It’s no secret that doctors will be in high demand in the coming years. Baby Boomers are retiring and expected to consume more healthcare as they age. The country’s working-age population, meanwhile, isn’t growing fast enough to keep up.

The projected healthcare labor shortage is highlighted in a new report by The Conference Board, titled “From Not Enough Jobs to Not Enough Workers.”

“Companies in the US, Europe, and elsewhere must begin planning now for an environment in which difficulties recruiting and retaining workers will make it significantly harder to control labor costs without losing labor quality,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board, and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement.

The problem is acute in the healthcare industry. In addition to all those Baby Boomers, millions of Americans are now enrolled in health insurance for the first time as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Those newly insured patients will be on the lookout for doctors. Meanwhile, the barriers to entering many medical professions remain high, both academically and financially.

The report includes a couple of important caveats. First, America’s projected labor shortage is about average when compared to Europe, where Germany is expected to face the biggest shortfall. Also, the numbers are based on Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections that labor market growth will accelerate in the next few years. If that fails to materialize, the shortages could be less severe.

If things go as researchers expect, the 5 specialties on the next page will likely be in high demand.

Podiatrists

There were 10,700 podiatrists working in the US in 2010, according to BLS. That number is expected to grow by 23% by 2022. However, due to a relatively small number of projected new entrants, The Conference Board sees podiatry as facing the steepest labor shortage of any physician specialty by 2022.

The median income of a podiatrist was $116,440 per year in 2012, according to BLS.

Optometrists

BLS expects the number of available optometry jobs in the US to jump by 24% in the decade ending in 2022. After factoring in projected new entrants, The Conference Board put optometrists just behind podiatrists when it comes to projected labor shortfall.

Overall, there were 33,100 optometrists in the US in 2012, making a median income of $97,820 per year.

Physicians and surgeons

Nearly 700,000 people worked as physicians or surgeons in the US in 2012, but that won’t be enough to keep up with demand in 2022, which will have increased by 18%. Nearly 28% of US physicians already come from other countries, according to The Conference Board.

The median income of a physician and surgeon in the US was $187,200 in 2012.

Dentists

The dental profession is expected to grow by 16% between 2012 and 2022, according to BLS. In addition to the projected dentist shortage, The Conference Board also projects dental hygienists and dental laboratory technicians will also be in high demand.

The 146,800 dentists working in the US in 2012 made a median income of $149,310.

Psychologists

Demand for psychologists is slated to increase by 12 percent by 2022. Though the expected growth is less than other medical specialties, The Conference Board found a low replacement rate, leading to the specialty’s placement on the shortage list.

There were 160,200 psychologists in the US in 2012. They made a median income of $69,280.