The Growing Need for Eldercare Workers

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Emily Rolen, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Tens of millions of babies were born in the United States between 1946 and 1964, and by 2024, nearly 70 million people will be between the ages of 60 and 78. People age 65 and older are projected to make up 23 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population in 2024, up from 18.1 percent in 2014 and 15.5 percent in 2004. As the population ages, they’ll need more workers to care for them in nursing care facilities, retirement communities, or at home.

As a result, occupations related to eldercare are projected to be among the fastest growing in the economy over the next decade. In fact, home health aides, personal care aides, registered nurses, nursing assistants and LPNs/LVNs are projected to add more than 1.6 million new jobs by 2024, or about 1 in 6 new jobs added to the economy. Let’s take a closer look at some of these jobs.

A graphic showing projected growth in eldercare-related healthcare occupations to 2024

Home health aides and personal care aides help older adults, as well as people with disabilities or cognitive impairment, with self-care and everyday tasks like bathing, housekeeping and meal preparation. Home health aides also provide basic health-related services, such as checking vital signs or administering prescribed medications. However, personal care aides cannot provide any medical services. Both occupations work in clients’ homes, long-term care settings, and residential care communities.

Home health aides and personal care aides typically do not need formal education, but most have a high school diploma or equivalent. Both learn their jobs through a brief period of on-the-job training. Home health aides are projected to be the fifth-fastest growing occupation between 2014 and 2024, with more than 348,000 new jobs. Personal care aides are projected to add more than 458,000 new jobs between 2014 and 2024, more than any other occupation.

Nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses work primarily in nursing homes and in hospitals, where they provide basic care. They help patients with activities of daily living, such as bathing, using the toilet and getting dressed. Nursing assistants and LPNs/LVNs listen to their patients, record health concerns and report that information to registered nurses and doctors. Depending on their work setting and the state in which they work, LPNs/LVNs may be allowed to perform additional tasks such as giving medication, starting intravenous drips, or doing routine laboratory tests.

Nursing assistants and LPNs/LVNs typically need a postsecondary nondegree award to enter the occupation. LPNs/LVNs must also have a license. The economy is projected to add 262,000 new nursing assistant jobs by 2024, and LPNs/LVNs are projected to increase by more than 117,000.

Registered nurses, the largest healthcare occupation, provide and coordinate medical care. In 2014 more than 3 in 5 RNs worked in hospitals. They observe patients, help perform diagnostic tests and analyze the results, and set up plans for patients’ care. Some registered nurses oversee licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants, and home health aides.

RNs are projected to add 439,300 by 2024, the largest increase after personal care aides. RNs usually take one of three education paths: a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program.

Want to know more? Explore these occupations and many more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.