Nearly half of Kansas City area health care workers lack bachelor’s degrees

07/23/2014 7:01 PM

07/25/2014 4:35 PM

The ever-growing national health care industry is fueled more by workers who have an associate degree or less than it is by workers who have earned bachelor’s degrees in health-related fields.

A Brookings Institution study released today says the less educated health care workforce makes up more than half of the nation’s health care labor pool but slightly less than half (46.1 percent) of Kansas City area health care workers.

Zeroing in on 10 major health care occupations, which employ the majority of the less educated health care workers, researchers found those jobs grew 46 percent nationally from 2000 to 2011 but were down 13.6 percent in the Kansas City area in the same time period.

These “pre-baccalaureate” jobs include some nursing levels, home health aides, psychiatric aides, personal care aides and various kinds of medical, dental and laboratory technicians and assistants.

“This report shines a spotlight on the important role that less educated employees can and should play in helping the health care system achieve the triple aim of better care, improved health outcomes and lower costs,” said Martha Ross, a Brookings fellow and co-author of the report.

The study, which looked at the 100 largest U.S. metro areas, pegged the size of the Kansas City area health care workforce in the 10 largest pre-baccalaureate jobs at 34,857, or 6 percent of all pre-baccalaureate workers in the area.

Nearly nine in 10 of the Kansas City area’s pre-baccalaureate health care jobs were held by women. Two-thirds of them were white, one-fourth of them were black and the rest were Latina, Asian or other minorities, the report said.

Median Kansas City area earnings for the 10 most common pre-baccalaureate health care jobs were $31,100 in 2011, a 13.1 percent decline from 2000, Brookings reported. Median pay for pre-baccalaureate registered nurses topped the chart at $55,000. The lowest median was $22,300 for personal care aides.

Brookings said the purpose of the analysis was to provide regional data and encourage regional health care leaders to work on developing training, team-based care and mentoring to improve the overall quality of care.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to

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