According to a 2017-2018 salary guide by Health eCareers, responses collected from nearly 20,000 healthcare job seekers collected between March 16 through June 8 suggest a downslide in annual pay for health IT professionals, but salaries otherwise for those in healthcare are still high. And these findings bode well for those in the healthcare field.

First, some detail. The findings were based off of two measures: "base salary" and "hourly wage." Those with hourly wages below $8 or above $500, or with base salaries below $1,000 or greater than $350,000 (or $750,000 for physicians and healthcare executives), were excluded from the survey. In some sections, base salary and hourly wage data are combined to reach an estimated annualized base salary for the population. Average salary numbers reflect base salary plus overtime pay.

Despite uncertainties in the market — including the stability of the Affordable Care Act and ongoing regulation healthcare organizations continue to add employees. The healthcare and social assistance sector added 434,600 jobs in 2016, and healthcare employment averaged 24,000 new jobs per month in the first six months of 2017.

Among Health eCareers salary survey respondents, 41 percent said their pay is higher than one year ago, while 46 percent said it is about the same. The most common reasons cited for pay increases included changing employers, merit raises and mandated companywide increases.

In 2017, the average health IT professional made $73,117, which is actually 20 percent less than a year ago. Other than health IT professionals, only 12 percent reported a pay decrease in 2017, with "changed employer," "no bonus or lower bonus for performance" and "hours cut by employer" identified as the most common reasons.

Healthcare job seekers are finding employment opportunities as baby boomers age out of the workforce and U.S. demographics continue to grow older. According to the survey, the demand for healthcare professionals to replace retiring workers and serve increasing patient needs is growing — and most doctors, nurses and other medical employees know this.

In fact, 46 percent of survey respondents said they are very confident they can find a new position in their healthcare field. Another 41 percent are somewhat confident. Those numbers bode well for the confidence of those in the sector.

Additionally, according to the Health eCareers' 2017 Healthcare Recruiting Trends Report, healthcare employers and recruiters are experiencing an increase in employee turnover, along with longer times to hire. 36 percent reported that turnover at their organizations increased last year, and the time it takes to fill positions grew for 49 percent because of difficulty finding qualified professionals, coupled with stagnant candidate interest.

Despite ongoing recruitment challenges, there is a bright spot for employers: This year's salary survey found 58 percent of healthcare workers are happy or very happy with their current employment situation a 1 percent increase from 2016. But another 30 percent are actively looking for better opportunities, and only 12 percent said they are so unhappy that they want to change employers as soon as possible.

Among the unhappy camp were executives (17 percent), physicians/surgeons (14 percent), counseling and social service workers (14 percent) and healthcare IT professionals (14 percent). The most commonly cited reasons for wanting to make a change included higher salary (68 percent), more rewarding or challenging work (35 percent), boss or supervisor issues (23 percent) and better working hours (21 percent).

Registered nurses remain fairly happy with their employment situation. Only 12 percent said they are planning to change employers as soon as possible, while 22 percent are very happy and planning to stay. The rest (66 percent) are actively or passively seeking new opportunities despite their current happiness.

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants remained some of the happiest healthcare employees. More than a quarter of NPs and PAs (27 percent and 24 percent respectively) reported that they are very happy and planning to stay with their current employer. They are also among the most satisfied with their salaries; 61 percent of PAs responded that they are very or somewhat satisfied, while 59 percent of NPs echoed their response.

Physicians and surgeons are less happy with their current employment situation than RNs, PAs or NPs. While 20 percent said they are very happy and planning to stay, another 14 percent stated they are unhappy and want to make a change as soon as possible.

Despite a slight increase in overall physician/surgeon salaries, they are also less satisfied with their salary than PAs and NPs are, though more satisfied than RNs. Slightly more than half (52 percent) said they are very or somewhat satisfied. Among those who are dissatisfied, "salaries below average for similar jobs in the region" and "extra, uncompensated hours" (both 26 percent) were the largest factors.

Top reasons for changing employers:

  • 68 percent: Higher salary
  • 35 percent: More rewarding or challenging work
  • 23 percent: Prefer a different boss or supervisor
  • 21 percent: Better working hours
  • 20 percent: Prefer a different organization
  • 15 percent: Relocating
  • 13 percent: Shorter commute
  • 12 percent: More responsibility
  • 5 percent: Anticipate losing current position

Biggest career concerns for the next year (respondents could choose up to three):

  • 38 percent: Lower or no salary increases
  • 32 percent: Increased workload/patient load
  • 30 percent: Staff morale
  • 21 percent: Company stability/performance
  • 19 percent: Finding a new position for skill set
  • 12 percent: Age discrimination
  • 11 percent: Keeping skills/certifications up to date
  • 9 percent: Position elimination
  • 6 percent: Influx of new workers competing for jobs
  • 5 percent: Less work/fewer shifts available
  • 5 percent: Additional educational requirements
  • 5 percent: Introduction of new technologies
  • 4 percent: Position relocation