Aging population leads to healthcare salary increases

Salaries are on the rise for nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, home health aides and occupational therapists, according to recent employer survey data.

The 2009 Compensation Data Healthcare results found some healthcare jobs have seen significant pay increases over the last three years. The research was done by Compdata Surveys, a national compensation and benefits survey data provider.

Occupational and physical therapists have both seen increases of more than 10 percent. Currently, licensed physical therapists make $73,300 a year, a 12.9 percent increase from 2007. Comparatively, occupational therapists have seen their salary increase by 16.9 percent.

Home health aides and registered nurses are in high demand, and their increasing salaries reflect the market need. Salaries of home health aides have increased by 11.2 percent over the past three years, although they earn less annually, $24,500, than RNs.

In comparison, salaries for registered nurses have increased by 9.2 percent. Registered nurses' salaries average $61,300 a year. From year to year, salary increases for nurses have been between $2,000 and $3,000.

Other healthcare positions have also seen growth in the last three years, the survey reveals. Pay for physicians' assistants and pharmacists has grown by 10.6 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively. Salaries for physicians' assistants average $86,400 this year, while pharmacists earn an average of $108,000.

"Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 21.7 percent increase in total U.S. healthcare employment between 2006 and 2016, it may not come to fruition," said Amy Kaminski, manager of marketing programs for Compdata Surveys. "These predictions were made prior to the economic recession. Salary increases in key positions support this growth, but it remains to be seen if this trend will continue into 2010."

Compensation Data Healthcare 2009 contains data collected from employers across the country. The results provide a summary of pay data, benefits information and pay practices with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2009.