Healthcare and STEM Jobs Continue to Rise in Rural Communities


Western Governor’s University (WGU) has a Northwest Regional team that worked in partnership with WGU labs to release research regarding the employment landscape in rural regions of the Pacific Northwest and Mountain West states.

This research, generated from Lightcast’s job-listing data from 2017 to last year, spans Utah, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Colorado. It shows the shift in employment that was experienced and emerged from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is no surprise that certain positions and talents were in demand over others during the pandemic.

Rural healthcare job listings now continue to dominate in the aforementioned states. Not only that, rural STEM jobs are rising greatly as well. There was an 183% increase in rural areas during the time window stated above. It was also shown that demand for Bachelor’s degrees increased as a requirement in comparison to the common requirement of a high school diploma.

Key research findings included that healthcare jobs still dominate in the rural west, local STEM-sector jobs continue to be on the rise, gaps in key position requirements and local skills are emerging, and job seekers must balance high-growth industries against high wages.

In the last five years, the healthcare job sector added over 20,000 job postings in rural counties in the five states listed. Utah had 15% of total rural postings in the healthcare fields. On the other hand, rural postings for STEM job postings increased greatly in the rural areas in comparison to a 61% increase in the urban areas.

Interestingly, between 80% and 90% of these positions were listed as in-person, requiring locally-based talent. The most sought-after skills were marketing, business development, auditing, computer science, accounting, project management, finance and more.

Growth in rural tech positions across the five states ranged from 10% to 45%, with salaries between $62,000 and $106,000. Though less consistent, jobs in finance and insurance, as well as information industries such as print and digital media and telecoms, also showed strong growth and salaries.

With a notable increase of rural area jobs that would like to see a Bachelor’s degree under applicants belts, WGU launched the Learn Where You Live Scholarship, which is for new or returning students that wish to further their education. Scholarship recipients will receive up to $750 per six-month term, renewable up to four terms.

WGU’s College of IT also offers 10 Bachelor’s degrees and multiple industry certifications to support STEM-sector jobs. Furthermore, the college’s Leavitt School of Health offers five Bachelor’s degree options for those that are seeking to begin or further their healthcare careers.

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