Nurse, Event Planner, PR Specialist: The ‘Sweat Jobs’ of the Future?

By Stephan Manning.

If the latest report of the US Department of Labor is right then three of the fastest growing jobs in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020 are nursing (30% growth), event planning (44% growth) and public relations (23% growth). But will increasing demand also result in decent pay? Today’s salary statistics suggest otherwise. According to CNNMoney and other sources, all three jobs yield around $50k annual pay on average, which seems fairly low if there is such a high demand. Not even to mention the long hours and physical, social and emotional stress nursing, event and public relations management often involves. But why is there such a gap between importance and attractiveness of these professional domains? What makes these dream jobs on paper often ‘sweat jobs’ in reality?

Reasons for increasing demand in these areas are relatively easy to identify. As for nursing, an ageing population in the U.S. and many advanced economies generates a growing need for various healthcare professions. Some of them are among the highest paid, such as anesthesiologists (around $300k average) and surgeons (around $260k average). Without a growing number of nurses, however, the healthcare system would soon collapse. Event planning and public relations become increasingly important as firms, government and professional organizations globalize, coordinate across borders, and manage often complex stakeholder relations. And clearly, salaries of many top managers, consultants, and government representatives are $150k and above, and likely to increase. Yet, their work could not be done in the future without professional support from PR and event planning.

NASA_Open_Space_2_Innovate

So how can this pay differential be explained? Certainly not by the differences in stress, responsibilities or skills needed. My own experience in event management and PR tells me how difficult it is to be really good at it, and how easy it is to be blamed for bad PR or events that fail to meet expectations. And whoever has worked as a nurse at a busy hospital knows about the stress and intensity, as well as the technical and social skills required for this profession.

Critical scholars and observers would argue that the pay gap has a lot to do with, typically gendered, status differentials, and the lack of appreciation of generalists in supportive roles vs. specialists in leading roles. For example, whereas highly specialized and highly paid surgeons are often male, nurses who typically perform various supportive tasks are often female. (Notably, the number of male nurses has increased in recent years, in response to the decline of traditional male industrial jobs. Interestingly, male nurses are often higher paid than female nurses.) Similarly, event management and PR are often performed by women, and require generalists with various skills. However, whereas (often male) top managers need to be similarly versatile, their higher status arguably comes from their position as ‘leaders’ compared to PR managers and event planners as ‘supporters’.

More generally, one could argue, in line with Saskia Sassen’s work, that professional service jobs like nursing, event management and PR, serve the changing needs of the professional and increasingly cosmopolitan elite in business and society, who live and work in global cities around the world. And this is not necessarily a bad thing according to Sassen. While it is certainly true that salaries of high-status jobs, e.g. of top managers, are often inflated while support service jobs are often underpaid, the growing sector in support services can also be a seed of emancipation and innovation. This is not just because it provides income and entrepreneurial opportunities, but because it provides a space for the development of new expertise, educational programs and businesses. This may include innovative forms of care services, new event planning methods and techniques, and new forms of PR involving social media, which may also diversify the scope and status of these professions.

So, is the growth of nursing, event planning and PR good news or bad news? What does it mean for our high school and college students? Should we warn them that these growth figures obscure potentially low pay, or should we interpret them as opportunities for new types of jobs and careers?

Please participate in this debate. Your comments are welcome.

References:

CNN Health. 2013 (May 21). Where have Europe’s nurses gone? 

CNN Money 2013: Best Jobs in America

CNN Money 2013: 20 highest-paying jobs

Duchon, A. 2013 (November 10). 5 Jobs Nearing Extinction – And What’s Taking Their Place. 

Fox, M. 2013 (August 31). ‘Double whammy’: Nursing shortage starts in the classroom. 

Sassen, S. 2005: “The Global City: Introducing a Concept.” Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol. 11(2): 27-43.

Sassen, S. Homepage: 

US Department of Commerce 2013 (February 25): Male Nurses Becoming More Commonplace, Census Bureau Reports

US Department of Labor: Occupational Outlook Handbook 2012/2013: 

Picture: Open Space Meeting at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (from: Wikipedia – Open Space Technology)

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7 thoughts on “Nurse, Event Planner, PR Specialist: The ‘Sweat Jobs’ of the Future?

  1. Coming from a household full of nurses (mother and sisters), I felt the pressure to pursue that path especially for the pay. I was certainly turned off by the long hours and stress I saw them experience. I barely saw my mother at times! Why would I want to subject myself to that? I also have experience with event planning because I work at a catering hall and meeting clients’ expectations can be overwhelming..most of the time.
    I believe that the growth of nursing, event planning and PR is good news. However, there are inequalities within those sectors. For instance, an event planner for celebrities would most likely get paid more than an average small business event planner. I would say to those who would like to pursue those paths, that they simply have to be the BEST at it, because your value sometimes indicates your pay. If I’m the BEST nurse, event planner or PR in the business, my income would reflect that. Although, reports show the ‘low pay’ for these jobs, they’re still needed.

  2. Nursing is an interesting study when discussing a particular job market, and is seemingly a completely separate issue from event planning and PR. The demand for nursing is of higher importance, not only for medical necessity, but also based on trends of filling these positions in the past. Many Filipinos came to the US to become nurses due to the incentives offered by hospitals and nursing schools. The demand for event planning and PR is not satisfied in that same way. A nurses pay can be controlled by having the availability of workers from other countries to do the job for a lower wage. Nursing also offers an amount of job security, whereas event planning and PR work varies based on the company’s or client’s needs. Pay comes down to expertise. We could assume that a heart surgeon could probably do the job of nurse with some training, but the thought that a nurse could automatically do heart surgery with additional training is far fetched. Just to be clear, the heart-surgeon would not do as good a job as the nurse because nursing is a labor of love. Compassion drives great nurses, and I do not want to imply that a nurse is a notch down from doctor. The professions are both admirable, but the heart-surgeon has a more unique skill.

  3. We are going to talk about nursing and not even mention the affordable care act and how that “might” have an impact on jobs and salary?

  4. You said, ‘Notably, the number of male nurses has increased in recent years, in response to the decline of traditional male industrial jobs. Interestingly, male nurses are often higher paid than female nurses.” I think it is also important to consider that 41% of male nurses are nurse anesthetists and that this group earned more than twice the amount of other nursing positions. As a result, I believe there is less of a gender gap. I believe that that 41% of male nurse anesthetists is skewing the real comparison.

    I also believe Martin makes a good point about wedding planners versus corporate event planners. it’s difficult to make these comparisons when it’s not apples to apples.

  5. The annual pay for Nurse, Event Planner, PR Specialist has nothing to do with gender discrimination. However, Compensation Philosophy and Employment Stability are key factors.The demand for those jobs are high and labor supply are high as well . Those jobs are the common jobs you can easily get without degree or much skills compared to the other jobs mentioned in the article. Where the demand for the job is high and the supply of labor is equally high ,you don’t expect employers to pay high wages.
    Lastly, we all want the security of knowing that we will have our job as long as we want it. The idea of not having a regular job to pay debts and day-to-day living costs is distressing. Employees who feel that a job is secure are often willing to accept less than they would be paid in a potentially unstable environment

  6. This is a really interesting topic and article. The questions in the end of this article drive us in deep thinking. I think the increasing demand of nurse, event planner, and PR specialist is a good trend, which shows our society as a whole develop with a quick pace. This is also not a bad news for students, because it at least present that more employees are needed in this field in job market. It helps increase employee rate. However, the salary of these jobs are really low, and not very fair, since these people do more but gain less. Because of firstly, these jobs are not high skill job, and also are large demanded in society. They are really important, but they are not high skilled. In personal opinion, universities would still encourage students to study or participate in these kind of jobs. Job market needs more talent in these field in the future, and students have more opportunity to training themselves. Because of the students cannot become a CEO or topic manager once they graduate from school. After gaining the experience from event planner, or PR specialist, students can have further study and go to the higher level managers. After all, I still hold positive view on this situation.

  7. Not really a fair comparison and not necessarily a case of injustice. “Top managers, consultants, and government representatives” are full-time (or more) workers whereas nurses and such often work part-time. The range of what constitutes an “event planner” can be really wide (wedding planner vs corporate event planners, for example). People need to categorize themselves and their incomes for tax purposes, but these reported categories and numbers don’t reveal the true story or that something is necessarily wrong.

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