Over 100 Pharmacy Schools….and counting!

      As I did a search this morning for pharmacy schools in the United States I came across an article from the University of South Alabama that stated there were now 104 accredited schools of pharmacy in the United States.   That is an average of two accredited schools per state although not every state has a school of pharmacy (Alaska doesn’t, but Hawaii does!!!).  To me those numbers seem unbelievable. 

     I finished pharmacy school ten year ago and there is one more pharmacy school in my state than there was when I was graduating a decade ago.  And there are talks from a couple of different universities in my area to add yet another school of pharmacy.  Across the country there has been a noticeable increase in the number of accredited pharmacy schools over the last several years.  But what has fueled this growth?

     Sure we are part of a high demand field in healthcare.   Prescription demand growth coupled with the conversion of all schools of pharmacy to the Doctor of Pharmacy degree only with the elimination of the B.S. degree fueled an almost unprecedented shortage of pharmacists years ago.  There seemed to be endless work for pharmacists and the big chains were fueling the shortages with their aggressive expansion plans.  Each one of the big players in the industry wanted to rise to the top and become everyone’s “hometown pharmacy” by flooding the market with new stores.  

     But then came the housing bubble and the resulting poor economic conditions.   The United States economy drove straight into an economic depression that is yet to be resolved.   Companies aren’t hiring or expanding and demand for even healthcare workers such as pharmacists seems to have tempered in recent years.  And there is all indications that this struggling economy and resulting poor job market is here to stay for a while.  So what does that mean for pharmacy? 

     All of those new schools of pharmacy coupled with a slowing demand for pharmacists has resulted in an almost saturated job market for pharmacists in many regional markets across the country.  Sure there are still areas where pharmacists are in high demand but there are also areas where jobs aren’t nearly as plentiful as say 5 years ago.  And with the overall economy not likely to improve anytime soon are we graduating too many new pharmacists now into a sluggish job market?  Will demand of pharmacy services pick back up?  Only time will tell. 

     I think for the most part that most states now have more than enough schools of pharmacies already in place to meet the demands for pharmacists in their immediate areas.  I think that further growth of the number of schools in the U.S. might actually cause a temporary overall surplus of pharmacists looking for jobs.  But I still stand by my belief that the aging population, the popularity of prescription drugs, and the sheer volume of new medications that hit the market yearly will drive up prescription volumes for the foreseeable future.  

     Every statistic I’ve found on the future demand for pharmacists shows that there will be a net growth in demand for pharmacy services do to the baby boomers aging and requiring more medications to maintain their active and relatively healthy lifestyles.  And if that is the case then pharmacy schools won’t be able to graduate new pharmacists fast enough to meet that pent-up demand.  But that doesn’t help new graduates now that are finding the job market more challenging than in years past.   And if it’s a better economy that is the cure for the outlook for the profession of pharmacy they might be waiting for years and years to come. 

     I guess I can’t help but wonder if we really need 104 accredited pharmacy schools in the U.S. and what will happen if even more schools open in the coming years?  Will this poor economy temper the interest in opening new schools across the country going forward?  Will the job market accommodate all of the new graduates from all of the existing schools of pharmacy?  And will baby boomers really fuel the growth in demand for pharmacy services?  I hope we are just in a down cycle of demand that will swing back more towards a net shortage of pharmacists in the coming couple of years.  I guess we will have to wait and see. 

The Redheaded Pharmacist

10 Comments to “Over 100 Pharmacy Schools….and counting!”

  1. By rphmelly, September 13, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

    In my area, the pharmacist market is completely saturated. Two, yes TWO, new schools of pharmacy have opened in our metro area in the past couple years. I can’t help but wonder where these new grads will find jobs when I, as a seasoned veteran with 8+ years experience, cannot even find a job outside retail. And even my large chain pharmacy is cutting back on pharmacists’ hours and new grads have only been promised 24 hours of work. I don’t forsee a change in the next 2-3 years until the economy turns around.

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  2. By David T (@ONUMello), September 13, 2010 @ 1:00 pm

    When I started pharmacy school, there were four in the state of Ohio. This year, the sixth will be graduating its first class, and in another two or three years there will be SEVEN. In one state. It was tough for me to get a job this past year after graduating, I hate to think what it will be when there are even more pharmacists looking for even fewer jobs next year. The number of residencies can’t keep up with the number of new grads looking for one, either.

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  3. By Craig, September 13, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

    Thank god my state hasn’t increased the number of pharmacy schools in 50 years lol

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  4. By Amy, September 14, 2010 @ 8:59 am

    In 2004, TN had 1 pharmacy school and the shortage was massive. Now, TN has 4 more pharmacy schools. While we are #2 in rx usage, the surplus of grads plus a bad economy slowing corporate growth is making the perfect storm.

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  5. By AP@H, September 16, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

    I’ve been talking about this with other fellow pharmacists for a while now. The rate of pharmacy school openings was incredible the past 3-4 years or so. How did everyone find out about pharmacy and decide to enroll in pharm school? The pay! How often do you see the “Top 10 highest paying healthcare jobs” headline on msn.com? When I was in high school and college everyone was trying to find a high paying job that didn’t require you to give up your first born. Rule out medical school. Nurses didn’t get paid enough (although now the pay is not so bad, but they still have to deal with poop and throw up). There was no demand for PT. Nobody knew enough about Physician Assistant or NP programs and people didn’t know how stable those new roles were so it was too risky. Pharmacy on the other hand, had the best of everything. You got to help people, but not have to touch them, you could work 9-5, and get paid very well doing a respectable job in a field that was GROWING. Pharmacy schools saw this as an opportunity to expand class sizes, open schools, and recruit! However, shit hit the fan a couple years ago and now pharmacy students who were seeing stars in their first year are now jobless. I know students who decided, okay well I’ll do a residency till the market improves in a year. It got them nowhere except behind another 400 students who graduated in that following year (5-6 schools in our state and neighboring states). Do your job and do it well because there are a lot of new pharmacists who got screwed by the economic downturn that doesn’t seem to be improving any time soon…..

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  6. By sammas, September 20, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

    Pharm Schools, like other schools, are being built for only ONE reason. FOR PROFIT!!!! It’s a business now. Sadly, this business for profit doesn’t benefit the potential student. They play on your fantasies by telling you the salaries and the so called high job demand, to lure you in and at graduation, all you have is a degree.

    What happens next? You go back to school to either upgrade your degree, keep yourself busy, OR try another major, because of the lack of job opportunities! What happens? The schools make more money. SAD!!!!!!!!

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  7. By dan, October 7, 2010 @ 11:27 pm

    In the few months since you last posted, TN will have another school! At least I know enough about drugs to kill myself!

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  8. By Kay Ferguson, March 4, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    Where are there plans to open new pharmacy schools 2011 and beyond? I have not heard of these so now I am concerned. Could additional ones be coming to my area?

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  9. By The Phlacid Pharmacist, March 31, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    In my area of Alabama, I know 7 retail pharmacists who cannot find jobs. All have children and are looking at paying for college in the next few years for those children. One pharmacist I know has their family on medicaid now. The retail pharmacists who do have jobs, are working in miserable environments with overwhelming workload. It is plainly obvious what the corporations are doing to our jobs…they doing whatever they can to make more money and it doesn’t matter if your family and my family is sacrificed for profit. I wonder how bad it is going to get for pharmacist before they actually do something….maybe when their salary approaches that of the technician, they will react…or maybe they never will.

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  10. By Sunil, December 9, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

    I own pharmacies in Canada and we still have a problem finding pharmacists to work here in British Columbia.

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