Does the Future Outlook Look Bright?

     What do you think about the outlook for the profession of pharmacy?  Are there reasons for optimism, or are we a profession drowning in negatives that can no longer be reversed?  At least one major news publication thinks the field of pharmacy is still strong and growing.  I’m just wondering how many people agree with them. 

     What I’m talking about is the publication U.S. News and World Report.  They are known for their regular ranking of jobs based on growth outlook, salary, and other information gathered from several sources including the United States government’s own job growth outlook data.  Well, it might surprise you where pharmacists placed on this high-profile jobs ranking list.  Or it might not.  Depends on how positive you are regarding the job prospects for the profession going forward. 

      According to the U.S. News and World Report’s latest Best Jobs rankings for 2012, not only did the job of pharmacist make the list- it finished 3rd overall.  The only jobs ranking higher on their list were registered nurse (#1 overall) and software developer (#2).  Pharmacists outranked other healthcare positions like medical assistant (#4) and paramedic (#15) among others.  But does the growth prospects for our profession really warrant such a high ranking?   

      The publication argues that an aging population and growing demand coupled with strong salary expectations warrants pharmacists being so high on their list.  They point to  Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be growth of over 25% for pharmacist jobs between 2010-2020 according to their estimates on demand trends.   Do the aging baby boomers coupled with new drugs hitting the market really point towards this kind of optimism for the profession of pharmacy? 

      Their report even mentions medication therapy management (MTM) as a potential growth area for pharmacists.  The expansion of clinical services by pharmacists could help boost demand but given the current job market for pharmacists, I think they might be getting a little ahead of themselves with their growth prospects for our profession.  The other obvious positive of our job mentioned in the article was the high median salary. 

     I did notice a couple of glaring omissions with regards to this jobs ranking explanation that I can’t overlook:  the current state of the United States economy and the growth in the number of pharmacy schools over the last several years.  To me, those are two very large negatives holding back the profession of pharmacy from enjoying a better job market right now. 

     I’m sure though there are several pharmacy students across the country that are closing in on graduation and worrying about the job market that awaits them after pharmacy school.  Should this very high ranking in a major publication’s job rankings be a source of hope for any new graduates?  Sure, the rankings might not mean anything.  But they are news worthy and do point towards a few reasons for hope for the profession. 

     Personally, I feel they nailed the head on the nursing ranking.  That profession hasn’t yet arrived at the kind of job market saturation plagued by pharmacy right now.  I also think at least short-term there are simply too many pharmacy schools graduating too many new pharmacists.  And that doesn’t even factor in the trend of new pharmacists moving into the United States from other countries.  It becomes a simply supply vs. demand equation that right now is tilted towards the supply side of the equation. 

     Overall, the job market is kind of tight right now for pharmacists.  New graduates are having to become more flexible with where they will work and what practice settings they desire.  Residencies are becoming much more competitive as you have more and more graduates fighting for fewer and fewer residency spots.  That is just the reality that we now face and I don’t see any major improvements to the job market for pharmacists coming any time soon. 

     I’m not trying to be a downer or scare pharmacy students or graduates any more than they might already be.  But, it is better to know actual job market conditions and deal with that reality than to believe some overly optimistic view based on some news publication’s job rankings without questioning what is really going on.   

     What do you think?  Does the job of pharmacist really deserve the #3 spot on the U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Jobs of 2012” ranking?   Does it really mean anything or is this just a news organization trying to rank something (anything) to sell magazines?  Or is there some truth (and hope) behind their ranking and the justification behind rating the job of pharmacist so high? 

     I think the fact that the job of pharmacist ranks so high on this list is encouraging.  But I wouldn’t pop the champagne bottles just yet.  The next few years will be critical for the profession of pharmacy.  And during these critical times we might not have the job growth prospects that some, including the government, might expect.  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best is the only advice I can give anyone who asks me about the future job market for pharmacists. 

     The future of the profession of pharmacy is bright in my mind.  But that doesn’t make our line of work immune from bumps in the road and periods of tougher times.  I do think we are in the middle of one of those tough time periods right now.  The question then becomes this- how bad will things get and how long will it take before things really start to improve?  I wish I knew those answers but I don’t. 

The Redheaded Pharmacist

16 Comments to “Does the Future Outlook Look Bright?”

  1. By blah, March 1, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    this is kind of depressing considering I have an interview next week at a pharmacy school. I don’t want to work retail, I want to become a clinical pharmacist. Guess I still be working my butt off to get those A’s in pharm school so I can be a competitive applicant for a residency program. -___- oh well.


  2. By Grizzle, March 1, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    This report is bogus in my opinion. Like you mentioned, it doesn’t mention the two biggest factors affecting pharmacy now and in the future: economy and schools. MTM is not a sustainable model in the way APhA pretends. It works when it is performed within ACO models, inpatient, nursing facilities, etc. These positions are great but there are not many of them and they will require a PGY1 and for the purely clinical roles possibly a PGY2.

    The aging population’s medication needs will be met with increased technology, specialty pharmacy and mail order. I believe this to be reality.

    For pharmacy students who want to specialize and obtain residency training…I think that is great but you really to examine the return on investment. Total loan cost and stipend during residency. Every situation is different but the cost aspect is important.

    After saying all that…I will say that I absolutely love my job and am very optimistic about my future job marketability. My position provides a mix of clinical services in an inpatient/long term care/ambulatory environment. There are things to like and things to dislike but I love pharmacy and I am glad I followed this job path post-graduation.


  3. By WillCall, March 2, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    Totally agree with your assessment, Grizzle.


  4. By Pharmaciststeve, March 3, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    I only had two semesters of Economics.. but with a 50% increase in graduates and a 25% increase in demand.. may work well for PHARMACY but may not work well for INDIVIDUAL PHARMACISTS.. ACO’s are a huge unknown variable.. some claim that no matter what happens with OBAMA CARE.. they are here to stay.. Are they just another reinvented HMO?
    If OBAMA CARE comes to be in 2014… potentially we have 30 -50 million people being thrown into our healthcare system… latest stats indicated that we are losing 2 GP/FP for every one that is starting a practice. There are no stats – that I know of – of how many prescribers 55+ who are sitting on the fence and could just throw in the towel and walk away from practicing medicine and/or sell their practice to a ACO and become a 40hrs/wk employee.. instead of the 60-80 hrs/week self employed physician.
    Most likely, these 30-50 million people will have built up unmet medical needs.. depending on the deductible and copays…will depend on just how big this tsunami is going to be… the lower the deductible/copay the bigger the “hit” the healthcare system takes.

    We don’t have enough ARNP, NP, PA’s to pick up this demand.. I am not sure that we have enough office equipped office space either…

    What other healthcare professional going to be available to pick up the slack?… or are we just going to let wait times to get an appt to extend into months?

    RPH’s are recognized as a health care practitioner in most states (still 6 state hold outs) …but few insurance companies recognize us as having the ability to bill for services. Actually WE do not bill for filling a prescription… the bill is generated via the permit holder.

    With OBAMA CARE the demand for RPH’s could “turn on a dime”.. unfortunately the older ( PharmBS) with decades of experience will probably be passed over in favor of inexperienced/freshly minted PharmD’s.

    IMO… the last half of this decade is going to be a bumpy ride for our profession


  5. By snowman, March 10, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    I’m a rhinestone Cowboy .


  6. By foreignrph, March 15, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    You’re right. people don’t need a lot of pharmacists anymore. When 80% of rx are refills and you have a computer that tells you about any interactions, contraindications, etc. the role of the pharmacist will be replaced by a let’s call it an advanced pharmacy tech. Maybe acertified lead tech or even a tech with a BS in science or something similar. That tech will get paid twice as much as a regular tech but it still will be half the salary of an RPh.
    There still are going to be some RPh’s that will be there to answer any professional questions but with the internet tools such as Google Wikipedia and the more specific RX info sites, less and less patients want councelling, so one RPh can provide councelling services to a few pharmacies via phone or even CCTV.


  7. By Reggie Suerte, August 31, 2012 @ 6:14 am

    I think the writing is on the wall. I am in the NYC area and can NOT find a job for 6 months despite several years of hospital experience, residency, certifications, etc. Going to pharmacy school is a waste of time and money.


  8. By Robert Cole, September 3, 2012 @ 2:33 am

    @Reggie, I am in the same boat. Hate to say this, but Frown Frown misery likes company!


  9. By Ryan, November 21, 2012 @ 8:18 pm

    I just graduated this past year and had a job lined up before graduation (in retail). I think there are a lot of factors affecting the pharmacy market:

    1. The Great Recession – Everyone is hurting to find work. When people all over the country can barely meet ends meet, they look to cut their budgets down to size and medications/healthcare are often a place where people will skimp out. This is a bad thing for everyone, including pharmacists.
    2. The Baby Boomer wave- This period was from 1946 to 1964 so the first Baby Boomers just turned 65 last year. These people demand the majority of prescription/OTC products. They are a good thing for pharmacy demand the next 30 years or so.
    3. New Pharmacy Schools – They are diploma mills churning out PharmDs, increasing the supply of pharmacists, thus lowering demand/wages for pharmacists. What do we do though? Write a petition to the ACPE to tell them to stop accreditation of new schools and maybe even shutting some down?
    4. Geographical location – most of the unemployed pharmacists I am reading about online are on the coasts, where unemployment is rampant and the markets are super-saturated. I live in the Midwest, there are jobs here. There are jobs throughout parts of the South as well. I was actually looking for jobs in the DC area and it was extremely difficult to find any, so I decided to stay put for now.
    5. The Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare – this will increase demand for healthcare services, thus driving up prices. I expect more drug shortages. It seems the bill was written without bringing pharmacists into the fold. Nice to see we have organizations like APhA and ASHP representing us SOOO well up on Capitol Hill Really Angry The change from AWP to AMP reimbursement may hurt but the profession overall doesnt seem affected much, for better or worse, by the legislation.


  10. By Thinking about economy, November 22, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    I agree with the assessment. To add to it there are giant PBMs like Express Scripts that are automating a lot of stuff pharmacists do. With the recent Medco merger and Walgreens having to go through a short separation from ESI, future of Pharmacy as a profession doesn’t seem too bright. For those graduating in the next couple there might stu be jobs but for those coming out in the next 5-6 years it seems really tough. The cost of Pharmacy schools has gone up too. So someone with a 100k or more in loans not finding a decent job wouldn’t be too good. With Obamacare even doctors aren’t spared.


  11. By Bo, April 23, 2013 @ 10:17 am

    Until we can bill for clinical services and add to the bottom line, the struggle will continue. At least from a hospital perspective, pharmacies and pharmacists are simply expenditures. We don’t generate any actual revenues, and therefore are dispensable. The best days is probably already in the rear view mirror in my opinion.


  12. By Jon, June 11, 2013 @ 10:10 am

    I’d like to know what pharmacy supervisors pharmacy directors district sales manager and assistants of thereof are saying about this issue. these positions in our culture are held by leaders as leadership is required to be in aforementioned positions . Can any of them under oath truly say how they feel about the prospect of their ‘colleagues’ ‘below’ them.
    Thank you to those in leadership positions that do take a chance to be part of the conversation. or turn your back as I would expect most in ‘leadership roles’ would do.


  13. By Ck, July 22, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    The sad thing is the lies pharmacy schools are telling students. If only more students would understand what is going on then thats when you will turly see these new schools fail. Until then, students will come out at least 100k in debt and no job outlook. They’ll just have to learn the hard way.


  14. By LD, September 6, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

    I have to agree with CK. Pharmacy schools are not telling the truth about this profession. I was one of those who did not work as a technician beforehand and had to learn everything the hard way. It really wasn’t until my 2nd and 3rd years of pharmacy school that I started to see for myself what was going on. I got jobs in both inpatient and outpatient hospital pharmacies as a student. Didn’t experience retail until my final year in rotations. Been in practice 11 years now working retail (because of my DEBT), and it sucks. It really does. I’m just looking forward to the day that I can downgrade to part time work. smh…


  15. By ty, September 20, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

    Heh Why can’t unemployed pharmacy grads come together and sue the pharmacy schools that lied to them about job outlook. Unemployed Law grads are doing that now to their alma mater. Maybe if graduates come together and sue the schools maybe they will think twice about opening up new ones? Just saying…


  16. By J.W., April 23, 2014 @ 9:28 am

    Why don’t people with PharmD degrees just work at drug companies instead of doing retail work? Don’t pharmacy students learn about pharmacology? I think many grads that get burned out in retail should just become scientists at drug companies and help out with clinical studies. Those studies are always needed to release new drugs. Maybe it is time for pharmacists to step into the lab instead of working at CVS.


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