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