Is there still a nationwide pharmacist shortage?

   One of the things I wonder about is if there is still a shortage of pharmacists overall in the United States and what the demand will be going forward.  Have we finally reached a point where the profession is more saturated with pharmacists or is there still strong demand for pharmacists going forward? 

   Years ago there was a great shortage of pharmacists.  Chain drug stores were aggressively expanding, the population was aging, new medications were rapidly hitting the market, and the nation’s pharmacy schools seemed ill equipped to keep up with the increased demand. 

   The government even did a study to look at the impact of the shortage on the healthcare system and attempted to project demand going forward.  That study showed that thousands of additional pharmacists were needed by 2020 to meet the demand.   In response several new pharmacy schools have opened up all over the country in the last 5 years.  But I can’t help but wonder if it is enough?  Or is it too much? 

   One of the observations I noticed when I came through pharmacy school and interviewed for jobs when I graduated was the frantic pace of expansion by the big chain retail drug stores.  Those companies were aggressively expanding their number of stores saturating markets and expanding into new areas of the country.  That alone placed a certain level of demand into the system.  After all, those stores needed pharmacists as well as technicians to run all of those new pharmacies.  But as the economy turned south have these expansion plans been tempered by the big chain companies?  Will we see a growth rate of stores going forward like we have in the past 10 years?  Are we finally getting to the point that there are too many retail pharmacy outlets across the country and too few customers to fill them?

   The other major factor was simply demand for services.  The major fear in the U.S. was that all of the baby boomers were aging and requiring multiple prescriptions to stay active and relatively healthy.  That trend towards a more aging population that strives to maintain health means an increase in the demand for pharmacy services like we’ve never seen before in the United States.  My question is this: is this still a concern for the profession?  Will there be an increase in demand for prescriptions going forward in the next five to ten years that will justify all of these new pharmacy schools opening across the country? 

   And not only are there new schools of pharmacy but existing schools have been trending up the number of students they graduate.  Will this affect the job market for pharmacists in the coming few years?  Have we finally reached a point of supply meeting demand for pharmacists? 

   I’m not sure what the answers are but I’d love to see any recent data exploring the supply of pharmacists nationwide.  I do know that there will always be certain pockets of high demand across the country.  There will always be locations regionally that will have a need for pharmacists.  But on a national level have we reached a point where there are finally enough pharmacists graduating to meet the demand?  Are we actually getting to a point now where there are too many new graduates with not enough jobs to fill their needs?  Has the bad economy limited the growth in the number of jobs available to pharmacists? 

   I’m not sure what the answers are for these questions.   I personally live in a state that enjoys a steady growth in population.  We have lots of pharmacists per capita but we also have high growth rates so there is always this increased demand for services.  And what is the impact of the mail order effect?  Will there be enough decrease in demand for retail pharmacies because of the mandatory switch of health plans to use mail order pharmacies for maintenance medications that fewer retail pharmacies will be needed going forward?   Personally, I don’t think mail order pharmacies will have that dramatic of an impact on retail pharmacy business that it will start to affect the overall demand for retail pharmacists but you never know.

   And what about the healthcare reform efforts?  Will the recent healthcare reform efforts positively affect pharmacist demand going forward?  Will a more universal healthcare system in the U.S. cause more customers to come into the doors of retail pharmacies across the country? 

   I would be curious to get some informal feedback from pharmacists in different parts of the country regarding supply and demand of pharmacists in their area.  Or maybe some feedback from graduating students regarding the job market for new graduates.  I’m curious about the state of the profession and what the demand will be going forward for pharmacists across the country.  Is the increased number of graduating pharmacists enough to meet the new demands for healthcare services?  Will the healthcare reform efforts by Congress impact supply and demand for pharmacists going forward?  Have we overcompensated for a shortage and created a surplus of pharmacists?  What do you think?

The Redheaded Pharmacist

70 Comments to “Is there still a nationwide pharmacist shortage?”

  1. By amjad, January 11, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

    well……im a foreign pharmacy graduate with a pharmD degree , im not a usa citizen .
    and it seems i’ve made the biggest risk in my life to come to the US and try to practice my profession overhere.
    i feel soo devastated , i still have to pass the toefl in order to take the FPGEC , i WAS hoping TO find an intenship [ which IS very hard or even impossible coz no one sponsors H1 Visa nowadays ] .


  2. By Andy, January 26, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

    Don’t go to Pharmacy School unless you have a mother or father who owns a drug store. It’s a waste of a lot of money.


  3. By theconcernedpharmacist, February 13, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    Dear Redheaded Pharmacist,
    I am in California and the situation is already bad but can get forseeably worse within the next few years. I have created a blog to inform practicing and future pharmacists of the current state of pharmacy employment. You have a large following and it can help spread the word. I invite you and all pharmacists to follow and make their suggestions as I am working to get the word out and form a united voice to stop more pharmacy schools from flooding the job market.
    The Concerned Pharmacist


  4. By Michael, March 5, 2012 @ 1:45 am

    The state of pharmacy is has deteriorated dramatically over the past few years. When I was in pharmacy school there was a fairly high demand for pharmacists. Every student had a job before graduation and we were treated in a professional manner by employers. If you did not like a company for any reason, you would have a position at another company the next day.

    Now, the market is flooded with pharmacists. Jobs are scarce and the corporations treat us like hamburger flippers. When I was first licensed as a pharmacist I would fill about 125 scripts a day and had 2 technicians to help. Today I am filling over 300 scripts a day with only 2 technicians to help and the corporate masters are always pushing us to do more without any additional help.

    My advice to anyone thinking about going to pharmacy school is DON’T DO IT! Even though you may have the title of PharmD you will not be treated as a professional and you will regret it, but you will be in indentured servitude paying back the money the education cost


  5. By michael, March 28, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    The field of pharmacy has done a 180 degree turn in the last 10 years. When I graduated in 2000, there was an all out recruiting war going on by the chain pharmacy companies. Walgreens gave me a $10,000 sign-on bonus and paid relocation expenses across 2 states to combat CVS’s Lexus offer as a new hire bonus! It recently took me 2 months of aggresive searching to get a couple of interviews in the Nashville, TN area. Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Kroger, CVS, Target, etc. flat out told me they had no openings in the Middle TN area!

    BTW, there are 4 new pharmacy schools (Belmont, David Lipscomb, Union & East TN St.) that are graduating their first classes this year, so it is about to get a lot worse in our area. I strongly discourage any young person considering pharmacy from going into so much debt with such a saturated market.

    It may be the pharmacy schools that sink our profession because they have a conflict of interest and can make a lot of money charging 100+ young people 25K per year to become a pharmacist. They may have initially had good intentions when there was a shortage 5 years ago but they are too late to start kicking out Pharm.D.’s now.

    Michael, Pharm.D.


  6. By Michelle, April 26, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

    I’m currently a HS Sr and I applied to PharmD schools and I got in, however with the approaching college deposit deadline I’m really scared about not being able to find a job once I graduate.
    I’m not sure what the job market for pharmacy is like in NYC, but I saw some of the NAPLAX test results and I was surprised by the number of applicants for the test (Like in the low 1000s just for one school).

    Any opinions for NYC?


  7. By Jean, May 17, 2012 @ 8:50 am

    has anyone encountered recent data exploring the supply of pharmacists nationwide ?


  8. By Rag, June 3, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

    According to my experience as pharmacist for 13 years, the demand for pharmacists is gone. There is no charm in the future of pharmacy. Please check three time before going to pharmacy school. There are so many dates on the internet but they all for ideal conditions existed, but practically pharmacists are getting laid off for lack of business. The only way to survive is to open your own pharmacy which is really hard. Please think about other options for your carrier.


  9. By KC, July 5, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

    My fiance is a PharmD and has been laid off for almost a year. He spends hours each day searching for jobs. Even his immdiate family members who are very well established and well known pharmacists can’t help him. There simply isn’t any jobs. We live in New England. And we’re seriously considering moving to a different state. Unfortunately that would mean I’d have to give up my career. There just seems to be no end in sight.


  10. By Keila, August 5, 2012 @ 11:38 am

    I graduated in 2009 and received numerous job offers with bonuses. Now that is all gone. I live in Texas and new graduates are having a hard time finding jobs, yet they are opening 2 new schools in the DFW area. It is crazy how things have completely changed in just 3 yrs.


  11. By Reggie Suerte, August 11, 2012 @ 10:06 pm

    The sorry facts are simple: there are NO JOBS! If you want proof, just do a search for pharmacist jobs in, for example, New York, NY lists 10 pharmacist positions in New York, NY, which is an area with a population of close to 12 million people.
    So, think you will get a job? Good luck!


  12. By anil, August 14, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    here you all are right,pharmacy profession is much saturated with people and there is no charm any more,new graduate find no advice to you all not to take as career.


  13. By Robert Cole, September 1, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

    @Reggie, I am with you all the way. I am here in Chicago with nuclear, and mostly hospital experience. Nothing, nothing, NOTHING. New graduates, you will find “a” pharmacy job sooner or later (much, much later) somewhere.
    The promise of milk and honey is gone, by mere fact of graduating from the “not needed” pharmacy schools. The expectation of INSTANT job, multiple offers are gone. MTM is not going to happen. Expansion of services, taking it from whom? Dr’s. They are faced with reduced reimbursements from all sides. Common sense, where are they going to get the money to pay for this “new services?” That was the excuse for all these private pharmacy schools to attract new naive students. They are in the business of making profit for the investors. It is not apart of their function to find you a job, it is to fill all the seats in their program. As far as this “aging population…+ new drugs…”
    B.S. When I graduated from undergrad they were saying the same thing, same thing and after pharmacy school…
    It is misleading. People are aging all the time! they were before I was born, and they will be long after you and I are gone. New drugs were being developed before, and they will be. The other thing that actually makes me feel really sorry for graduates from the private school with over $150,000 in debt. After taxes and ungodly loan payment, what is left does not warrant spending an additional 4 years of education, when you could have make that by going into, say engineering. But, now the salaries are not going to be going up. # of Jobs have not doubled like the # of graduates. If you do the math, you realize, it just doesn’t add up (unless you go to a state school). All these graduates, from new pharmacy schools have tilted the balance of supply and demand, and are saturating the very same lucrative market that they had envisioned.


  14. By PharmD Blogger, October 10, 2012 @ 10:10 pm

    I know in the southeast we are so saturated with pharmacists. The only openings are in no name towns that have one red light or none!


  15. By Deflated PharmD, November 2, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

    You are all right. There are no jobs. We’ve been gutted and left in the desert for dead. The bottom dropped out of the market about 4 bloody minutes after I graduated and now I have 8 years of education, $60K in debt, a depleted savings account and I STILL can’t get a job.

    I live in Illinois where there are now 5 colleges of pharmacy. There used to be only 2. I don’t know if the big chains invested in them but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that they did. Be that as it may, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! Where is our lobby?

    Apparently, we don’t have one. We have to do something. I’d certainly be willing to get out there, but I don’t even know where to start. Ideas? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


  16. By Thomas Turner, November 10, 2012 @ 9:07 pm

    I am an American Citizen who is a 2009 Foreign Pharmacy graduate and was real surprised that a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree is no longer accepted. Actually, my degree is equivalent to a 5 year program (but completed in 4). A couple of years ago I made an atempt to apply with the NABP and during my credential evaluation was sent a certificate stating that I hold A Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences. To my surprise, during my investigation as to the reason, I found an article in the Journal of Pharmacy Education around 2003 by an Indian American Pharm D graduate ranting and raving how unfair it was that foreign graduates were debt free and American graduates owed 100,000 or more dollars.

    My point being that it is all about the money, private schools, and their powerful lobby.

    PS It’s not the fault of people who are bilingual!


  17. By The other redheaded pharmacist, July 2, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

    I hear you. Things went from easy to f’ed up almost overnight.
    I get the same 6 openings sent to my email daily. I don’t give
    up, you shouldn’t either. I work despite being the wrong color
    (white) in the Southwest. I speak both languages.
    Be resourceful, research and cold call. Hey you might have to
    go where the work is. Attitude is everything, don’t lay down, fight!


  18. By ship going down, February 14, 2014 @ 12:56 am

    It is now 2014 and the situation is getting really bad. I am from California and people are moving out of the state to even have a job. People can’t find jobs in place where sign on bonuses were given in 2009. The chain pharmacies are working people like dogs. The sign on bonuses in any area of the country are no where to found. California is opening up more schools (Clairemont, Westcoast). Chapman is opening up a school in ORANGE COUNTY!. We have a family own pharmacy school opening up in Fresno.


  19. By Nbrx, May 5, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

    It is a horrific situation for pharmacists. These greedy pharmacy schools have destroyed our lives. I moved to California about a year ago for 20 hr/week job. It is such a small town that I can’t bring myself to buy a house and settle down. I’ve been applying for a year now to bigger cities even for a per diem position and have not found anything. I’m so depressed over this situation. I’m stuck here and would move to any state that has a job openings. I’m sick of California. Does anyone know where the demands are?


  20. By tom, July 9, 2014 @ 8:28 am

    All true stuff. There are not enough jobs to go around. New organization is needed. We do not have anyone going to bat for us as does the Medical profession with their AMA. What are we waiting for?


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