Meet Mallory. She’s aspiring to become a pharmacist.
She was recently accepted into the East Gatton College of Pharmacy.
Unlike many college students, she knew since high school that she wished to become a pharmacist.
However, like her fellow classmates, she’s concerned about her future career.
You probably know why if you know a little bit about the pharmacy profession.
The main issue at hand for future (and current) pharmacists is:
Will I find (or keep) a decent job?
A legitimate question.
The future of pharmacy seems fuzzy because of the future Medicare budget cuts, closing hospitals, increased number of pharmacy schools, and the lack of predicted shortage.
When did the “Pharmacist Shortage” start?
The Pharmacy School boom all began in 2000 after one documented was given to Congress.
The Pharmacy Workforce Center predicted a shortage of pharmacists would occur that may cause a healthcare crisis. Baby Boomer pharmacists would be retiring at an astronomical rate, huge increase in prescribing, thus the shortage to strike.
In 1987 there were 72 colleges of pharmacy.
As of June 2014, there are 130 accredited colleges of pharmacy (according to AACP)
And another five new pharmacy schools will open between in 2015-2016.
Texas – University of Texas (2015)
Wisconsin – Medical College of Wisconsin (considering)
Tennessee has SIX Colleges
Belmont University (TN)
East Tennessee State University
Lipscomb University (TN)
South College (TN)
Union University (TN)
Tennessee, The University of
I love Tennessee! No income tax? SIGN ME UP!
But seriously guys? Six schools of pharmacy? Tell me this isn’t a ploy to make money off of students.
In the fall of 2013, there were 62,743 pharmacy students total.
In 2012-13, 13,207 new PharmD graduated. And this number will only increase.
From 2005 through 2012, at least 4 new schools opened every year. (Medscape)
Why was a surplus declared?
There were a few factors declared by the US Human Services report in 2000 to Congress on why there would be a pharmacist shortage.
Direct link : http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/reports/pharmaciststudy.pdf
Here’s a summary of the main factors:
- Aging population (including pharmacists in the workforce – the retiring age has increased from 2000)
- Increase # of prescriptions
- Expansion of Medicare Part D
- expanding role of the pharmacist (retail = flu shots and MTM? But seriously the role of clinical pharmacists has expanded significantly)
- higher educational standards for pharmacists (BSPharm to PharmD)
- movement toward managed care
Did the shortage actually happen?
The increased number of schools over the last 10 years solved the shortage.
Although, AACP claims there is a SHORTAGE of pharmacists.
Here’s a quote from their website:
A shortfall of as many as 157,000 pharmacists is predicted by 2020 according to the findings of a conference sponsored by the Pharmacy Manpower Project, Inc. Complete findings are detailed in the final report, “Professionally Determined Need for Pharmacy Services in 2020.”
THIS IS BASED ON THE SAME REPORT FROM 2000. THE DANG REPORT WAS WRITTEN IN 2002
In a journal article in 2010, the AACP still reports a need for pharmacists (what the what?):
The need for pharmacists providing primary care services will continue to grow particularly due to the aging of the population and the need for multiple medication therapy regimens to manage chronic medical conditions as previously discussed…
In 2001, a workforce study estimated that approximately 30,000 full-time pharmacists were providing primary care services (defined as managing simple and complex medicine use in ambulatory patients) but that approximately 165,000 full-time pharmacists would be needed by the year 2020 to provide these services to roughly 325 million Americans.40
IMPORTANT: See that number 40 as a reference? Guess when that reference reported was dated?
So according to AACP, they believe there will STILL be a shortage of pharmacists… based on data from 2002.
Apparently, they’re still living in 2002 when K-Mart filed for bankrupcy and Kelly Clarkson became the first winner of American Idol.
But the flipside has finally occurred: surplus. (not sure if include)
Between 2000 and 2013, the number of graduates has increased from 7,000 to 13,000.
the number of PharmD graduates will range between 14,000 and 15,000 per year, more than double the number in 2001.
Say goodbye to signing bonuses (although they can occur in extremely rural areas – I only base this on personal stories).
Has the number of jobs doubled since 2001?
According to this article (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930253/)
Take a look at Figure 4 from this article.
2002, less than 225,000 jobs available, compared to 2013, less than 275,000 jobs available.
What about the Aggregate Demand Index?
This measurement estimates the demand to supply ratio. It is a 5 point scale, 5 indicating high demand, and 1 indicating low demand (way too many pharmacists for the jobs available).
As of November 2014, the National ADI is 3.40. Interestingly, in November 2013 the national ADI was 3.24.
Not horrible, right? I mean, 3.4 means pharmacists are in more demand. But what about by job type?
Would you like to see the ADI trend over the last 10 years (starting from November 2014)?
*Source : http://www.pharmacymanpower.com/
THE TREND IS DOWNWARD! Right? Does AACP look at this website?
They do! Because they apparently are the ones behind it:
Does this mean that the data is slightly biased towards the “surplus” side of the story? Maybe.
The ADI doesn’t measure demand/supply for metropolitan areas vs. rural. Rural areas are more likely to have higher demand/need for pharmacists than metro.
The last 5 years indicate a flattening of applicants to pharmacy school.
According to the viral article about A Looming Joblessness Crisis by Dr.Daniel Brown of Palm Beach Atlantic University, “My estimate [is] 20 percent unemployment of new grads by 2018.”
Dr. Brown seems to be the leading voice for cause. He’s beating the drum of “Too Many Pharmacy Schools” across the web (bold emphasis added):
Dr. Brown’s American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education article – A Looming Joblessness Crisis for New Pharmacy Graduates and the Implications It Holds for the Academy
Even if 2012 proves to be the last year of major academic expansion, the full impact will not be felt until 2018, at which time the job market will have to assimilate new pharmacists at a rate of about 15,000 per year. Contrast that rate with the 30-year period from 1974 to 2003, during which the annual number of pharmacy graduates ranged between 6,000 and 8,000. The number surpassed 8,000 for the first time in 2004. By 2008, it had risen to 10,000. It exceeded 12,000 in 2012 and is poised to exceed 14,000 by 2016.
New PharmD and/or residency graduates will not be the only victims of academic overgrowth. The academy itself will suffer repercussions.
Medscape – [Interview] The Future of Pharmacy Jobs — Will It Be Feast or Famine?
[Dr. Brown] …the rate of growth turned out to be much greater than anyone could have anticipated 10 years ago. A profession that produced a fairly stable graduating cohort of 6000-8000 new pharmacists per year from 1974 to 2003 is suddenly poised to graduate over 14,000 this year . Such growth is totally unprecedented in pharmacy.
…I also feel that academic growth has far exceeded the need, and a more reasonable growth rate would have better served the profession.
Much attention is paid to the large number of applicants to pharmacy schools and to robust job projections for the future — such as those in the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report issued in January 2014, which are frequently used to justify new or expanded programs. However, the ever-increasing supply side of the equation seems to be generally ignored.
From 2005 through 2012, at least 4 new schools opened every year.
Pharmacy Practice News – Doomsday for PharmD Grads Or Alarmist Over-Reaction? [in response to Dr. Brown’s article listed above)
…the number of new PharmD graduates is expected to reach about 15,000 annually by 2018 (compared with 7,000 in 2001)…
Lucinda L. Maine, PhD, RPh, the executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), in Alexandria, Va., said in an interview: “The question is ‘is there any threat of significant unemployment facing our almost 300,000 licensed pharmacists now?’ I think that Dan’s answer was too unidimensional and simplistic.” An important unknown, Dr. Maine said, is the rate of expansion of the pharmacists’ patient care activities.
(side note, so will we base our need on pharmacists on an unknown factor? I understand if Dr. Maine said this in passing, but it doesn’t seem like a wise idea to say, “We don’t know what the future holds, so it’s fine if more pharmDs come into the market)
[Dr. Knapp stated Dr. Brown’s commentary] “was helpful in bringing to a wide audience data about the pharmacy education enterprise and the job market. It was not helpful because it tends to cause panic among students that there’s a bleak future for them.”
Heck yeah it scares them. This probably scares a lot of students (and pharmacists). Hopefully at the end of this article, you’ll feel more at ease.
[Steve Martin (not the actor), a professor and chairman of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Toledo, chimed in]
Dr. Brown’s commentary “brought up a clear problem that we recognize in the academic world and that we’re seeing across the profession: that we have an increased number of graduates and that the job situation for those graduates has become tighter over the last few years.” However, he said, increasing demand for patient care services would continue to fuel job growth. Residency training, certificate programs, and MBA or MPH degrees will continue to make pharmacists “better able to be employed,” he suggested. “I continue to think that jobs are available, and I see that continuing for the foreseeable future.”
Get more training…
Pharmacy School Debt
College loans are inevitable for 99% of pharmacy students. I racked up $48,000, which is extremely low compared to most.
(“Pharmacy Student Debt and Return on Investment of a Pharmacy Education”)
Important facts from this article:
The average debt accrued in 2011 was $114,422.
The average debt has increased in a linear relationship (Figure 1.)
Private intuitions = $152,901
The average tuition cost for pharmacy school has increased 54% in the last 8 years. Since 2002, the average salary has risen from $75,00 to $112,000.
While tuition has increased substantially in 8 years, the average pharmacist salary has risen at approximately the same rate (49% increase from 2002-2010). (Figure 3)
Average cost of pharmacy education per year = $25,000
The number of pharmacist jobs in the United States has risen from 215,000 jobs in 2003 to 275,000 in 2010.
However, there were 3,000 fewer positions in 2012 than in 2011.
This article tries to answer the question, “Is a pharmacy degree worth the invest?”
I would say NO if you have the same view on debt as our nation has. I would say YES if you love your job and pay off college debt at a crazy fast rate.
Take a look at this table for the REAL cost of pharmacy school tuition. Once again, I recommend all pharmacists tackle their debt as quickly as possible. It could mean the difference between paying $360,000 and $215,000 over 25 years.
How good is pharmacy?
USA recently reported pharmacy in the top 10 professions in the USA. And I agree. I wrote about 10 reasons why pharmacists have great jobs here.
CNN Money named Pharmacist the 19th Best Job in America.
Unemployment after graduation
The numbers reported by colleges are misleading.
These surveys ask students around 4-6 months after graduation if these students received a job.
Who’s to say that all of these students are looking?
A wise tactic that a few of my fellow alumni choose was to wait until after graduation. Here’s why: if you wait after graduation, it may be likely that you can be paid more.
Employers aren’t stupid. They will offer less money to new graduates because of the plethora of candidates. Employers are more likely to pay more for a candidate after graduation season because there will be less candidates.
Quality of Future Pharmacists
My passion is teaching. My career plan was to enter academia immediately after residency. However, I decided to enter the work force for one simple reason:
I found professors with “real-world” experience were better teachers, in comparison to professors who never held a job outside their residency and academia.
This is not true for everyone. But I desired to become a better clinician and hopefully teacher. However with how the academic boom has occurred, I doubt I will pursue my academic profession.
This boom in pharmacy schools has created the need for more jobs, and possibly less qualified professors fill those spots.
However, this article states the increased demand for faculty has masked the surplus of graduates. I disagree because the number of faculty positions is dwarfed in comparison to retail or hospital positions.
Subjective vs. Objective information
We’ve all heard the stories.
Stories of new pharmacists, ready to tactic their first job, only to find a market that doesn’t offer anything.
I spoke with one pharmacist who summarized her story in the following:
I was lied to.
I was hired on as a hospital staff pharmacist. Only I didn’t clarify one thing: my position.
I was lead to believe my position was full time, only I didn’t work a full 40 hours a week. My boss only gives me 32 hours a week. They won’t give me 40 because then they have to give me benefits.
Stories have an unseen power over us. They have the potential to sway us to make an emotional decision, rather than logical.
A Message to Future Academics:
I believe the next generation of pharmacists is betrayed.
I believe that the “Shortage” claims must be retracted. News outlets and media take these claims out of context in support of new schools of pharmacy.
Every pharmacist already knows the truth. So why does this message of shortage still exist?
Do I believe that professors, deans, and even the board of directors at pharmacy schools are evil because so many pharmacy schools are popping up?
No, of course not.
I believe these academic leaders are some of the best pharmacists in the U.S. These are leaders of tomorrow.
However, this dramatic increase of schools sounds like a pursuit within the marketplace for big investors. NOT a ventured interest in the quality of the next generation pharmacist. NOT a validated plan to solve a problem
I believe the glut of pharmacy schools will cause a few things to happen.
- Obviously, an increased number of graduates
- Increased job competition
- New and innovative pharmacy career options (caused by the increased competition)
- Increased number of part-time pharmacists (especially new graduates)
- Increased student stress concerning future job
- Increased job placement education (hopefully by academic systems, but this is another reason why I created this website)
- Decrease salaries for new and experienced pharmacists
What can you do about this?
Sadly, there isn’t much one person can do to stop the increase of new pharmacy schools.
It’s not like you can knock down the board room dorm of this board of directors and say, “HEY! Stop makingpharmacy schools!”
It’s impossible to control things outside of your influence.
What you can control is your career.
Is it funny or sad what I envision?
I foresee a room with 10 new Deans of pharmacy at a table. They all look sad and staring at the ceiling or table. One pipes up, “You know, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea…”
What to do about this if you’re a pharmacist
As the number of new graduates increase, it’s possible for you to lose job security, bonuses, salary increases, or even your “full-time” position (and be demoted to part-time).
I don’t want to sccare anybody, but this is a reality that you may have to face.
The best way to make your career secure is to make yourself indispensable (did you see that pun? They’re illegal now in China).
How do you do that?
Volunteer for projects no one wants.
Get a certification.
Always be willing to help.
If you’re a pharmacy student, what should you do?
Carve out your niche.
Take the example of Mallory to heart. She’s not
Take every spare moment to build the brand of you.
Do not waste too much time studying material that you won’t use in your profession. I think you know what classes I’m talking about.
Go to job placement classes. Take interview courses. Volunteer for activities.
Pick something you’re passionate about (that helps others) and pursue opportunities.
Volunteer for things that don’t sound like fun but deep down you know that it will make your CV impressive.
Why do all these things?
Because if you don’t, you will be just like every other pharmacy student. Generic.
And being just like every other student, with a generic CV and cover letter, won’t cut it. You will be the student who graduates and struggles to find a nice job.
According to the Pharmacy Forecast 2013-2017,
67% of the Pharmacy Forecast said there will be a shortage in information technology field. (Source: http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/career/2013/PharmacyCareers_Fall2013/Crisis-or-Competition-The-Current-Pharmacy-Job-Climate)
I’ll quote Dr. Brown (leading the charge on too many pharmacist)
Be optimistic, and have faith that you have chosen the right profession. (Medscape)
What should you do if you are considering the pharmacy profession (high school or undergrad student)?
If you believe pharmacy is something that you would be passionate about
then pursue it.
Don’t ever let someone scare you that pharmacy is a bad profession to choose.
Often I hear pharmacists (especially in retail) rant online that people should stay away from pharmacy. To those who hate their jobs, get out while you can! You don’t have to work at a place you hate. No one is making you. It’s possible to find a job that you love and make a decent income.
But all this ranting is scaring the next generation.
I receive questions like…
Should I pursue pharmacy?
Don’t listen to negative Nancys, like the people at a certain forum. Here’s an example.
This is why I’m not fond of 6 year programs.
6 year schools require a commitment from a teenager to decide on what they plan to do with the rest of their lives.
I believe that the vast majority of teenagers (heck, 20’s too) have no clue what they want to do for the rest of their lives. How can they anyway with an education system that provides little to no support on this decision making process?