Pharmacy’s Mass Exodus: Why So Many Pharmacists Want to Leave the Profession

by | Mar 2, 2020 | Career, Workplace Matters

No one joins the profession of pharmacy thinking, I can’t wait to make my company more money! Yippee!

No one joins pharmacy thinking, Oh boy! I can’t wait to be yelled at by a boss because I am not meeting a certain metric!

At the heart of every pharmacist is a desire to help people, yet many pharmacists feel like they’re not able to.

Non-traditional pharmacy is on the rise, that’s why every year we hold a free virtual summit sharing pharmacist stories of how they transitioned into jobs they love. Check it out here.

The conditions in the pharmacy workplace—both in the hospital community and other sectors—have worsened over the years. There are several causes: the job market, the surplus of pharmacy students, and the organizations and associations out there that don’t seem to have a cohesive solution. Even as I was starting my career as a pharmacist, I realized clinical care wasn’t everything that I had hoped it would be. I wanted more from my work.

When I first started The Happy PharmD in 2017, I thought that the way I would help pharmacists was by doing what I had done: Create a business on the side to generate revenue to lead to a lifestyle of economic freedom—a lifestyle in which you could work when you want, for whom you want, and for how long you want.

I found, though, that while some had success with their businesses, at the end of the day, many told themselves, “Well, this will never become a full-time job” or “I’m still stuck at my day job.” Once we recognized this, we pivoted to coaching and teaching on career development and advancement and what I ultimately coined as the Indispensable Pharmacist.

So many pharmacists are unhappy with what they do and feel like the profession has betrayed them—that corporate overlords have taken over, dictating what pharmacists do on a day-to-day basis. It seems like very little of what they do is actually “pharmacy.” Pharmacists feel like they focus more on “number care” than healthcare.

Because of the job market, many find it difficult to transition into something better than what they have now. These conditions have left many pharmacists thinking about ways to escape. Some pursue financial independence through the FIRE movement. Others, like me, create businesses to gain lifestyle freedom. Some continue down the traditional career route, hoping that a company will give them a chance to change their career and start a new path.

Contributing Factors to Pharmacy’s Mass Exodus

So, what all has led to this?

  • Metrics focusing more on just that—metrics
  • Number care over healthcare
  • The job market
  • A flattening of pharmacists’ salaries 
  • An influx of pharmacy applicants for every single job (plus too many pharmacy schools)
  • Predictions of a coming recession 
  • Burnout rates anywhere from 50% to 70%

Stress is high. If you’re a student or someone who’s talked to a pharmacist, you may be wondering, Why do people feel this way? You may wonder what direction you want to take in pharmacy. You may even question whether you want to continue pursuing pharmacy.


The APhA 2020 Pharmacy Manpower survey recently published new data on scary trends that confirms my Mass Exodus prediction:

This data indicates 10.4% of licensed pharmacists are not working in a pharmacy. (5.4% working but not in pharmacy + 4.9% unemployed pharmacists)


Granted, we can’t extrapolate this data to our entire profession of 300,000+ pharmacists in the USA. However, this the largest workforce trend data we have.

I envision The Happy PharmD continuing as a career development and coaching company. Our goal is to help hundreds—even thousands—of pharmacists find work that they love and transition into it. Sadly, I do think that because of the job market, this is sometimes extremely difficult, which is why we are also helping pharmacists start businesses that hire other pharmacists.

Here are a few things we have in the works at The Happy PharmD:

  • Currently, we have four coaches (all pharmacists) who are helping our clients achieve career success and transitions. 
  • We’re working with a medical writing company, which contracts with three pharmacists to do medical writing work. 
  • We’re collaborating with a pharmacist to build a seminar-based business—a B-to-B model.
  • We’re building an expert network with an affiliate partner for pharmacists and to connect with pharma companies that want to pay for their time and expertise.

All of these things are helping to employ pharmacists. You know, the rising tide lifts all ships, right? I have a feeling that this mass exodus will drive many pharmacists to get into different careers. In my opinion, this a good thing. They need to be doing fulfilling work.

What I also think is going to happen—what is particularly exciting— is innovation. I think this will be a catalyst for pharmacists to create new ideas—new businesses. We love helping pharmacists create and find new career opportunities, and we love bragging about those pharmacists here at The Happy PharmD.

If you feel stuck at any point in your career, I encourage you to register for our Happy PharmD Summit. It’s free. It’s virtual. And you’ll learn more about fulfilling pharmacy career paths.

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Creating Happy Pharmacists

If you really want to build the career and life that you’ve dreamed of, one where you are helping people and working in a field that you love, you need to do something different than what you’ve been doing.

Through coaching you can re-discover why you became a pharmacist and find your passion again.