In 2016, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that pharmacy’s job market growth rate would be 6%, which is “as fast as average.” Roughly – and I mean very roughly and informally – that means 17,000 new pharmacy jobs will emerge between 2016 and 2026.
Unfortunately, with roughly 14,000 students graduated in 2017, you don't need an exact calculation to look at the truth: There are more pharmacists than there are jobs – and there are still aren’t enough jobs to go around, even with this anticipated level of growth.
Pharmacists will enter the industry, excited to find a position, only to exit in droves due to lack of opportunities. Skilled and trained pharmacists, exiled by an inability to find work, will become displaced in careers like PA, NP, or another health-related profession.
Wherever these pharmacists go, they will be highly trained and educated. They'll be able to provide excellent value to their other occupations. However, they won't be pharmacists – and that's where we should be concerned.
The Great Migration of Pharmacy Workers
First-year PharmD student numbers have stayed relatively constant, however, numbers for 2016/2017 were the second lowest they’ve been since 2009/2010. Pharmacy school applicant numbers have significantly dropped. Even academics who actively recruit admit to me they’re working harder to acquire pharmacy students.
There’s a high level of concern over the quality of pharmacy graduates with the right qualifications, professional values, and desire to be a pharmacist – with due cause. Between the decrease of graduate applications, the increasing occurrence of unemployed pharmacists,, there seems to be no solution in sight.
This isn’t great for the profession. There are several claims against the demotion of student quality and horrible attrition rates, which have increased significantly over the past 15 years. NAPLEX pass rates are all over the place, and one can even question if the exam is a good indicator of a pharmacist success track record. (Most people are awful test takers, and test-taking is a skill.)
I'm not proud of what's happening to our profession. However, there's an obvious problem we're ignoring. Pharmacy education prepares people to fulfill roles, not solve problems.
Pharmacists see the problems, but few try to solve them. New pharmacists have already become disarmed and disillusioned. You don't need to look far to see the evidence for yourself; there are bleak outlooks expressed by pharmacists throughout our popular subreddit. You can even read one regretful pharmacist’s story on Millennial May Day.
Depressed PharmDs with significant student loans and no ability to make ends meet: take heart. Working hard for your degree, only to face the reality of taking on work you’re significantly overqualified for, is a painful situation. I empathize with your struggles, including the stark reality of our industry’s glaring problems.
We need to accept the truth, plainly, and without pretense. Being a pharmacist is not, and has never been a 100% secure position.
If You Can Accept the Truth, then You Can Do Something About It
This article isn’t a poignant thinkpiece. It is a straightforward call to action. Pharmacy career opportunities still exist. You’re responsible for discovering, attracting, and creating them.
You must self-advance to get to the next level. Having worked with hundreds of burned pharmacists who’ve used our methods to create an indispensable career strategy, I can assure you the power is in your hands.
Companies will take an interest in you as long as you do the work. Do not become complacent. Do not let burn out take over your career and life. Do not allow your circumstances to become emotionally overwhelming. Do not swan dive in any negativity.
Decide to succeed. Tell yourself that you will advance in your career – and then do the work. However it looks. You may need to learn new skills to make yourself more marketable, upgrade the accomplishments on your resume, or reach out to someone for mentorship. Whatever you do, do not settle for less than a dream pharmacy career that fulfills you.
Make Yourself More Marketable Today
Being lazy with your career is as foolish as gambling your retirement plan in Vegas. I can attest to this based upon how many emails I receive from pharmacists who have been unexpectedly let go or have been waiting for a qualified pharmacist job for months.
Take action today. Our free one-hour Career Masterclass provides you with three things you can do better now to distinguish yourself amongst other candidates and move forward with your goals.
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.