Pharmacy graduates are finding a softer job market

by Grace

One of America’s most reliable professions is producing too many graduates and not enough jobs

A few years ago, students enrolling in college as pharmacy majors had high hopes about lucrative careers.  Now the outlook is not so rosy.

… Even as the economy struggled in the mid-aughts, pharmacy graduates easily found big salaries, 9-to-5 jobs, and the respect that came along with handling medications. Nicholas Popovich, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy, tells me that, “Some signing bonuses even involved a car, that type of thing.”

While New Republic labeled pharmacy careers to be “on the verge of a crisis”, the details don’t necessarily indicate the problem has risen to crisis level.

  • There has been a 70% increase in first-professional PharmD degree graduates from 2001 to 2011 due to the opening of new pharmacy schools and the expansion of existing programs.
  • The aggregate demand index (ADI), a tool that tracks the difficulty of filling pharmacy positions nationally, had remained relatively steady at a level of ADI = 4 (moderate demand) from 2002 to 2008 but has had a downward trend closer to 3 (demand in balance with supply) in more recent years, with several states in the Northeast region having their ADI dip below 3.
  • The anticipated role expansion and demand for pharmacists to provide direct patient care services has not come to fruition, causing a lower than expected creation of new pharmacist jobs.
  • The bottom line is that the supply of new pharmacists seems to be outpacing the creation of new jobs because the role of pharmacists has not changed as expected when pharmacy workforce needs were projected in 2001.

The number of pharmacy schools has almost doubled over 20 years alongside exuberant predictions about a boom in jobs.

… PharmD students are cash cows, taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and often committing to a longer course of study…

Meanwhile, graduates dealing with average debt loads of over $130,000 find themselves in a growing competition for jobs.

The scarcity of jobs is regional, with the Northeast and New York in particular experiencing a surplus of pharmacists.

AGGREGATE DEMAND INDEX 10-YEAR TREND

20150329.COCPharmJobsTrend2

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 Katie Zavadski, “The Pharmacy School Bubble Is About to Burst”, New Republic, September 29, 2014.

Randy P. McDonough, “Improving patient care, securing our role in health care: The time is now!”, American Pharmacists Association, November 01, 2014.

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