From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, there was considerable concern over a pharmacist shortage. The baby boomer population was aging, more drugs were being produced and advertised to the public, and the number of prescriptions increased by over a billion. Unfortunately, pharmacy schools weren’t producing enough graduates to meet demand.
In response to the shortage, pharmacy schools started popping up right and left. In 2000, there were 80 colleges and schools of pharmacy. As of 2019, there were 143. The result? The number of students graduating annually with a PharmD has more than doubled.
Some people in the industry worry that too many pharmacy schools opened in an effort to meet pharmacist demand – and the numbers may support that. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts 0% job growth through 2028. In fact, they expect pharmacist employment to decline by 1%. If we assume that pharmacy schools will continue to graduate about 15,000 PharmD students a year, the pharmacist job outlook is not promising:
To accommodate for that many new pharmacists, the retirement rate would have to be unusually high and/or a bunch of new pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics would have to open. Statistics from our job seeker database indicate that the retirement age is actually above average for pharmacists:
More Part-Time Opportunities
While we can’t say for sure what the job landscape will look like in a decade, it could mean that full-time pharmacist jobs will be harder to come by.
In the 2014 National Pharmacist Workforce Study, pharmacists reported a 9% increase in labor reduction activities, including layoffs, mandatory cutback in hours, early retirement incentives, and restructuring of work schedules.
Insights from our database indicate that on average there are more part-time and contract pharmacist jobs than other occupations:
Fewer Pharmacy Jobs
Pharmacists can also expect fewer jobs to be available in pharmacies. That’s because pharmacy technicians are now taking on more responsibilities that pharmacists used to own, such as collecting patient information, preparing medications, and checking other technicians’ work (this makes financial sense when you consider technicians make over $93,000 less than pharmacists). Pharmacy technician jobs are projected to have above average growth.
On the other hand, the demand for health diagnosing and treating practitioners is expected to grow 13%, so hospitals and clinics are at risk of being short-staffed and in need of more hands. Pharmacists may see more opportunities arise in hospital settings where they will oversee patient medication and become key members of interdisciplinary care teams. They can also expect to see more jobs in online pharmacies (and less in retail) as more people order their prescriptions over the internet.
More Competition for Jobs
With potentially more pharmacists than there are positions, the competition for pharmacist jobs is going to get tougher. The demand for pharmacy technicians will decrease the need for pharmacists. Students who complete a residency program or attain additional certifications may have a better chance of competing for full-time positions.
That being said, there are a couple factors that could improve the pharmacist job outlook. For example, our population is aging and the demand for healthcare is increasing. We'll also continue to see new prescription drugs on the market, especially as the rate of chronic disease rises.
If you’ll be looking for a pharmacist job in the future, start building your network, sharpening your resume, and brushing up on your interview skills. No matter what the job market looks like in the next decade, you’ll be ready to rise above the competition.