Blogs: The Reinvented Pharmacist

Pharmacy Job Outlook: The Tip of the Iceberg

Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief
Published Online: Friday, March 25, 2011
I received word this month that a private university in North Carolina is opening a fourth school of pharmacy. They are now recruiting a founding Dean and plan to enroll a class of 100 students for 2013. They didn't ask me for advice, but I would have told them it wasn't needed.

I heard one national pharmacy leader suggest that the graduating pharmacy class of 2011 will be like the "canary in the mine" alerting us to the manpower crises in our profession.

I wonder about the ethics of a pharmacy education consultant who would advise a university to start a school of pharmacy today. Just take a look at this I received from a Pharmacy Times reader in response to my January 2011 Editor's Note on "Will the Pharmacy Job Market Self-Correct?"

The reader writes: "I read with great interest & much concern your article entitled "Will the Pharmacy Job Market Self-correct?" I just got today a license renewal notification in the mail from the Washington State Board of Pharmacy. I need to pay $170 by the end of March. I'll need to pay an additional $145 to have my Oregon license renewed by the end of May. At the beginning of October, my Nevada license will also come due for an additional $150. And like every other pharmacist, I pay for CE certificates & professional liability insurance.

It would sure be nice to have a job as a pharmacist to help pay for all these expenses. I haven't worked as a RPh since early November 2009. I've looked; I've applied. God knows I have tried!! No, I'm not kidding, & no this is no joke.

That's why I read your article with great interest. I did find great consolation in the fact that I am not the only unemployed RPh in the USA who is having difficulty finding work. The following phrases really struck a nerve: "simply not enough positions to sustain the influx of graduates" & "serious overproduction of graduates." In answer to the question, "do we need more pharmacy schools?" I hope the answer should be evident to everyone & anyone who is even thinking about opening another pharmacy school.

I have reached a new level of desperation. I went so far as to contact all the pharmacy retail chains with the following proposal, "Look, if you won't hire me as a RPh…would you offer me a job as a pharm tech or even a pharm clerk??" I got no takers. Since the beginning of this year, I have applied for well over 100 or so jobs. Occasionally some of those jobs have been for pharmacists; the rest were of course non-pharmacy jobs.

I haven't given up; I am trying to get licensed in other states to improve my chances of landing a pharmacist job. However I am extremely disappointed with the current pharmacist job outlook. Not only am I willing to relocate…I'm also willing to live in a location few pharmacists would even consider, if such places still exist! I sincerely hope my luck changes! As a closing note…NO, we do not need any more pharmacy schools! Perhaps we can close a dozen or so that already are operational??
"

I hope we don't have many pharmacists with such a story, but I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. This is a real problem for pharmacy—and we all have some responsibility for its resolution. If some action isn't taken, our whole profession could be in jeopardy. Am I overreacting?
About
Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times
Blog Info
This blog focuses on what our Editor-in-Chief sees as the future of pharmacy.
Author Bio
Fred Eckel, RPh, MS, is the Editor-in-Chief of Pharmacy Times, a position he has held since 2002. Mr. Eckel is a professor at the Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He serves as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists.

In this blog, Eckel will provide commentary on relevant issues impacting pharmacists and pharmacy professionals, including the merging of pharmacy benefit managers, the implications of health care reform, the conversion of major drugs from prescription to over-the-counter, trends in pharmacy careers, and opioid abuse. He will also discuss legislative issues that impact pharmacists, and comment on the evolving role of the pharmacist.
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