Pharmacy Job Outlook: The Tip of the Iceberg

MARCH 24, 2011
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS, Pharmacy Times Editor-in-Chief
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?

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