Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.

How Your Certification Can Increase Your Salary

JUNE 01, 2017

Another year. Another annual review … and another disappointing 2% (or less) cost-of-living raise.

 

Your salary curve seems to be becoming flatter by the minute.

 

If you are like most pharmacists, you’re probably feeling frustrated — and wondering what you can to do put some more money in your pocket.

 

Maybe you are bored with your job and thinking about a change in your career. Maybe you just want some new challenges. This brings you to the career question you have probably confronted several times before: Is pharmacy certification worth the effort? On top of this, you may doubt your negotiation skills to convince your manager to increase your pay.

 

The good news is that obtaining additional certification, such as a certified geriatric pharmacist (CGP), board certified pharmacotherapy specialist (BCPS) or board certified ambulatory care pharmacists (BCACP), can translate into real dollars—if you leverage it properly.

 

Here are a few steps you can follow to make sure you get the most value out of your certification:

 

Step 1: Determine Return on Investment (ROI)

 

Your new certification will enable you to do new things and provide new services to your patients, which will translate to more profit for your company. However, you need to think like an entrepreneur to establish ROI and convince your boss to pay you more.

 

Often, establishing ROI can be the most challenging step for pharmacists because we are not taught to think like entrepreneurs. Here’s an example to help you understand how you can establish ROI:

 

If you are the owner of St. John Doe Hospital, you want your pharmacy department to drive profits. The services and products that your pharmacy sells will make money for the hospital as long as the products and services are sold to patients for more than they cost to procure.

Between salary and benefits, employing a pharmacist costs the hospital a lot of money. To generate value for the hospital, the pharmacists need to create more services for which they can charge patients. One way to develop new services is to encourage pharmacists to obtain additional certifications that allow them to perform new functions. When pharmacist Smith becomes a certified anticoagulation care provider (CACP), he becomes authorized to use special billing codes to provide specialized services to his patients.

 

Applying entrepreneurial thinking to the above example, you can demonstrate ROI by figuring out how much additional revenue will be generated each time pharmacist Smith uses those special billing codes. By multiplying the amount of additional revenue by the number of patients who could potentially receive these services, you should be able to come up with monthly, quarterly and yearly estimates of how much additional revenue pharmacist Smith’s certification will generate for the hospital.

 

Step 2: Look for Wins

 

Although money is usually a primary concern for pharmacy administrators and managers, it isn’t always the only concern. Be sure to also look for “wins” in other areas, such as patient safety, prestige for your organization or attracting a particular type of sought-after patient.

 

Let’s say, for example, that your boss is in charge of a new initiative on patient safety. Your case for a raise should focus on how your new certification can improve patient safety and be supported by research to back up your claims.

 

If you need help getting started with your research, you should begin by checking online for reports or studies related to the certification you hope to obtain and the initiative that is top-of-mind for your boss.

 

Many hospitals, non-profits and associations provide studies and reports on the benefits of various certifications. For example, the Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy provides several potentially beneficial statistics on their page for employers.

 

It also will help to have an idea about what other pharmacists are being paid in your area or industry. My 2017 Pharmacy Salary Guide is a great place to start for an overview of what pharmacists make in different work settings. It also includes a state-by-state salary breakdown based on the latest employment data.

 

Step 3: Figure Out Who Will Pay

 

If you have aspirations to obtain a pharmacy certification, you should make an attempt to get your company to pay for it. Although it is tempting to think only of the benefits a certification could provide for you and your career, this narrow thinking could cause your request for company support to be denied.

 

The most important thing to remember is to avoid making the conversation exclusively about your demands and what you expect. You should make an effort to find out what your certification options are by asking questions and having a give-and-take with your boss.

 

Some good questions for discussion include:

 

·         What has happened to other pharmacists who have obtained this certification?

·         Could you see us offering new services in the pharmacy?

·         How could we make money from this certification?

·         Would you be willing to review my research on how this certification could boost the company’s revenue?

·         Would the company be able to support me as I work to obtain my certification?

 

If you get really lucky, you might find that your company has a policy already in place that provides extra compensation for obtaining certain certifications regardless of employee performance. Or, you might be pleasantly surprised when your boss offers to pay for you to obtain your certification or allows you to study on the job.

 

In any case, it’s important to figure out whether you or your employer will pay for the certification before you start filling out any applications. Obviously, this would be a significant cost if you were expected to pay for it yourself.

 

Even if your company denies your request, you may find that it would make sense for you to pursue the certification without the support of your company—especially if you think it will open up new job opportunities that pay better, offer more flexibility and have better work hours (or a side-gig!).

 

Step 4: Decide on Your End-game

 

Even if you get your company to cover the cost of your certification, don’t stop there. You need to do some further research to figure out how you can negotiate for a raise down the road—or transition into your desired (and higher-paying) job, if that’s what you’re after.

 

For example, after you have your certification and begin offering new services, you need to be sure to follow up with your boss after a year or so to discuss your salary. Or, you need to make a plan for leveraging your new certification as part of your job search.

 

Getting your company to pay for your certification and leveraging it for a raise down the road is the Holy Grail of continuing education. But even if you are only able to negotiate one of these financial benefits, it is still a significant achievement. With a little thought and persistence, your new certification will be money in the bank.

 


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