Job Market Trends

MARCH 13, 2010
Jenny H. Choi, PharmD, and Monique McCollough, PharmD

Drs. Choi and McCollough are postdoctoral fellows at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

Community pharmacy practice employers’ and pharmacy students’ perceptions on the current community pharmacy practice job market in this state survey reveal attitudes that can reflect a mirror of the current climate.

A full-time position in community pharmacy practice (eg, chain, independent, mass merchant, etc) was once commonly thought to be guaranteed upon graduation from pharmacy school. However, the implications of the worsening recession in light of the growing number of pharmacy schools and a steady rise in professional pharmacy student enrollment are not fully understood.

Of various pharmacy career paths, community pharmacy practice appears to be the leading choice, as evident from a poll by Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy (EMSOP) that showed 73% of recent graduates pursued a community pharmacy position. Given the current economic climate, a full-time pharmacist position in community pharmacy practice may be harder to obtain than in the past years, and fourth-year pharmacy students (P4) may need to explore alternative pharmacy settings.

A study was conducted to compare the perceptions of community pharmacy practice employers and P4 students on the current community pharmacy practice job market. Paper-based surveys, consisting of multiple-choice and Likert scale questions/ answers, were disseminated to P4 interview candidates and community pharmacy practice employers on November 4, 2009, at Rutgers University EMSOP Community Pharmacy Practice Interview Day. The surveys assessed the perceptions of the job market, attributes associated with a successful community practice pharmacist, and qualifications that are considered when hiring fulltime pharmacists.

Of 91 students and 11 employers, 50 students and 10 employers completed the paper-based surveys. Both employers and students had perceptions that the current job market in New Jersey has a moderate demand for pharmacists. Overall, employers rated 7 of the 10 attributes associated with a successful community practice pharmacist higher than students.

Employers felt that empathy for others, clinical knowledge, and attention to detail were not as important as students perceived. Having previous experience within an organization was thought to be the most effective method of obtaining a job as a full-time community practice pharmacist by both students and employers. Of the 10 employers, 40% stated they have 1 to 5 full-time positions for graduating pharmacists available, and 30% stated they have no open positions available in New Jersey.

A majority (90%) of employers agreed/strongly agreed that there has been an increased number of graduate applications for full-time community practice pharmacist positions in the state, as compared with previous years. A majority of students (85%) and employers (100%) agreed/strongly agreed that an increase in emerging pharmacy schools will negatively affect job availability in community pharmacy practice in New Jersey. Both groups ranked having previous experience in a community pharmacy practice as important, regardless of the practice setting. Both groups also agreed that the best time for a P4 student to apply for a full-time pharmacist position would be in the fall (September to December) prior to graduation.

There may be many factors influencing a moderate demand for pharmacists in New Jersey, according to the survey respondents. Such factors include an increased number of graduate applications, a growing number of pharmacy schools in the tristate area, and decreased budgets of retailers— all of which could potentially pose a problem on future employment opportunities for graduating pharmacists. ●


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