Forecasting Opportunities in Nontraditional Pharmacy

Nontraditional pharmacy roles are now emerging and will be the future of the field of pharmacy. This time, however, it's not a new degree requirement driving the transformation, but distinct market forces.

The field of pharmacy is changing. Historically, pharmacists practiced in the community setting with little hospital involvement. Dispensing medications was the main responsibility of the pharmacist, and this model remains just as strong today. Since establishing the requirement of the PharmD in 2000, the profession has undergone a massive transformation to incorporate more clinical roles, and with that transformation has come increasing popularity in the clinical pharmacy residency. Of course, clinical pharmacy and retail pharmacy aren’t the only 2 careers for pharmacists; in fact, we’re in the middle of another major transformation in the profession. Nontraditional pharmacy roles are now emerging and will be the future of the field of pharmacy. This time, however, it’s not a new degree requirement driving the transformation, but distinct market forces.


Over the past several years, the number of pharmacy schools and PharmD graduates has increased, while the projected job growth has slowed. As of September 2016, 139 schools and colleges offer a PharmD as a first professional degree, and another 8 offer the PharmD as a post-BS degree. In the 2014-2015 academic year, there were 14,267 individuals graduating with a PharmD.1 The projected job growth for pharmacists for the years 2014 to 2024 is 3%, which is lower than the national average of 7% for all other jobs (and 17% for other health diagnosing and treating practitioners).2

But what does this all mean? If we look at the Aggregate Demand Index (ADI), we can see how this increase in supply of PharmDs and slowed job growth is affecting the market. ADI scores range from 1 to 5, with a score of 1 meaning supply is greater than demand, and a score of 5 meaning that supply is lower than demand. A score of 3 means that supply is equal to demand. At this time last year, the ADI was 3.62, meaning that there was slightly more demand for pharmacists than there was supply. Compare this to the score in August 2016 of 2.87 (a decrease of 0.68) and we see the balance shifting to a point where there are more pharmacists than pharmacy jobs available.3 In response to these changes in supply and demand, pharmacy students and pharmacists will increasingly find opportunities in nontraditional roles. This will introduce new ways that pharmacists can have an impact and help position the profession for new areas of growth.


There are also important leadership forces impacting the direction of pharmacy. The emphasis placed on clinical residency training is a great example. Influential organizations like ACCP and ASHP are advocating for all pharmacists in patient care roles to complete a residency by 2020, but these programs are becoming saturated and will likely encounter similar problems with supply and demand.


The force of rapidly advancing technology is also opening doors for pharmacists in several different ways. Automation is one of the largest. Automated dispensing devices have already become a mainstay in community pharmacies and hospitals, with 97% of hospitals using automated dispensing cabinets. This is just one example, but now we’re also beginning to see the automation of clinical decisions based on analyses of large amounts of medical data that’s generated daily. Because dispensing and clinical decision making are the 2 responsibilities that define the practice of pharmacy, there must be a shift in job roles to respond to these technological forces.4

In fact, pharmacy informatics was highlighted in our recent interview with Dr. Jim Stevenson, PharmD, FASHP, President of Hospitals and Health System Services at Visante, Inc. Dr. Stevenson highlighted informatics, pharmacogenomics, and specialty pharmacy as the future areas of growth for the profession and ways to truly differentiate the field of pharmacy.5 As more pharmacy leaders highlight emerging roles, we may see a shift in focus to these new areas of large opportunity.

How to Prepare

Although the pharmacy profession finds itself at yet another crossroads, it’s not always easy to determine which path to take. In fact, it’s actually very difficult to discover opportunities in between the responsibilities of work or school. But for pharmacists and pharmacy students that struggle to find nontraditional pharmacy opportunities, The Nontraditional Pharmacist is a good resource to learn more. There, you can explore a variety of unique pharmacy roles, find easy ways to connect with potential employers, and view the resources you need to be successful.


1. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Academic pharmacy’s vital statistics. AACP website.

2. US Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

3. Aggregate Demand Index. National pharmacist demand average response. ADI website.

4. Pederson C, et al. ASHP national survey of pharmacy practice in hospital settings: dispensing and administration — 2014. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2015;72(13):1119-1137.

5. Emerging areas for a successful pharmacy career—specialty pharmacy, pharmacogenomics, informatics. Interview with Dr. Jim Stevenson. The Nontraditional Pharmacist website.