Megatrends: The Oversupply of Pharmacists and What Needs to Be Done About It

The industry is going to have to get creative to help find solutions to the overabundance of qualified pharmacists in the field today.

I ended the year 2011 with ten Megatrends that affect the profession, and we promised to continue the conversation online at my blog. One of my Megatrends in the December 2011 Editor’s Note was “Oversupply of Pharmacists.” I tried to put a positive spin on this nerve-wracking topic by suggesting that it will force new pharmacy graduates to market themselves to new types of employers—perhaps as a financial analyst for an investment company—where the type of education pharmacists receive will become recognized as true skill sets that can be applied to analysis of stocks. Success in such an arena for one or more pharmacists might create a future job market for many pharmacy graduates. Perhaps I am stretching here but I am trying to do some “out of the box” thinking. Can you help me think of some new arenas where pharmacy education might apply?

But that process will be hit-or-miss at first. Trying to identify those potential employers will not be easy. Making a case of why they should hire a pharmacist will take some creativity. Getting an interview to make the case will take a lot of effort. Why might it happen? Because it looks as if the 2012 graduating class is going to have a hard time finding a job.

Someone suggested that pharmacy is facing what lawyers faced a few years ago where this year’s graduates start competing with last year’s graduates for the same jobs. The caliber of today’s graduates, as I suggested in my Megatrends, is superb. But they will be forced to become truly creative in seeking employment.

The next few years will be tough, but ultimately I think the job situation and oversupply of pharmacists can actually help us advance pharmacy into new arenas. What’s the alternative?

Extremely well-trained pharmacists with a large debt load working as a pharmacy cashier is not the answer. Although a call for a new study of pharmacy workforce needs is warranted, such a study will not help those in school now or those graduating in 2012 or 2013. Finding new places to work—using that excellent training—seems to be one answer.

“According to Ron Cameron, president of a temporary pharmacy staffing firm, pharmacists’ are down 10%—17%,” C. Richard Talley wrote in the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (Talley, CR; Am J Health-Syst Pharm 68:2127). If that’s true, how long will the pharmacy applicant pool include very talented candidates? If some of the new pharmacy schools, as I have heard, were open to bring financial resources into the university systems, what will happen to the quality of the pharmacy graduates as standards are lowered to admit less qualified students to keep classes full? We can all probably agree that some graduates will be less qualified.

We all have an interest in this problem, even those pharmacists who are getting ready to retire. Coming up with creative ideas of possible new employers for the new pharmacy graduates is where I think we need to start to begin to address this critical problem. What do you think?