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    Do new pharmacists face a joblessness crisis?

    An overestimation of future pharmacist jobs plus too many pharmacy schools will lead to a joblessness crisis for new pharmacy students, predicts a recent report in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education.

    The report was written by Daniel L. Brown, PharmD, professor of pharmacy practice at the Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida. 

    “The PharmD degree became a hot commodity, generating a seemingly inexhaustible supply of applicants to colleges and schools of pharmacy. Inevitably, higher education came to see pharmacy as a golden goose,” the report said.

    “But no goose harbors an infinite supply of golden eggs, and the inordinate rate of academic growth that ensued has put the academy at risk, along with its students,” the report said.

    Brown attributes the start of the predicted crisis to the 2001 Pharmacy Manpower Project, which estimated a shortfall of 157,000 full-time pharmacists by 2020. He said that analysis assumed the addition of only 3 new PharmD programs every 10 years.  

    “In 2000, there were 80 colleges and schools of pharmacy in the United States. Since then, 48 new programs have been established and 2 schools combined into 1 college, bringing the total to 127 accredited colleges and schools as of fall 2012—a 60% increase from 2000,” the report said.

    It continued: “By 2016, when the graduates of these colleges and schools are included in the count and when the recent expansion of existing programs has taken effect, the number of PharmD graduates will range between 14,000 and 15,000 per year, more than double the number in 2001.”

    Brown said the 2001 job projections report also assumed an increase in pharmacist jobs due to a shift away from dispensing toward primary care services. “This role transformation is simply not happening, at least not at the rate or extent predicted,” the report said.

    Brown’s report cites the 2009 National Pharmacist Workforce Survey, which said 70% of pharmacist time in the community setting is devoted to dispensing, with just 10% spent on patient care activities. In hospitals and other patient care settings, 43% of pharmacist time was allocated to dispensing activities, compared to 27% allocated for direct patient care, according to the 2009 report.

    “There is no disputing that direct patient care jobs for pharmacists outside of acute care facilities have been slow to develop. Furthermore, not much has changed in community pharmacy practice to enhance the level of direct patient care services provided with every prescription,” the report said. “Community pharmacy jobs are still more closely linked to prescription volume than to the demand for patient care services.”

    Brown predicts a stark market correction. “New PharmD and/or residency graduates will not be the only victims of academic overgrowth. The academy itself will suffer repercussions. Awareness of new graduate joblessness will eventually lead to a decrease in applications to pharmacy colleges and schools, making it more difficult to meet enrollment targets,” the report said. “Risks of diminished enrollment will jeopardize anticipated tuition revenue that has been counted on to fund faculty positions and/or new facilities. Economic pressures may inevitably force downsizing of programs, if not outright closing of some colleges and schools. If that occurs, some faculty positions likely will be lost.”

    The report recommends tough medicine for pharmacy schools and the pharmacy industry. “Growth of the academy needs to cease forthwith. Institutions considering establishment of a new PharmD program should be discouraged from doing so by all sectors of the profession. Existing programs contemplating expansion should seriously consider putting their plans on hold,” the report said.

    It added: “All of the profession’s organizations need to focus more heavily on establishing new pharmacist roles and activities that will create sustainable jobs as rapidly as possible.”

    Mark Lowery, Editor
    Mark Lowery an Editor for Drug Topics magazine.

    12 Comments

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    • Anonymous
      cvs /walgreens have made such strong efforts to suoport the increasing number of pharmacy schools. Their motivation seems to be to ruin the profession. They are already cutting hours changing the definition of what full time is. They are creating very hostile work enviroments most people are working "scared" everyone with high student loans can't afford to be out of work.The companies are very quick to say that all policies are to increase patient care,but this is not true. It is all about the bottom line.Pharmacists are being put into questionable circumstances, fear is stopping them from questioning.Every one should look up on google the increasing number of class action law suits being brought against these companies for age/wage/and other discriminatory actions.As a 30 year veteran of the profession it saddens me to see our professional down turn. As a very recent example cvs last month made all employees sign away there rights to law suits and accept company arbitration. When I first graduated the pharmacists were a proud and very respected group,always being no. 1 in the gallup poles for most respected professions.That was something to be proud of,during that time our ability to give advise and counceling was at its peak.We are now looking at a house cards that is ready to fall apart.God help us all
    • Anonymous
      How do we get the pharmacy schools to cut on their class size? How do we let our voice be heard regarding class size & limiting the number of new Pharmacy programs? Is ACPE the organization that can address these concerns?
    • Anonymous
      The drug chains are shifting our jobs to technicians. In Florida an attempt is being made to increase the ratio to 6 to 1 !. There should be a law requiring these corporations to hire 1 pharmacist for each 100 rx's per day. The volume of rx's per day these companies expect one pharmacist to properly dispense between each flu shot or other task they dream up is nothing but reckless endangerment.
    • TonyGuerra
      I created a response on YouTube called "No jobs for pharmacists?" on my Tony PharmD channel, and I assert that there is a solution, but it would require pharmacy schools to work together for what's best for the professionals in all pharmacy schools (the students) and not just their own college of pharmacy no matter how prestigious or new using our understanding of competitive behavior.
    • ROBERTLEWINTER
      Has Dr. Brown taken into consideration the new California laws declaring pharmacists as providers and expanding their clinical involvement with patients? As California goes, so goes the Nation.
    • Anonymous
      Direct patient care does not generate any direct income (sales etc.) and actually takes away from prescription time. That is all that corporate sees. The value added and resultant loyalty (cannot put a price on that) and increased sales (much indirect, referrals etc... forget it, they will never see it. That is why these services that academia sees as so necessary are not growing. Even in hospital pharmacy. There are many nice and wonderful things that can be done it's just that nobody wants to pay us for them. Your department get's no more budget and you can deduce the rest.
    • MorganWilliams
      The pharmacy schools don't care who gets a job as long as they have enrollment. It is a money making process that backfires on the graduate. Now all I have is a BS, and I can't get a job. I was fired 5 years ago; job openings now require a PharmD, making my education obsolete. People told me while I was in pharmacy school that I would always have a job. I don't know who to blame for the oversupply, but someone needs to be accountable. The pharmacy schools need to be sued.
    • Anonymous
      Academia has always been the bane of Clinical Pharmacists. The PharmD degree never should have been an entry level program, but the allure of an extra year of tuition from all students was too much to pass up. It will be interesting to see if programs will cut back on the number of admissions they allow or will they kill the goose that laid the golden egg and the rest of us will suffer.
    • Anonymous
      All of the schools churning out pharmacists.But the ART is being lost by the $$$$
    • Anonymous
      It is much too easy to get a license for out of country pharmacists,. Many cannot communicate well with Americans, although they can speak and write in English. Dangerous for patients. Take a good look at retail in many states. Look who is running the Pharmacy? Many do not understand the culture or local mannerisms of our language.. And many are graduating from all of the new schools.. Something is wrong here?
    • Anonymous
      does it mean that we have to throw away all those with different color ,accent ,or religion or any differences outside the country because they do not match ours ,me as American with a very high education never think that way [ i never hate ,i never discriminate] i do not know because i got all what i need or it is my gene ,all of us we do no have to forget our founded father constitution to build up a healthy nation ,and everybody has the freedom to chose wherever you go,it is free America that built up on the shoulders and brains of those ,i have been operated once by the hand [brain] of one those genus and he did a wonderful job ..
    • Anonymous
      This article does not address the resultant negative impact on salaries due to more supply than demand.