The economic downturn of the last few years affected the growth of many healthcare professions, including pharmacists. Fewer retail stores were built than projected, leading to decreased demand for retail pharmacists. The expansion in the number of pharmacy schools probably is also a contributing factor. Some have wondered whether the profession will ever return to the glory days when sign-on bonuses were the norm and every graduate had a job lined up before they even passed the board exam. Current pharmacy students are wondering whether they will be able to find a job after graduation and how will they afford the enormous school debt that is earning interest. Although, the job situation for retail and hospital pharmacists may not be as plentiful as in the past, pharmacy is not a dead profession. There is an opportunity for those who choose non-traditional roles and the future looks very bright for the profession.
Pharmacists play an important role in the care of patients and in other areas of the healthcare industry. Pharmacists in the community and hospital setting ensure that patients receive the right medications. They also advise patients regarding medicines, including how to take them, what reactions could happen, and about drug interactions. They are a major resource for medical information in hospitals, clinics, community pharmacies, and many other settings. One major advantage of having a doctor of pharmacy degree (PharmD) is the variety of opportunities that are available. When most people think of the pharmacy profession they think about the community, hospital, or clinic pharmacist. Although community and hospital pharmacies are the top employers, pharmacy jobs or jobs that require a pharmacist’s knowledge are available in other areas of healthcare or related industries. The pharmaceutical industry is such an example. Many pharmaceutical company jobs are a close match with PharmD training. Some entry level jobs are available immediately after graduation but many jobs require a fellowship/residency, experience, or additional credentials. Other non-traditional pharmacy jobs include pharmacy consultant, nuclear pharmacy, regulatory jobs at the FDA, and academia. Recently, a new type of pharmacy job called medication therapy management (MTM) pharmacist or personal pharmacist has emerged and is growing. MTM pharmacists provide face-to-face comprehensive medication consultation and bill for their services independent of drug dispensing. Many experts believe that this is the future of the pharmacy profession.
In addition to diverse opportunities, pharmacists also enjoy very high starting salaries compared with most health professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012 Handbook, the median salary for pharmacists was $111,570 in 2010. Top earners earned more than $138,620 annually. Pharmacists are one of the highest paid professionals in the healthcare industry. The job outlook is very favorable for pharmacists. Between 2010 and 2020 the Bureau of Labor projects a 25% growth in the number of pharmacy jobs. This is faster than projected growth for all occupations and is similar to the projected growth in nursing jobs (26%). Factors that may contribute to this future growth include new drug approvals, more insured individuals, aging population, older pharmacists retiring, and a shift in demand for more pharmacists to provide patient counseling services (medication therapy management).
Given the variety of pharmacy jobs, pay, and growth trends, a pharmacist career is still very promising. Those embarking on a pharmacy career should prepare themselves to work in non-traditional settings and seriously consider residencies, fellowships, and other advanced training so they can be more competitive and prepared to practice in new care models that are being implemented, and are a paradigm shift for the pharmacy profession. The pharmacy profession is slowly shifting but it is not dead.
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