“What Will Pharmacy Look Like in 2-5 years?”

August 19, 2015 • Pharmacy Careers • Views: 6158

Here at the Honest Apothecary Academy, questions are encouraged.  It is especially encouraging to hear students and prospective students asking really good questions about our profession and where it is headed.  One such question recently arrived in my in-box.  Here it is:

Hello, I am the student who messaged you on twitter. I had a few questions about the pharmacy field. When I first started reading about the pharmacy field on sites like USNEWS, everything seemed to be going well for Pharm graduates. But as I talk to some professors and other pharmacy students they say they have a very hard time finding a job. I wanted your honest opinion on how you think this field will look in 2-5 years.

Well that is a good question for sure.  Let’s see.  How shall I handle this?

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To begin with, as you know, all I can (or anyone can) give you is an “opinion.”  You stated that in your question and so obviously you understand this.  Also, if you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I probably fall somewhere in between the extremes on this issue.  Some think the whole profession is doomed.  Others think we are at the dawn of a golden age for pharmacy, that nothing is wrong and it could hardly be better.

What will this field look like in 2-5 years?

1)  I believe that wages will flatten and slightly start to decline (when adjusted for inflation) over the next 2-5 years for pharmacists holding “entry level” positions in our profession.  By that I mean your dispensing pharmacists as well as entry level non-dispensing roles (LTC, PBM, hospital). At the same time I think we will see continued modest growth in job opportunities and salaries for pharmacists in leadership roles such as directors and market managers. 

2)  I believe the market will continue to grow more saturated than it is today.  Entry jobs will likely be more difficult to find, particularly in markets where multiple schools of pharmacy are sprouting up.  If you want to relocate, look at a map of where all the schools of pharmacy are…and avoid these areas!  But the pharmacists who know how to network and keep their professional image clean will likely be the ones with the most options. 

3)  I think the above 2 factors will drive more pharmacists into non-tradition roles and opportunities.  More pharmacists will try their own businesses in an effort to escape the clutches of the alternative employers.  Some will discover that the thrill of “being your own boss” isn’t always all that it is cracked up to be.  To prepare for potential entrepreneurial roles, I would recommend adding an MBA or supplementing your degree quickly with an additional certification.  Not that these alone are enough, but they will open up opportunities and ideas for the creative pharmacist to explore.

4)  I personally think that some of the retail pharmacy settings that exist now will go out of existence, like Target did, due to failures on the profitability front.  Many (if not most) grocery store pharmacies fall into this category.  Granted, they will still be around in 5 years, but they are eventually going to go away.

5)  I would look hard at areas like Specialty pharmacy, home infusion, informatics and anything related to transitions-in-care.  These are growth areas in pharmacy  and health care that are likely to produce more jobs. 

6)  These days I typically ask students like yourself if you think you would be interested in some sort of prescribing career.  If so, consider medical school, Nurse Practitioner or a Physicians Assistant.

7)  Do you absolutely love pharmacy?  Are you passionate about medicine and pharmacology and therapeutics and patient care?  Then don’t let anything stop you.  Seriously.  Go for it.  Don’t listen to the doomsday prophets who will tell you the sky is falling.  It isn’t.  There are a lot of good things going on in the profession. 

And if everything else fails, you can always write a blog!

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