How to Negotiate a Raise for Obtaining Pharmacy Certifications
By Alex Barker, Pharm.D
Most pharmacists know that there are a wide range of pharmacy certifications available, including the Board Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (BCGP) – formerly called CGP, Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist (BCPS), Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacists (BCACP) and others based on specialty area. In addition to providing you with some very professional-looking letters behind your name, these advanced certifications can also translate into extra cash in your paycheck—with a little research, finesse and the right approach.
Regardless of your industry, certifications are a great way to distinguish yourself in a busy marketplace. With the pharmacy job market growing more competitive by the minute, specialty certifications will help you stand out and provide an avenue to open negotiations for higher pay.
Because your boss probably is not going to offer you more money, I developed a simple, step-by-step path to help you successfully negotiate a raise based on your new pharmacy certification. Stick around until the end because I’ll share more about a step-by-step guide on salary and negotiation guide.
Step 1: Create Value
In this job market, obtaining advanced credentials doesn’t guarantee a higher salary. In order to make your certification work for you, you first must have a great relationship with your boss and your team. A boss who likes you will be more likely to give you a promotion, write stellar performance reviews for you and lobby for an increase in your salary if need be.
If you don’t already have that kind of relationship with your boss, you need to become the kind of person he or she can count on before you enter into raise negotiations. You need to demonstrate that you are willing to go the extra mile to help your boss and your teammates by showing up a little early if needed, staying a little late when necessary, volunteering for projects and performing small acts of thoughtfulness, such as remembering to say “happy birthday” to your co-workers.
Over time, these little things can help you create value and make yourself indispensable. If your boss thinks you are just another pharmacist, he or she won’t have much incentive to give you a raise regardless of what certifications you may obtain—and may even consider replacing you with a newer, younger pharmacist that can be paid less.
Step 2: Establish Return on Investment (ROI)
Your new certification will enable you to do new things and provide new services to your patients, which will translate to more profit for your company. However, you need to think like your boss (or entrepreneur) in order to establish ROI and convince your boss to pay you more.
Often, establishing ROI can be the most challenging step for pharmacists because we are not taught to think like entrepreneurs. Here’s an example to help you understand how you can establish ROI:
If you are the owner of St. John Doe hospital, you want your pharmacy department to drive profits. The services and products that your pharmacy sells will make money for the hospital as long as the products and services are sold to patients for more than they cost to procure. Between salary and benefits, employing a pharmacist costs the hospital a lot of money. So, in order to generate value for the hospital, the pharmacists need to create more services for which they can charge patients. One way to develop new services is to encourage pharmacists to obtain additional certifications that allow them to perform new functions. When pharmacist Smith becomes a Certified Anticoagulation Care Provider (CACP), he achieves a status to use special billing codes to provide specialized services to his patients.
Applying entrepreneurial thinking to the above example, you can demonstrate ROI by figuring out how much additional revenue will be generated each time pharmacist Smith uses those special billing codes. By multiplying the amount of additional revenue by the number of patients who could potentially receive these services, you should be able to come up with monthly, quarterly and yearly estimates of how much additional revenue pharmacist Smith’s certification will generate for the hospital.
Step 3: Create Your Case
The most important trick to creating a case for your raise is to think of how your certification will benefit others, mainly your company, your boss and your boss’s boss. Now that you’ve figured out ROI, you can start to think about all the ways that your certification could benefit your company.
Although it is tempting to think only of the benefits a certification could provide for you and your career, this narrow thinking could cause your raise request to be denied. Your case for a raise must revolve around what your boss cares about the most.
And in order to figure out what he or she thinks is most important, you should ask yourself these questions: What is my boss always nagging staff to do? What is he or she always harping about?
Although money is usually a primary concern for administrators and managers, it isn’t always the only concern. Be sure to also look for “wins” in other areas, such as patient safety, prestige for your organization or attracting a particular type of sought-after patient.
Let’s say, for example, that your boss is in charge of a new initiative on patient safety. Your case for a raise should focus on how your new certification can improve patient safety and be supported by research to back up your claims.
If you need help getting started with your research, you should begin by checking online for reports or studies related to the certification you hope to obtain and the initiative that is top-of-mind for your boss. Many hospitals, nonprofits and associations provide studies and reports on the benefits of various certifications. For example, the Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy provides several potentially beneficial statistics on their page for employers.
It also will help to have an idea about what other pharmacists are being paid in your area or industry. Our 2017 Pharmacy Salary Guide is a great place to start for an overview of what pharmacists make in different work settings. It also includes a state-by-state salary breakdown based on the latest employment data.
Step 4: Get an Outside Opinion
After you develop your case, it is critical to get an outside opinion from someone that you trust. You should present your case to them just as you plan to present it to your boss and ask them to provide feedback. Bonus points if you have an administrator or pharmacist-turned-manager in your network who will agree to help you.
Taking your pitch for a test drive will allow you to practice your delivery and add a layer of polish that can help to make it more appealing to your boss. Getting feedback from an administrator or manager also can help you to time the pitch correctly. For example, a manager may advise you to avoid asking for a raise near the end of the year when financial reports are being prepared, especially if your company is losing money.
Step 5: Talk to Your Manager
Now that you’ve created value, established ROI, crafted your pitch and incorporated outside feedback, it’s time to talk to your boss. Although you might be feeling nervous, try to remember that you are simply having a discussion with your boss about your work and how it may be impacted by your certification. Stay calm. Your worst fear will likely not come true.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid making the session exclusively about your demands and what you expect. You should make an effort to find out what your certification options are by asking questions and having a give-and-take with your boss. Some good questions for discussion include:
- What has happened to other pharmacists who have obtained this certification?
- Could you see us offering new services to patients?
- How could the company benefit from this service?
- Would you be willing to review my research on how this certification could boost the company’s revenue?
- Would the company be able to support me as I work to obtain my certification?
If you get really lucky, you might find that your company has a policy already in place that provides extra compensation for obtaining certain certifications regardless of employee performance (if this is the case, you can ignore everything you’ve read so far). Or, you might be pleasantly surprised when your boss offers to pay for you to obtain your certification or allows you to study on the job.
Step 6: Don’t Give Up
Even if your boss denies your raise request, it doesn’t have to be the end of your certification journey. Instead, see it as an opportunity to reevaluate and determine your next steps.
Maybe you simply need to adjust your timing or wait another six months to revisit the discussion with your boss. Or, maybe you need to spend some time boosting your value to the company or shoring up your pitch.
You may find that it would make sense for you to pursue the certification without the support of your company—especially if you think it will open up new job opportunities that pay better, offer more flexibility and have better work hours. Your certification may even allow you to pick up a side job and earn some extra money in a growing specialty area, such as ambulatory care.
If you think certification is the right path for you, this step-by-step process will give you the road map and the confidence to turn your knowledge and hard work—and those letters behind your name—into extra cash while providing additional benefits to your company and your patients. If you’d like a more in-depth approach, check out my new ebook A Pharmacist’s Guide to Salary and Benefit