Pharmacist Job Market Outlook – ASHP Midyear 2017 Day 3 (Tuesday)

Day 3 at ASHP 2017 has been a little more depressing due to the pharmacist job market.  I’ve been speaking to quite a few residents and students, and I seem to leave those conversations with pessimism.  The pharmacist job market feels bad.  Many students, residents, and young pharmacists from across the country are feeling the pinch of a surplus of graduates produced by colleges of pharmacy.  In addition, retail positions are diminishing due to automation, provider status has not happened yet, clinical positions are not expanding at the rate we would all hope, there are significantly more resident applications than residency positions, and student loan debt is piling up.  Future and recent graduates are bearing the burden of a challenging job market.  What would I do if I were graduating this May? Here’s a few ideas.

  1. Figure out what you want.  The classic examples that I always hear is do you want to do retail or do you want to work hospital?  There a dozens to hundreds of specialty and subspecialty niches within pharmacy.  Think marathon, not sprint.  Getting into a specialized position that you love may take years.  If you are unsure on this, try as many different things that you can and think about those days that you didn’t mind going to work or better yet, were actually excited to go to work.
  2. Become an expert at something.  This should correlate nicely with what you enjoy.  Experts are highly sought after by colleges of pharmacy as well as healthcare institutions.
  3. Learn how to solve real problems.  Whether its clinical pharmacy problems, or workflow issues, bring solutions and ideas to the table.  Anyone can identify problems, but not everyone can fix them.
  4. Minimize debt and expenses to the best of your ability.  As you go throughout your career, you may have to move, have the potential to get cut back, or possibly want to get out of a dead end job.  I’ve personally had to do this within the last few years.  Having financial freedom will give you more leverage to pursue what you want to do.
  5. Embrace automation/technology.  It isn’t going away, and if you like the technology side, I think you could make a very nice living helping institutions harness the power of some of the inventions that will be coming down the road.
  6. Practice soft skills.  Our role as caregivers will expand.  I believe provider status will happen.  Technology has incredible value, but you can’t teach a robot how to empathize with a patient who stopped taking her diabetes medication because their spouse recently passed away.
  7. Don’t lose hope. It is so easy to get discouraged and I find myself getting down on myself from time to time when things don’t go as planned.  Look back at how far you have come and recognize that any setback is an opportunity to explore and do something different.

Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP

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  1. Shelley

    Great post! I switched from retail to hospital last year but luckily I had completed a residency years ago so the tradition wasn’t too bad! I tell every new grad now to try different things and always have a a per diem somewhere else!

    • Eric Christianson

      Thanks Shelley!

  2. Dipali Kadiwar

    Excellent advice!

  3. mellisa

    Great saying , 80 percent of pharmacist get jobs in retail , its easy and quick money . Let me tell you even though you work for chain 15 years they have no respect for you . They will give less help and more productivity.
    Very less Pharmacist has passion for patients. Even corporate does not want to fix a store . It is getting difficult .

  4. Lauren M Harding

    As a pharmacist with 30 years experience in consulting, retail, managed care, ambulatory care, PBM, Research, management etc. and ‘only’ an RPh degree, I am now seeing divisiveness in the field with even the Pharm D being insufficient for many jobs…you need a residency or specialization, which seems to be a cash cow for many. Recently, I branched out into the field of precision medicine/pharmacogenomics in the capacity of educator/advisor/marketer and have become a health coach to segway into the field of nutrigenomics. I have to say I feel very fortunate to have found/created this opportunity. My advice as an older veteran RPh is to stay current, find your passion and don’t be afraid to try new and ‘out of the box’ opportunities that bring you happiness and fulfillment. If anyone is interested in learning more about an opportunity in the field I am working in currently, just reach out to me and I will get you some information!

    • Darin

      Can i hear more about this?

  5. Prachi

    Thank you for the great advice! I’m a new pharmacist on the market this year and getting a job is hard. I’m interested in informatics but it’s hard to get a job because they ask for clinical experience and I just have retail experience. Anyone have any advice that can help you stand out for informatics jobs if you don’t have clinical experience? Thank you!


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Written By Eric Christianson

December 5, 2017

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