Pharmacy Job Outlook – 5 Ways to Make Yourself Recession Proof

I usually try to ignore this stuff, because it doesn’t do any good to worry about the pharmacy job outlook.  I love what I do and have no intention of switching professions, but for me, the pharmacy job outlook recently got a little more personal as two friends I spoke with within the last six months have been impacted with companies cutting back.  These friends are good people who work hard. They are not slackers by any means.  Harry Truman said, “It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”  These recent experiences lead me to think the recession is here.

I’m not an expert at this topic, but I know what I see, and from a professional working out in the field, the pharmacy job outlook isn’t getting better.  I did a quick google search and found that American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is promoting this on their website “A shortfall of as many as 157,000 pharmacists is predicted by 2020 according to the findings of a conference sponsored by the Pharmacy Manpower Project, Inc. Complete findings are detailed in the final report, “Professionally Determined Need for Pharmacy Services in 2020.”  They also cite a report from 2000.  Yes, that Y2K that was 15 years ago and nearly 50 less pharmacy schools.  There’s getting to be plenty of anecdotal data, and now more solid literature to refute what AACP is promoting.

I know what 100,000+ in debt feels like, and while I wholeheartedly take responsibility for my debt, I also had a very good job market (at least for a couple years) when I came out of school.  Put yourself in the shoes of a new grad – imagine 200k worth of debt in an average to poor job market.

Pharmacists better get used to the fact that the job market isn’t going to be as good as it was even just 3-5 years ago, and for new graduates with high amounts of debt (I know, I’ve talked to them and am still trying to tackle my own), that’s a bleak picture.

I want to provide something of value here and not simply just identify problems about what’s going on, so what should you do if you are in pharmacy school or a relatively new graduate who needs a job and cares about the profession?

1.  Show up early, stay late, and work efficiently.  No one owes you anything, just because you have a PharmD.

2.  People know people who are looking for employees who will do number 1(work hard).  If no one knows you, you drastically reduce the number of opportunities available to you. A strong network is so important.  Working hard hasn’t been an issue for me, but networking has historically been a huge weakness for me.  My personality trends more towards the introvert side, but this blog has certainly benefitted me greatly in that department.

3.  Expand your toolbox by volunteering to take on new tasks that no one else wants to.  Be irreplaceable.  If you’re looking to improve your clinical skills, I’m creating a clinical pharmacy Ebook, subscribers will be the first to be notified of this limited time FREE offer!  Click here to subscribe

4.  You have to do things to set yourself apart – Certifications, presentations, community involvement etc.  Take advantage of any on-the-job training a company is willing to give you.

5.  Pay off your debt as fast as you can.  While money can allow you to do some really cool stuff and buy you some really cool things, the most important aspect of money is its ability to provide freedom to do what you want to do.  Being tied to a job you don’t like simply for the paycheck is a bad long term plan.

Eric Christianson, PharmD, CGP, BCPS

Ever thought about taking the BCPS exam?  The 2015 Spring Edition is available – Take the 200 question BCPS practice exam – it will help you prepare to pass the first time!




  1. Annek

    Working smart is more important than working hard. ( not that you shouldn’t do the latter)
    I have a story to share: There was a man who watched a labourer digging holes every day and another labourer who would come after and fill the holes . After a few days of watching this, he asked the labourers why they were doing this. The response was” We just do what we always get paid to do. Except a few days ago, they eliminated the middle job of the man who plants the trees. So we just carry on doing what we always did.”
    Our profession needs to start thinking outside of the box.
    I read articles about nurses providing medication teaching for geriatrics on Falls prevention. Nurses are recommending and teaching about medications for diabetes. The list goes on. Other disciplines are recommending medication therapies as well : eg: physios are recommending antiinflammatories or discussing side effects of meds causing gait problems.
    Nurses are prescribing and pharmacists are filling their prescriptions.
    Why are we not doing this? Medication therapy and disease states are our specialty.
    There are jobs, but they are being taken up by other disciplines.
    We need to compete for those positions. We need to be more aggressive.
    So working hard really may not get you ahead. Pharmacies in retail and hospitals are turning into assembly lines, with very high volumes . We all are working hard. Does the public see this? I am not so sure.
    Working smart, thinking outside of the box in terms of the pharmacist role in the future is the way to go.
    Lets go for those other jobs that are being given out to other disciplines when it relates to medications. That is our niche, not theirs.

    • chri1599

      A few good points…I definitely don’t think the majority of the public has a very good understanding of what pharmacists do. Sometimes I’m not sure other healthcare professionals know exactly what we can do as well. That was one of the many goals of this website is to get those stories out in a public forum, demonstrating the value of what we do. I know I’ve talked to patients who didn’t really realize that a hospital has pharmacists working there. I don’t think that’s the public’s fault by the way. It is ours.

    • Bigyan Gurung

      well put. I hope to be able to do so in UK.

      • chri1599

        Thanks! – Someone suggested residency should be on that list and that’s a great point, add it to trying to set yourself apart…

  2. tony

    Do us RPhs have any hope if the pharmds are worrying?

  3. Demetra Antimisiaris

    Annek, you are right on. Us pharmacists have a vast competitive edge in quality of medication management. And Eric, you are right on too about being a diligent worker.
    And thank you for supporting our profession with your ebook and forum because this is exactly the barrier that has been the Achilles heel for us pharmacist…take if from an old timer…we have a history of being individualistic which is why we are loosing our seat at the table to the nursing cohort who are very united, coordinated and loyal as a group.
    When I was in school and younger, I didn’t much make time for professional organizations. I was precisely the typical independent personality pharmacist, but now I am grateful for the professional organizations like ASCP and APhA and more because over the history of my career, I witnessed them create, and provide the infrastructure with training and lobbying to get us to the verge of provider status. In essence, they opened a closed door for us and provide resources (in their journals, website, training and meetings) for folks who are post grad to access post grad training. (example: CGP and ASCP) This is why our participation and support is not only important for them but for us.
    RPh Tony, of course there’s hope. I work with and know so many folks with RPh training who know so much more than me about areas of pharmacy that I was not even trained in at all. Especially those who did post grad training such as MS or PhD.
    I did my PharmD at a time where there were more BSc programs than PharmD so I lived through a shift in the training towards clinical. Our school had both, so we received a heavy pharmacognosy and biopharmaceutics curriculum which has come in handy because with the increasing interdisciplinary nature of patient care, (like patient centered medical home and bundled quality outcomes linked payments), no stake holder has more know how about those topics than the RPh. No doubt clinical is important but there is little competition at the table from nursing or anyone, physicians, for drug administration know how, drug storage, and the like.
    Also, I always kindly encourage my pharm rotation students to do post grad education. They don’t want to hear it, because they are weary from their long schooling already, but getting certification and post grad training (even if you can’t do a residency) is key because when resources dwindle, on paper, and in reality, strengthening documented expertise is the key to qualification. And, you can do that in any situation. Even if a person doesn’t go back to grad school, residency, they can get diabetic provider certification or MTM certification. It all helps! Admittedly, it may happen that credentialing of the future may require residency training, but for now, taking the BCPS or CGP courses and exams goes a long way to help.
    Just aside, I work with our nursing school and have been on a couple of nursing PhD committees. These post grad students tell me that all healthcare is moving towards increased credentialing. It is what it is. Interesting discussion, sorry for the long post but I am to encouraged to see us discussing this topic. It is the first step to solving the problem! Thanks to all for the forum and post.

  4. Angie Choiniere

    There is a large pool of 50+ year old pharmacists who would love to retire and in past years would be retired but are now forced to keep working for no other reason than health insurance coverage. Provide true healthcare coverage for all and watch how fast jobs come open for younger pharmacists.

  5. Melissa Konrad

    I’ve been out of the practice for a few years due to a medical condition, which is now resolved. I am ready to go back to work but would like to brush up on my knowledge and set myself apart for job applications. Would earning a CGP be an option for me?

  6. Alan Slutsky

    Well said but very valuable. Establishing a positive work ethic is the key to being remembered as an employee or student. Twenty years from now , that will be your trade mark , when your past student may be your future boss.

  7. Demetra Antimisiaris

    Even if you have been out of practice a bit, the certifications of any type are a great goal to work towards. They ” force” you to study and become up to date. Don’t be afraid to ” fail” the exam, you can always retake it.
    Another method to increase skills and network is to attend conferences: either national or local CPE events. Although free online CPE is convenient, there is no substitute for the live interaction, discussing the unpublished details and collegiality of conferences. Investing in yourself is always worth while: if you don’t, who will?

    • chri1599

      I think that is a great point about the fear of failure…Myself and I’m sure everyone out there who’s taken these certification exams experiences that anxiety of being scared to fail. Life will not end if you fail a certification exam. I feel that fear every time I release a new blog post – what if I messed up, what if I didn’t say something right or explain something well enough etc… Don’t let your comfort zone stop you from trying to self-improve.

      • Sheshagiri Gandasi

        There you are Eric! Skies will not fall, if you fail in your effort in passing an exam or if you have erred in your blog. That opens up an opportunity to correct your mistakes and come out much stronger than ever before. You need to conquer the fear of failure, if you wish to succeed.

        • Eric Christianson

          I try to master the fear of failure every day! It keeps coming back 🙂

  8. New Grad PharmD

    Two things I’d add to your list. One is that attending live CE to network, while daunting, is worth it. Most pharmacists also kind of despise it so you will always be in good company at conferences (plus you can geek out about things and have someone else just as excited). The other thing is being willing to relocate and accepting that staying put may mean unemployment for a time with the tight market. I just took a position in a rural area after applying for many like it while I’ve applied for zero urban or suburban openings in the same month because there were none.


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Written By Eric Christianson

March 4, 2015

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