Starting as early as 2008, there were whispers going around about the pending pharmacist market saturation. I had concerns back in 2009 and started to question whether I would graduate with a job. There have been studies suggesting an impending doom for pharmacists in the future. Is this true? The answer is “maybe“. We can use data and history to make projections, however, projections do not equal outcomes.

Example: History tells us there is a major earthquake due in Seattle, WA within the next 300 years. It could easily stretch several thousand years from now, there is no way to predict the actual outcome. Another example would be the current bull run in the stock market is due for a correction. Every 7 years there has been a major correction evinced by history. Will it happen this year? Maybe. Thus projecting pharmacy saturation is a best guess estimate and does not equate to outcomes. There will be many factors contributing the overall pharmacist job market.

Is the Pharmacist Market Saturated?

Arguments for Pharmacist Saturation: Dr. Daniel Brown, PharmD wrote an article “A Looming Joblessness Crisis for New Pharmacy Graduates and the Implications it Holds for the Academy“. To break it down Dr. Brown suggests there will be a 20% unemployment rate for new pharmacy graduates by the year 2018. He utilizes trends in pharmacy employment and education to make projections. There has been a huge growth in pharmacy graduates in the past 15 years. In 2001, new pharmacy graduates totaled 7000 compared to 15,000 annually by 2018. There has been class size growth and many new pharmacy schools opening around the nation causing this dramatic output of new pharmacy graduates. Dr. Brown suggests the pharmacist job market can support about 10-12,000 new graduates a year. That leaves you about 3,000 new graduates without jobs, hence the 20% unemployment rate.

  • New Pharmacy Schools
  • Increase Class Size Growth
  • Pharmacist are working longer into typical retirement years
  • The Great Recession
  • Automation and higher work production

Arguments Against Pharmacist Saturation: The data demonstrates dramatic increase in pharmacy graduates in the past decade. The obvious question is whether there will be enough jobs to support the current supply of pharmacists coming out of pharmacy school. One argument supporting the pharmacist job market is the Affordable Care Act and Provider Status. This has added millions of uninsured patients to the healthcare system. This puts stress on the overall healthcare system therefore limiting access to healthcare for some patients. Pharmacists can step in to fill the void. It has already happened in the state of Washington. Here is an excerpt from Jeff Rochon, PharmD the CEO of Washington State Pharmacy Association:

“After decades of fighting for recognition as care providers, we finally have a victory to celebrate. As you may have heard, ESSB 5557 has passed with overwhelming bipartisan support from the legislature and Governor Jay Inslee (D) is tentatively scheduled to sign the bill into law on Monday, May 11th. ESSB 5557 requires health insurance carriers to recognize pharmacists in the same way as other providers such as physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Sponsored by Senator Linda Parlette, this landmark law will be the first of its kind in the country to increase patient access to medical care from pharmacists practicing within their scope of practice. We are proud that Washington State pharmacists continue to lead the way in providing innovative, quality care to patients.”

This expansion of pharmacist billing for healthcare services should spur job growth in the near future. This is groundbreaking news that should have all states looking ahead to join. There are other states with provider status for pharmacists, however, they do not include language in the legislation directly addressing reimbursement.

To Summarize: Pharmacy is an ever evolving career. Pharmacists will continue to expand healthcare services in the coming years. Provider status has always been the achilles heel for pharmacist being able to bill for their services to insurance companies. Many states across the nation are beginning to obtain Provider Status. In addition, Washington State is the first to include language in the legislation requiring health insurance carriers to recognize pharmacists in the same way as other providers such as physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants. Will this be enough to create jobs for all the new pharmacy graduates in the coming years? Only time will tell.

I hope the recommendations above will help guide, motivate, and inspire you to achieve your goals. Follow my blog for more tips and advice on finances and being a pharmacist. What are your experiences? Please comment below and share your thoughts.