Pharmacist market saturation and career outlook – An overview

One of the main obstacles that recent PharmD graduates face is the challenge of finding a job right out of school. Whether it is due to saturation or a lack of experience, the dynamic field of pharmacy appears to raise concern for many, and statistics appear to support this concern. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is responsible for publishing employment trends and projections, there is an estimated 2% increase in pharmacist employment between 2021 and 2031. In 2021, there were 323,500 Pharmacist jobs, it is projected by 2031 that number will increase to 331,100 pharmacists jobs. Pharmacist median pay in 2021 was $128,570 per year. While the career outlook of a pharmacist may vary by industry, it is quite evident that most of the decline comes from the chain and independent pharmacies (Table 1).

Table 1. Employment projections for pharmacists in a retail versus non-retail setting.

Table 1 above accounts for 81% (or 261,200 of 323,500) of jobs that pharmacists have held in 2021, while the remaining 19% come from other industries that have a positive effect on the pharmaceutical workforce. A more detailed look at employment projections can be found here.

What can we take home from observing these statistics?

The demand for pharmacists who work in non-retail settings, such as hospitals and ambulatory care facilities, is set to increase over the next decade as the number of jobs are expected to grow. Alternatively, all retail positions, which make up over half of all pharmacy jobs, is projected to take a significant hit and decline over the next 10 years. Why might this be the case? This branch of pharmacy is expected to expand the role of pharmacy technicians and transition to greater use of mail order and online pharmacies. For example, Amazon has expanded its pharmacy by acquiring PillPack and then two years after, it debuted its own Amazon pharmacy. This online service is offered in all 50 states, and it offers most medications except Schedule II controlled substances.

How could you respond and move forward?

  • Build connections: Use platforms such as LinkedIn to expand your social network and connect and communicate with those in the same profession. Reach out to your school’s alumni network as you already have a shared connection of your alma mater to start off the conversation.
  • Be comfortable with being uncomfortable: Often you may find more opportunities outside of your city or state of preference. While this may seem unfavorable to begin with, coming out of you comfort zone will always pay off.
  • Be innovative and embrace change: Demonstrate your passion for excelling the pharmacy profession and show your willingness to flourish. Opportunities will come by with the right mindset.

Overall, pharmacist employment is on the uptrend. Even though some job settings have been seeing downtrends, it’s important to do your research to be well-rounded in knowing what your options are with your pharmacy degree for added job security and flexibility. There are ways to become a competitive individual for the pharmacy job market. It is important to identify areas you want to pursue to know the skills or the experiences you need in order to be a good candidate for your dream job.  

As always, best of luck!

Dagmara Zajac

RxPharmacist Team

References: 

  1. National Employment Matrix_occ_29-1051. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://data.bls.gov/projections/nationalMatrix?queryParams=29-1051&ioType=o. Accessed November 15, 2022.
  2. Pharmacists: Occupational outlook handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm#tab-1. Published September 8, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022.
  3. Alam S, Ly S. How to combat job market saturation. The Journal of the American Pharmacists Association. https://www.japha.org/article/S1544-3191(22)00098-X/fulltext. Accessed November 21, 2022.

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