Job Outlook for Pharmacists

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Job Outlook for Pharmacists 

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Pharmacist Demand

The demand for trained pharmacy professionals has increased in past years due to the rapid growth of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, especially for the growing elderly population. The number of pharmacists in healthcare services is also growing, as pharmacists become more actively involved in drug therapy decision-making for patients of all ages. There is good potential for advancement and competitive salaries within a pharmacy career. Those pharmacists who pursue additional graduate study and/or residency experience have greater mobility within the profession including areas of research, administration and business.

Shortage of Pharmacists

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."

In December 2000, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report, "The Pharmacy Workforce: A Study of the Supply and Demand for Pharmacists." This report, mandated by Congress, was conducted to determine whether and to what extent a shortage of pharmacists exists. The report concludes that there is an increasing demand for pharmacists' service that is outpacing the current and possibly future pharmacist supply. This conclusion is based largely on the growth of vacant positions across the entire range of pharmacy practice sites. "While the overall supply of pharmacists has increased in the past decade, there has been an unprecedented demand for pharmacists and for pharmaceutical care services, which has not been met by the currently available supply," the report says. The report also states that factors causing the shortage are not likely to abate in the near future.

Job prospects are expected to be good over the 2008-18 period. Employers in many parts of the country have previously reported difficulty in attracting and retaining adequate numbers of pharmacists. However, the economic downturn has impacted the need for pharmacists and the number of available hours for pharmacists to work and this is decreasing the level of difficulty in attracting pharmacists. The other factor that may affect job prospects is healthcare reform and its impact on the services that pharmacists provide and the manner that healthcare is delivered. This factor could be variable in either direction. Once the economy stabilizes, we may see a return to the excellent job prospects that have been experienced in the last five years.

Growth in the Healthcare Industry: Pharmacy's Role

The practice of pharmacy is a vital part of a complete healthcare system. The number of people requiring healthcare services has steadily increased, and this trend will likely continue. Due to many of society's changing social and health issues, men and women in pharmacy will face new challenges, expanded responsibilities and an ever-increasing growth in opportunities. Some of these healthcare issues include:

  • Increases in average life span and the increased incidence of chronic diseases;
  • The increased complexity, number, and sophistication of medications and related products and devices;
  • The increased emphasis on primary and preventive health services, home healthcare, and long-term care; and
  • Concerns about improving patients' access to healthcare, controlling its cost and assuring its quality.

Because of the large role that medications and their proper use play throughout these issues, pharmacists will have an important role in the future of healthcare.

Working Environment

Information about working conditions is provided by the 2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook.

"Pharmacists work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. Many pharmacists spend most of their workday on their feet. When working with sterile or dangerous pharmaceutical products, pharmacists wear gloves and masks and work with other special protective equipment. Many community and hospital pharmacies are open for extended hours or around the clock, so pharmacists may work nights, weekends, and holidays. Consultant pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or other facilities to monitor patients’ drug therapy."

About 21 percent of pharmacists worked part-time in 2004. Most full-time salaried pharmacists worked approximately 40 hours a week. Some, including many self-employed pharmacists, worked more than 50 hours a week.


The demand for pharmaceutical care services has resulted in a dramatic increase in salaries in all sectors of pharmacy. According to a 2011 survey by Drug Topics magazine, pharmacist yearly salaries range from $116,000 to $140,000.1

1"Drug Topics' 2012 Annual Salary Survey,", April 15, 2012.

Last updated on: 7/8/2013 9:09 AM 

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