Job prospects for pharmacists remain strong despite some weakness in the retail/community sector nationally.
Professor Jim Clem, associate dean for student services in the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions at South Dakota State University, said the school continues to have 100% job placement.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 2% decline in the number of pharmacists between 2020 and 2030 (from 322,200 to 315,200). But the statisticians still predict 11,300 job openings annually.
At Mayo Clinic, “positions are consistently opening up,” according to Garrett Schramm, director of pharmacy education and academic affairs at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science. “I would say the organization I work for, we own our own retail and specialty pharmacies. We’re hiring as strong as ever. In communities across Minnesota, we are seeing needs in all areas.”
Tom Johnson, a 1997 North Dakota State University grad and vice president of hospital pharmacy with Avera Health in Sioux Falls, said while community pharmacists and hospital-based pharmacists will still be the most common positions, “the key to the growth is jobs that will be in some of the more alternative places.”
Alternative places include working for pharmacy manufacturers or insurers or with specialty pharmacies, integrated care teams or in ambulatory care, he said.
At Lewis Drug, the dominant regional chain, hiring has been “pretty consistent year over year at eight to 12 pharmacists,” according to Jessica Strobl, a 2004 SDSU graduate and vice president of professional services. Lewis has 155 pharmacists at 57 locations in three states.
“Community pharmacy now may not look like it did 10 years ago, and it may look different again 10 years from now, but community pharmacists will remain an imperative point of contact to help patients get healthy and stay healthy so we will continue to need pharmacists who are willing to evolve with the profession,” Strobl said.
Schramm, a 2004 SDSU graduate who has been at Mayo Clinic since 2006, agreed with Strobl’s assessment.
“The role of the pharmacist will completely evolve. What a pharmacist is doing today, they won’t be doing later in their career. Part of that is because of the way pharmacy is evolving; part of it is because of what our patients are demanding. The convenience of a virtual patient care visit, taking care of patients in their own home will become common.
“If you are in a small rural community with an internet connection you can connect to any pharmacist,” Schramm said.
He added, “We’re hiring so many people right now. We’re actively recruiting nationwide. We’re doing a lot of telework. I have pharmacy colleagues that work in pharmacy informatics. They live nowhere near Rochester (Minnesota). As more and more can be done remotely, we’re hiring people that aren’t physically here.
“That’s a huge satisfier for people who want to stay in a particular location but work for a certain company.”
Johnson said Avera is hiring about 20 pharmacists a year. A lot of that hiring can be within the system. He gave the following example to show how careers can flow.
After beginning at the hospital as an intern, the pharmacist takes a postgraduate residency in pharmacy practice and then begins their career focused on internal medicine. After two or three years of experience as a pharmacist the next step may be into a specialty area like transplant.
“After that, perhaps you become the next operations supervisor. There, you learn how to supervise people, and you continue your education with some business classes or starting an MBA program. And then maybe a position opens in the insurance division and the pharmacist moves there.
“All would be available within Avera. Now you’re 12 years in and you’ve worked in four different areas. That really creates an opportunity to gain many experiences and be a leader in multiple areas,” Johnson said.
Concepts of what a pharmacist does haven’t kept up with how the profession has evolved, the leaders said.
“What exactly does a pharmacist do?” Schram asks. “It is the pharmacy tech that dispenses medications. Pharmacists are there for clinical consultation, research or other cognitive services, what they know about the medications. It’s beyond moving the product. Pharmacists are becoming researchers. You could not ask for a better occupation to be involved in research because of their training.”
Their training requires six years of college—two years of undergraduate prerequisites and four years of pharmacy school to graduate with a doctorate.
Increasingly, Pharm.D. graduates are following that up with a year or two of residency.
“Across Mayo Midwest (Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin), we have 17 residencies with 32 positions. For every position, there are 20 to 50-plus applications,” Schramm said. “Pharmacists do not have to do a residency, but completing a residency is going to make them more qualified for a specialty position.
“We certainly depend on hiring our own residency graduates. On a 10-year rolling average, we easily are hiring over 50% of our residents. We can onboard them even faster (when they’ve had their residency at Mayo). Having residencies to train your own and hire your own is an ideal opportunity.”
Clem said 47% of SDSU’s 2021 pharmacy graduates followed up their degree with a residency. He added that SDSU’s residency placement rate remains above the national average, which is 65%.
Schramm added, “Right now, there are not enough residency positions for everyone who wants one. Nationally, 35% of applicants don’t get one. We continue to see exceptional candidates who apply for residencies. Just because someone doesn’t get a residency doesn’t mean they can’t advance.
“Pharmacy is one of the most flexible positions in health care. You’re not going to do the same thing on day one as five or 10 years from now.
“I know there is that perception out there that pharmacists are no longer in demand, but I’m not seeing it and I haven’t been seeing it for some time.”
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