Do we really need another pharmacy school?
Friday, May 06, 2016
In spite of growing concerns among pharmacists that the job market has already become saturated, there is news of yet another pharmacy school seeking to open its doors. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) is beginning to evaluate the feasibility of opening a pharmacy school, adding to the six schools of pharmacy already in existence in the state.
"We feel there is going to be an expanded need for pharmacists throughout the state," Mitchell Cordova, the current FGCU dean of their College of Health Professions, told Drug Topics.
The need for any more schools of pharmacy is extremely difficult to justify. Pharmacists and new graduates are already finding it difficult to obtain jobs in many markets. This becomes a driving factor for students to pursue additional training through residencies, which delays entering the real job market even further.
Additionally, the number of pharmacy school graduates is already at an all-time high. According to the most recent data released by AACP in their 2015 "Profile of Pharmacy Students" the number of Pharm.D. degrees awarded as a first professional degree increased to 13,994, which "is the largest number of degrees conferred in the history of pharmacy education."
It would seem pharmacy students and prospective students are beginning to see the light on this issue. Applications to schools of pharmacy decreased by more than 10 percent in 2015, and the attrition rate was 11.6 percent, the highest in four years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for the pharmacy profession is expected to grow "slower than average."
Maybe we have, in fact, reached a tipping point. But the fact that universities are still considering opening more schools of pharmacy suggests otherwise.
We don't need more schools of pharmacy.
We do, however, need better data on the real-life situation of pharmacists who have been negatively impacted by the job market and are struggling with mounting debt and loans that can't be paid off without a job. These individuals often suffer silently because it is not in the financial interests of schools or employers to give them a voice.
What if employers were required to disclose how many applicants apply for any position they publicly post? I suspect the number is frighteningly large. But we don't know. There is the data that comes from the Pharmacy Workforce Center, but that information is admittedly subjective and not open to peer review or public disclosure.
Exaggeration doesn't help the conversation about the pharmacy job market. The fact is there really are pharmacist jobs available, and most pharmacists are currently working.
Most students find jobs, and those who don't will sometimes admit the difficulty isn't entirely the fault of the market. For example, choosing not to work even part-time during pharmacy school sometimes puts a new graduate at a big disadvantage. Others who have their heart set on only one location or career path may also find getting a job more difficult.
Nevertheless, I suspect the news about another pharmacy school to be met with a depressing sigh from most pharmacists working today. Even those with solid and stable jobs have inevitably felt some of the pressure resulting from an escalating number of graduates.
There is a difference between an existing job and a secure job. The emotional toll of heavy loans and fewer jobs is another area that needs more research and more stories. But for now it appears, for better or worse, another school of pharmacy may be on the horizon.
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