If you’re a pharmacist, you’ve undoubtedly heard the question, Are there too many pharmacy schools? We addressed it in our June 2009 cover story, “Betting on the pharmacy boom, building the future.”
As that story pointed out, the answer to the question varies greatly—as it does today—depending on the person answering it. In that article, the dean of the pharmacy school at Touro University California pointed to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that predicted a 38,000 shortage of pharmacists by 2030.
“Pharmacists have become more involved in clinical activities in hospitals, clinics, and even in community pharmacy, where diabetes and asthma programs have become quite common,” Katherine Knapp told Drug Topics.
However, almost three-quarters of pharmacists polled by DT for that same story did not think more schools were needed. Many of them lamented the fact that 18 new pharmacy schools had opened or were scheduled to open between 2005 and 2010.
Still no clear answer
There is still no definitive answer to the question. However, there have been indicators that the number of pharmacy schools may have reached a critical mass. In 2015, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released a forecast in which 60% of its panelists predicted salaries of entry-level, health-system pharmacists would decline by up to 10% by 2019.
“Greatly expanded annual output of pharmacy graduates, increased use of technicians and technology in retail and institutional dispensing operations, and other factors have converged to produce an ample supply of pharmacists for health-system entry-level positions nationwide,” the report’s authors wrote.
Then, earlier this year, a monthly analysis by the Pharmacy Workforce Center reported that the nationwide supply of pharmacists had exceeded the number of available jobs. Ronald G. Cameron, CEO, Cameron and Co. Inc., in Las Vegas, attributed the oversupply to too many pharmacy schools graduating too many new pharmacists. “I have definitely seen the trend toward the oversupply of pharmacists,” he said.
Some pharmacists are urging pharmacy organizations to call for a moratorium on new pharmacy schools. That’s not likely to happen. Neither is it likely that pharmacists, academics, and pharmacy organizations will ever agree on how many pharmacy schools is enough.