Flying High

March 21, 2005

Are rising wages and generous benefits enough to attract pharmacists and keep them from roaming? Find out in Drug Topics exclusive salary survey

Imagine a magic carpet is hovering above you, and the carpet looks like-in fact, is-a rather large dollar bill. No, make that a crisp $100 bill. Say, the flying carpet represents all the financial rewards of pharmacist work in a particular pharmacy, including a decent salary; a nice sign-on bonus that will help liquidate your debt; profit sharing; a pension; discounted store merchandise; paid holidays and sick days; medical, dental, and vision coverage; and other niceties of the job.

Would you be enticed to hop aboard that particular carpet, especially when there are so many other flying carpets out there offering similar attractive packages? Once aboard, would you stay with that vessel? What's more important, would you be satisfied with your decision?

If you are anything like the respondents to Drug Topics' latest biennial survey of employee-pharmacist salaries, you are pleased with your salary and other financial perks, especially if you are a retail pharmacist. But you are not as satisfied with other aspects of the job, especially the time available for patient counseling, the time allotted for lunch and breaks, and the workload. The result is that too many pharmacists (slightly more than two out of 10) are harboring second thoughts about their calling and would change careers if they had another opportunity to do so. Thankfully, that's not as high as in 2002, when almost a third of the respondents said they would not choose pharmacy if they could do it over again.

Both points of view reflect current trends. With the aging of the population and the growth of outpatient care, patient care, and specialty care, more drugs-many of an increasingly complex nature-are entering the marketplace. And, as expanded Medicare drug coverage looms on the 2006 horizon, the demand for medications and pharmacy care is expected to intensify. It's no wonder, then, that enrollment in pharmacy schools is increasing, and there is a heightened interest in a pharmacy career by other groups, including foreign pharmacists and, according to some reports, nurses. Even so, many job openings still go unfilled, and the workload is increasing. Although the demand for pharmacists has moderated from where it was two years ago, there remains "moderate difficulty" in filling R.Ph. positions, according to the Aggregate Demand Index (ADI), supported by the Pharmacy Manpower Project Inc.