How the opening of new schools in California may affect pharmacy manpower

February 15, 2012

A group of students conducted a survey to determine if the opening of new pharmacy schools in California would lead to an oversupply of pharmacists in that state. Read on to see what they found.

Not long ago, there was a highly publicized unmet demand for pharmacists.1 In California, this demand was answered by the opening of new pharmacy schools. Since then, the annual number of graduates within California has doubled from approximately 400 in 1998 to 800 in 2011.

Throughout those 13 years, California's aggregate demand index (ADI) has steadily declined from 4.8 (indicating a high-unmet demand) to 3.77 (a value corresponding to an almost relative balance between supply and demand of pharmacists in the state).2 The monthly ADI, which is calculated on a scale of 1 to 5 through the Pharmacy Manpower Project surveys, asks employers about the degree of difficulty filling vacant positions. An ADI of 1 indicates oversupply and 5 indicates a high-unmet demand.

The same downward trend is prevalent nationwide. Within the last 13 years, the number of U.S. graduates has increased 1.5 fold and the ADI has decreased from 4.00 to 3.20. Despite this downward trend in unmet demand for pharmacists, there are currently 5 additional schools of pharmacy projected to open in the state of California.3-7 Whether or not there will be an oversupply of pharmacists within the state remains to be seen.

Qualitative survey of current workforce experience

To gain insight into the pharmacy workforce in the past 10 years, a 20-question survey was sent electronically and via telephone to 7,369 pharmacists practicing within California. A total of 226 respondents completed the survey for a response rate of 3.07%. The survey had been distributed through state pharmacy associations, alumni associations of various California schools of pharmacy, as well as to local pharmacists.

The limitations associated with the survey include the low response rate and over-representation of pharmacists from southern California.