Pharmacy ranks continue to grow

February 5, 2007

According to the latest census of pharmacists from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the number of pharmacists and technicians continues to grow across the country. In the NABP annual survey of state boards of pharmacy licenses, the total number of pharmacists, technicians, and pharmacies all grew, although some states did see declines.

The total number of pharmacists licensed by the state boards of pharmacy grew nationwide by 3.5%, to 375,666 between July 2005 and July 2006. The 2007 NABP Survey based its numbers on information provided by state boards of pharmacy submitted by July 1, 2006.

Since a significant number of pharmacists have licenses in more than one state, a more accurate picture of the actual number of practicing pharmacists is NABP's tally of licensed pharmacists with in-state addresses. This number also grew by a healthy 3.7% over the same time period, to 254,556 nationwide.

California, New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, and Virginia all saw significant growth in the number of pharmacists. Amazingly, 9% of all pharmacy licenses are now granted by the California State Board of Pharmacy. In the 2007 survey the total number of licenses jumped 4,276, a growth of 14%. The growth in California represents one-third of the growth seen nationwide. Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, and Maryland saw a more modest-yet still significant-6% growth in the number of pharmacists.

Along with the growth in the number of pharmacists, the NABP survey also reported a similar 3.7% growth in the number of pharmacies. A total of 3,024 new pharmacies opened since the 2006 survey, with nearly a thousand in California alone.

Even greater growth was seen among technicians. The number of licensed technicians jumped 7.2%, to 252,383, in the NABP survey. This growth perhaps represents recognition of both the increased importance of technicians in the pharmacy industry and a greater emphasis on licensure for the position. Fourteen states did not report any data on technicians, and the actual number is likely to be even higher than reported. While California had the most technicians (40,236) that number showed a fairly common pharmacy staffing ratio. The Sunshine State has an average of 5.6 technicians per pharmacy, compared with a national average of 5.0. California also has 1.2 technicians per pharmacist. Conversely, Illinois has the nation's highest proportion of technicians, with 9.9 technicians per pharmacy and 2.1 technicians per pharmacist.

States are also slowly beginning to recognize the importance of registering and licensing technicians, according to the NABP survey of state laws and regulations. Currently, only 13 states and territories do not register, certify, or license technicians. Oregon will begin to require licenses for technicians beginning in 2008, joining Alaska, Arkansas, California, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming. In addition, 31 states have a technician registration process in place and five states require certification of technicians.