Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Grim Job Outlook for Retail Pharmacists, says BLS

The New Year is here—let’s kick it off with some good news/bad news for pharmacists.

According to our exclusive analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) new Occupational Outlook Handbook, drugstores are projected to employ about 7,000 fewer pharmacists in 2024 than they do today.

The good news? Pharmacists jobs in non-retail settings—hospitals, doctor’s office, and clinics—will add more jobs than the ones lost from retail.

Read on for our exclusive analysis of these data. And if you are a pharmacist: Plan accordingly! (Have you considered whether a career as a wind turbine service technician or commercial diver is right for you?)


In the annual Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), the BLS publishes detailed employment projections by industry. It draws upon the government’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, which categorizes workers into detailed occupations. I discuss the SOC system in Pharmacist Salaries Keep Rising, Hitting $119K in 2014.

The SOC code for “pharmacist” is 29-1051. Click here to read the “Pharmacists” page from the new OOH.

Using these data, I identified the projections for pharmacists working at retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies by analyzing the following NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) industries:
  • Chain and independent pharmacies: NAICS 446110
  • Supermarkets with pharmacies: NAICS 445100
  • Mass merchants with pharmacies: NAICS 452000
  • Mail pharmacies: NAICS 454100


The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that total pharmacist employment will grow by 3% by 2024. Pharmacist employment at retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies, however, will decline by -0.8% by 2024. (See table below.) The decrease will be concentrated in chain and independent pharmacies, which are projected to employ about 7,000 fewer pharmacists.

[Click to Enlarge]

Employment will increase at other outpatient dispensing formats, with mail pharmacies experiencing the largest percentage increase. By comparison, employment in all U.S. occupations is expected to grow 7% by 2024.

So where should pharmacists look for jobs? BLS projects that over the next 10 years, physician offices, outpatient clinics, home healthcare, and hospitals will collectively add 9,300 pharmacist jobs (+11%). Here’s what the BLS says about the job outlook:
"Demand is projected to increase for pharmacists in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals and clinics. These facilities will need more pharmacists to oversee the medications given to patients and to provide patient care, performing tasks such as testing a patient’s blood sugar or cholesterol…Employment of pharmacists in traditional retail settings is projected to decline slightly as mail order and online pharmacy sales increase."
Good news indeed, at least for some pharmacists.

P.S. If you're looking for a career change, the fastest growing occupations are projected to be: wind turbine service technicians; occupational therapy assistants; physical therapists; home health aides; and...commercial divers! (Yes, really.)

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