Thursday, January 11, 2018

2026 Pharmacist Job Outlook Looks Good, Especially for Hospital Pharmacists

Hey there, pharmacists! Ready for some good news?

According to our exclusive analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) new Occupational Outlook Handbook, the total pharmacist employment figure is projected to grow by almost 18,000 jobs by 2026.

The pharmacist outlook, however, varies by industry. Pharmacist jobs at hospitals, physician offices, and other non-retail settings will outpace growth at conventional retail and mail outpatient pharmacies.

Read on for an industry-by-industry look at the outlook. And if you are a retail or mail pharmacist: Plan accordingly! Drug Channels humbly suggests some alternative career ideas below.


In its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), BLS publishes detailed employment projections by industry. It draws upon the government’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, which categorizes workers into highly-specific occupations. I discuss the SOC system in Average Pharmacist Salaries Hit $120,000, but Growth Again Lags Other Healthcare Professions.

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

Using these data, we identified pharmacists working at outpatient dispensing formats by analyzing the following NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) industries:
  • Chain, independent, and long-term care (LTC) pharmacies: NAICS 446000
  • Supermarkets with pharmacies: NAICS 445100
  • Mass merchants with pharmacies: NAICS 452000
  • Mail pharmacies: NAICS 454100
For comparison, we also analyzed data for pharmacist employment for the largest non-retail sectors: Hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, and home healthcare.

Note that the BLS data exclude pharmacy owners but do include self-employed pharmacists. In the table below, self-employed pharmacists are grouped in the “All other industries” category.


The table below summarizes our analysis of the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections. As you can see, total pharmacist employment will grow by 17.6 thousand (5.6%) by 2026.

[Click to Enlarge]

There are, however, significant differences in growth rates by industry.
  • Pharmacist employment at chain, independent, and long-term pharmacies will increase by 4% by 2026. These pharmacy formats are projected to employ about 5,400 more pharmacists. Curiously, this projection reverses the projections that BLS made in 2015, when it forecast a decrease in retail employment. It did not provide an explanation for the change of heart. Hmm.
  • Among the outpatient settings, mail pharmacies will see the biggest percentage increase in growth (+28.2%), though this will mean only 1,100 new jobs due to the greater efficiency of central-fill pharmacies.
  • Pharmacist employment in non-retail settings—hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, and home healthcare—will grow much more quickly than employment in outpatient dispensing formats. BLS projects that these provider settings will add more than 8,400 total new pharmacists jobs, compared with 7,200 new jobs in outpatient settings. Hospitals will account for 60% of the employment growth among non-retail settings.

    These forecasts are consistent with recent trends that I describe in Average Pharmacist Salaries Hit $120,000, but Growth Again Lags Other Healthcare Professions. For the past four years, salaries for hospital-based pharmacists have grown more quickly than salaries for pharmacists in outpatient settings.
Will BLS’s revised forecasts prove to be accurate? Even a blind pig finds a truffle sometime!

P.S. Considering a new career? Click here to view BLS’s projections for the fastest-growing occupations. Maybe becoming a solar photovoltaic installer or wind turbine service technician is right for you!

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