Pharmacy Career - Present and Future Outlook
In the past ten years the number of job openings for pharmacists continues to change dramatically. This is the result of a number of factors. The first factor fueling the expansion of pharmacy jobs is population demographics. The fastest growing segments of the U.S. population are the elderly (age 65 and above) followed closely by the near-elderly (age 50-65). Within the next decade the number of U.S. citizens over the age of 65 will grow to over 80 million. These large segments of the population are at or approaching the phase of their lives were they will experience common diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer and cardiovascular disease. As a consequence they will have increased reliance on health care services including pharmacy.
The next factor affecting pharmacy growth is the development of novel drug products. Because new drug products have greater therapeutic effect more patients are placed on medications as an alternative to other treatments such as surgery or when no other treatment had been available. This not only has increased the number of prescriptions that pharmacists dispense, but also increased the clinical role of pharmacists. Newer, more powerful medications require close monitoring by the pharmacist for drug-drug interactions, drug-food interactions, drug-dietary supplement interactions, adverse reactions and therapeutic outcomes.
The next factor is that pharmacists are the most accessible health care professional. For example, patients will interact with a pharmacist 12 to 15 times a year compared to less than five times per year with a physician. For many patients their primary source of drug and health information is their pharmacist.
The final factor impacting pharmacy careers is the ever-expanding role of today’s pharmacist. No longer do pharmacists work exclusively in community pharmacies and hospitals. Other industries have discovered the value that pharmacists provide and now employ them is such diverse areas as insurance, public health and the pharmaceutical research and manufacturing industry. Even when caring directly for patients, the role of the pharmacist has expanded. Pharmacists can specialize in areas such as nutrition, oncology, cardiology, infectious diseases, critical care, pediatrics and geriatrics. In some cases, the patients that pharmacist care for are unconventional as is the case with veterinary pharmacists.
All of these factors have combined to create a profession that is very dynamic. Since none of these factors are expected to change significantly in the near term a bright future is almost ensured for those entering the pharmacy profession today.