Competition for Prime Spots Increasing
JUST FIVE YEARS AGO, newly minted pharmacists were assured of placement in their desired residencies and jobs. With a broad job market and options in hospital, health-system, and community retail pharmacy, recent graduates were offered signing bonuses by recruiters and hiring managers eager to fill open slots.
Today’s graduates, however, may need to make a few concessions if they want to be gainfully employed, particularly when it comes to location. According to figures posted by the Pharmacy Manpower Project, which compiles and analyzes data to determine the demand for pharmacists by state and geographic region, there appears to be a dip in demand for pharmacists in New England and the Mid Atlantic. Likewise, competition is heating up for hospital positions in urban areas, particularly in states where there are several pharmacy schools.
“We used to compete with retail chains [for pharmacists]” said Montgomery, “but now that we have multiple pharmacy schools in state, the pool of applicants has increased even as retail chains have gone to a centralized fill model requiring fewer pharmacists on staff.” Hospital cutbacks due to reduced patient volume are also complicating the picture.
Nicole Metzger, Pharm.D., BCPS, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Mercer University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Atlanta, has noticed a tightening in the market as well.
“When I graduated in 2006, there was room for salary and benefit negotiation,” Metzger said. “Qualified students who wanted to do a residency easily found programs to fit their needs. In contrast, last year many graduates in the area were struggling to find work and had to relocate to more rural areas to ensure employment.”
Metzger’s words describe a broader trend, one affecting young pharmacists and residents like Jessica B. Winter, Pharm.D., PGY1 pharmacy practice resident at UC Health–University Hospital in Cincinnati.
“I do worry about job placement after my completion of a PGY2 residency next year,” Winter said. “I’m sure I’ll have to be flexible in terms of location and salary. With seven schools of pharmacy in the state, positions in more densely populated areas like Cincinnati are harder to come by.”
Make It WorkAlthough there appears to be a decrease in demand in certain geographic areas, there is still plenty of work for clinical pharmacists. For those willing to go west, there are more jobs than pharmacists in the south-central region of the country (Ark., La., Okla., and Tex.) and the Pacific region (Alaska, Calif., Hawaii, Ore., and Wash.). Rural areas are another option.
Location isn’t everything, however. New practitioners can take a number of steps to appeal to recruiters and pharmacy directors, including being flexible regarding the kinds of jobs one is willing to take, according to Montgomery.
“Take a part-time or per diem job, work that odd shift, and show that you can be part of the team,” he said. “Try to find a niche; many pharmacists have built their careers by seeing an opportunity and running with it. The more creative and entrepreneurial you can be, the better your chances are.”
Taking advantage of leadership opportunities in professional associations such as ASHP is a great way to gain a foothold in a tight hiring market, according to ASHP President Diane Ginsburg, M.S., R.Ph., FASHP. “Getting involved in a large community of successful practitioners allows you to hone your leadership skills,” she said. “Tapping into that network also gives you access to some of the top leaders in health-system pharmacy.”
Finally, Metzger suggests getting involved in research or scholarly activity to work toward becoming a well-rounded professional. “The more skills you have, the more leadership positions you fill, and the more you network, the more it will set you apart,” she said.