Our Pharmacist Glut

Katie Zavadski covers it:

The pharmacy boom began in 2000. That year, a report from the Department of Health and Human Services suggested that 98 percent of Americans lived in an area adversely affected by a pharmacist shortage. Almost 6,000 pharmacist jobs stood empty, and the shortage was only predicted to grow worse. The following year, a group now known as the Pharmacy Workforce Center predicted a shortfall of 157,000 pharmacists nationally within two decades as demand and responsibilities increased while the number of pharmacists stood still. As Baby Boomers aged, the thought went, pharmacists would be able to fill some roles traditionally held by doctors, and would be able to counsel them on how to take the medications prescribed to them.

Quickly, the free market kicked in.

Over the last 20-odd years, the number of pharmacy schools in the United States has almost doubled. There were just 72 such schools in 1987; today, there are more than 130.

At first, graduates found work easily. No matter where in the country a young pharmacist wanted to settle, the number of jobs available far exceeded the number of people qualified to fill them. Slowly, the numbers began to even out, and 2009 marked a turning point: The number of jobs available was roughly on par with the number of pharmacists searching for work. The days of signing bonuses and vast job choices were over.

How this compares to the quickly deflating law school bubble:

What makes the situation in pharmacy slightly more sinister than a comparable crisis in law is that students commit to many of these six-year programs straight out of high school. (About half of graduating pharmacists each year are aged 25 or under.) Not only do they have little understanding of what such a debt load may mean for them, but they also tend to rely more heavily on the suggestions of parents and friends. And, even if they made the decision to pursue pharmacy through their own research, the rapid growth in the number of pharmacists means many are gambling on a job market six years into the future. Further, while a law degree can be useful in a wide range of professions, including business and consulting, pharmacy degrees have relatively narrow purposes: PharmDs are equipped to oversee the dispensation of medication and counsel patients on how to take it and its effects.