California Pharmacists - The Real Story on Job Outlook
1st -- Before you jump on me, understand this: I am only speaking about what I know from extensive analysis of the California market (maybe some of this will translate into other states but again this is for California people primarily). If you attend, UCSF, USC, Western, UCSD, etc this job market post is for you.
2nd -- Feel free to disagree but cite your numbers/evidence
3rd -- My analysis is meant only to help new people coming into the field seriously understand the job market.
4th -- This analysis is based on my understanding of the graduation numbers from the following schools of pharmacy: USC, UOP, Loma Linda, UCSF, UCSD, Touro, Western, California Northstate. This does not take into account the 3 other planned school openings within the next 2 years and the high potential school at UCR. Also, I can tell you as my family are donors to the UC system, I know there is a heavy push especially within the UCLA medical campus community for a school of pharmacy there. This is low radar still but point is the same...we have 8 operating schools, 3 potentials in the pipeline and potentially even 1 more. This is insane on so many levels and it doesn't take a genius to figure this out but I'm going to give you my two cents.
My background - my family owns 8 independent pharmacies in the state of California. Two are very big operations within hospitals. I am not rich (the business is divided among many partners, cousins, uncles, etc)...I myself own about 12% of the show as I am new on the scene (and FYI I draw less than 40,000 dollars of personal salary a year and put many hours of sweat equity for this stake). Yes, it is a family business and I am taken care of but I just want to share this detail because I think some people will be able to see that I am not some spoiled kid trying to rain on the pharmacy parade here. This is a true warning form someone in the know. My family is connected to many other owners in the state and many of my comments are not just for my business but for other owners as well.
All the prime counties in the state are literally saturated with pharmacy labor right now. 100% saturated. Floater jobs only. 6 out of 8 of our pharmacies are in prime counties (one in SF, some in LA, one in Irvine, OC etc) and 2 are in the less desirable areas (San Bernardino county). 4 out of the 6 in the last 1.5 years needed new staff pharmacists (due to retirements etc)...we hired about 6 full time pharmacists in the last 18 months essentially. 5 at the prime locations and 1 at a not so prime location. **I am younger and in the business (have a BA in Finance and a CPA before pharmacy school and so am involved with all contracts and accounting for the entire operation). For the 5 prime locations for work comparable to a chain (40 hours a week etc) we paid an average annual wage of 81,000 a year. Are benefits package costed us another 11,000 per employee and we incurred other costs (payroll taxes etc) that added to the total employee cost for us. But that is beside the point...you should focus on the 81k. The employees we hired had minimal loans (parent help or whatever, but that is the truth) but one of the employees did have up to 70kish in loans. For the non prime location pharmacy, we paid 102,000 for a new staff pharmacist with 4 yearsish experience.
The 81k a year was the average but most were around that average. My family is not cruel...we were able to get these employees fairly easily we did not sell ourselves etc. After interviewing/hiring we found out that we could have easily paid 75k (but probably not lower) and have got these people to sign our contract. All 6 people we hired were graduates of USC/Western so I can't generalize to all schools but I can say we did get applicants from nearly all California schools we just settled on these two schools because we liked the folks and thought they would stay at our pharmacies for many years etc.
From a business perspective, we cut 6 pharmacists that were at 130ish in salary to 5 pharmacists at 81k and 1 at 102k. Substantial savings and we are getting more productive, better educated labor here. However, we don't feel good about paying the wage we do. My parents are the first to call our association networkers to try to protect pharmacy from over satuartion etc. But at the same time, they run a business and they are going to get what they can get especially in a recession when we have 2 pharmacies barely breaking even after all the costs.
My opinion on the California job outlook for Pharmacists is that it is BLEAK. Extremely extremely bleak. I am telling you 80k a year for a pharmacist wage isn't some future saturation myth...it is here now...we PAY it...that's our new rate, we don't pay a dime over 85k and won't in our new store openings either...doesn't matter about your experience. We don't need experience, we need a license (until pharmacists are able to bill for real services). I hate it, I don't like to cheapen our profession but with the margins the way they are this is what we have to do to survive. And with the new schools opening up, with cut throat people...I am telling you all...your classmates will take a job at our pharmacy for 75k. I know it for a fact. Heck some may go lower. That should scare you...it scares me!
All I can say is-- if you are pre pharmacy in California ...RE CONSIDER now until things get resolved. Lots of other healthcare professions are not having it as bad as we are right now in California.
If you are in pharmacy school -- do something to distinguish yourself. The people we still pay well are either extremely good at running a compounding operation or essentially business managers doing pharmacist staff work as an extra. Complain to the associations, the state board...anyone that will listen. GET up and GET involved fast ladies and gentleman becuase I am telling you we are in a free fall and there is an influx of graduates right now and the supply and demand is all out of whack. DONT listen to all that bull**** about MTM jobs and healthcare reform and baby boomers. This is absolute garbage. This is California...everyone wants to live here, work here etc...we have one staff Pharmacist who essentially came to California to work 25 hours a week, live in Newport Beach and die after working 30 years in Arizona. The California job market for pharmacists in prime areas is completely shot. The chains haven't dropped their new salaries yet (they're just cutting hours, benefits and bonuses etc) but they will...
As someone involved in the pharmacy business, I can tell you for a fact that in the last 2 years many people are getting into the pharmacy labor market at 85k or less. Chains are simply just not going to hire...but then what you have to go to a hospital staff pharmacy or independent or clinic and take 85k and that day where that is the standard is coming. Be careful everyone. God bless and I hope we can fight this trend, we need pharmacists to bill for clinical services and we need to stop the school openings. Do this and business owners will be happy to pay 130s and up for the pharmacist.