Job Saturation: Is Pharmacy Worth It? Here's What You Need to Know - The $200 Challenge

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


Full Member
Staff member
Lifetime Donor
7+ Year Member
Oct 13, 2014
Reaction score
** Job Saturation: Is Pharmacy Worth It? Here’s What You Need to Know **

Welcome to the $200 Challenge Link & Submission

If you were redirected to this thread by the above link (set up by one of our active SDN users), please read the information below and submit your answer(s) if you have found a healthcare profession with a more negative outlook compared to pharmacy according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Anyone can participate and/or can leave a comment below. This is an open thread that we hope may be considered useful in answering questions concerning the occupation and how it has evolved over the years. We ask for professionalism and the implementation of SDN's current terms of service.

Furthermore, I encourage all pre-pharms to visit the following sub-forum for additional information of what is currently going on in the Job Market by our licensed pharmacists.

Job Market

After 2 years of prerequisites or obtaining your Bachelors while passing the screening of interviews, you finally received an acceptance letter! After the hard work, you start to fill out FAFSA / IRS / Student Loan forms and realize the reality of student debt. All professional degree seekers will start to experience anxiety, stress, or just excitement for continuing on to a doctorate degree. Have you thought about graduation? Will you do a residency? Go straight to retail? Are you moving across the country or simply satisfied with staying in one place? What is the job outlook really like? Here are some principles as a soon-to-be-pharmacist that you need to know:

**The Growth of Pharmacy Schools**

According to the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, the number of pharmacy graduates has more than doubled from 2002 – 2014 along with more than doubling in pharmacy programs both satellite and campus based. The reasoning behind the progressive expansion was based on a statement made in 2000, by the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) of which they told Congress there will be a shortage of pharmacists. Continuing our reference with the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (U.S. title paragraph 4),

In 2000, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) produced a report assessing the supply/demand balance within the pharmacy profession and found that a shortage was indeed occurring, primarily from increasing demand for pharmaceutical care services and constrained growth in the number of new graduates. At the time of the report, there were 81 operating schools of pharmacy and the number of applicants had dropped off considerably, below levels seen in the early 1990s. An updated workforce study was issued by the DHHS in 2008 and predicted continued future need for pharmacists with a shortfall of nearly 38,000 by 2030, despite the supply of pharmacists having grown faster than previously projected. As a result, pharmacy programs grew aggressively faster throughout the United States.

Click here for an outline of the year these programs were under development up to 2014.

**Understanding Inflation**

Simply put, inflation is the increase of the prices of a good or service over time. This increase of inflation decreases the purchasing power of our currency. In other words, you have to spend more money in order to maintain your cost of living. An example of this is the cost of gas or a bag of groceries over time. Let’s take a look on how this may affect income (we will ignore taxes and other deductions and look at the dollar value over time):

Yearly Income: $120,000 (current)

Following Year Inflation Rate (2.1%)

True Value of $120,000 = [ $120,000 * 0.021 ] = $2,520 less of total income

Thus, $120,000 - $2,520 = $117,480 after 1 year (Consider this: After 5 years of no raise = $107,400 instead of $120,000!!!)

Click here for Inflation Outlook for a better understanding of the importance of raises matching economic growth. As of lately, raises do not always match inflation. This is why it’s important to understand your “true income” and your “true cost of living.” Click here for a cost of living comparison.

** Student Loan Debt and Opportunity Cost**

This is what defines career choices. An opportunity cost is sacrificing one choice to obtain another. With careers, you are sacrificing 4 years of income in order to become a Doctor of Pharmacy. By doing so, you incur student debt. For some, the long-term investment is worth the lost income. For others, not so much. This depends entirely on student loans and the interest accumulating the day the loans are obtained. Remember, as graduate students, many of you will pull out loans that automatically incur interest the day they are taken out!!! Click here for a breakdown of the basic loans you may incur.

The 2018 average debt for graduated pharmacists is $165,000. That average takes into consideration those who use the GI Bill, Military Service Agreement, and parents paying for school. If you take these people out of the equation, you are looking closer to the average being $225,000 in debt. With that, you may go to residency allowing your loans to be compounded with minimal to no payments. Or, you may not find a job for 6 months after graduation. You may end up failing the NAPLEX or your MPJE. Another common scenario is that you have to move across country to work per diem at $50 an hour or less. No matter what the case might be, it is true that many graduates fall under the following:

  • Getting paid less than 32 hour weeks
  • Have accumulated more than $165,000 in debt (Don’t forget undergrad)
  • Getting paid less than hourly rates as in times past ($60 an hour turned $50 an hour) adjusted for the cost of living.
  • All of the Above
***Example 1: Student A***

Let’s use the 2018 average debt for our upcoming example. This time, we will take into consideration taxes and deductibles in a metropolitan area in the Northwest. Although not calculated, keep in mind of inflation that effects your cost of living year after year.

Salary: $120,000

After FICA and taxes (based on our taxes and deductibles reference): $330

Pre-Tax Deductions:
  • Medical Insurance: $500
  • Dental Insurance: $50
  • 401(K) + Mutual Fund Minimum Contribution: 8% or $400
  • HSA: $150
Post Tax Deductions:
  • Student Loans: $1,000
Monthly Take Home Pay: $3,314

Monthly Expenses:
  • Mortgage: $700
  • Groceries: $200
  • Auto Loan: $175
  • Auto Insurance: $60
  • Savings: $100
  • Phone Bill: $30
  • Channels, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Wifi Bundle: $140
  • Miscellaneous: $100
  • Entertainment: $150
Take Home: $1,659 Monthly

This is the ideal situation. Only…we have three problems… Let’s address two of them here:

#1) Starting rate for a pharmacist is not going to be $62.50 or a salaried $120,000 unless your cost of living index is much higher than other regions. In which case, the adjustment wouldn't show your true salary as 120K. #2) Full time employment is considered 32 hour weeks not necessarily nor a guaranteed 40 hour week. In many regions, $50 or lower is the starting rate.

***Example 2: Student B***

Let’s run the numbers again and presume you have now been hired at 32 hour weeks & $50 an hour. In our example, lets pay the minimum on the 2018 debt average of $165,000 at 4.8% over 20 years as a single adult ($1,000) -->These numbers are conservative for this example. Expect a higher interest rate as time goes.

Yearly Income: $83,200 (52 weeks X 32 hours X 50 an hour) -->Remember, we’re not calculating inflation over time with no raise…

After FICA and taxes (including state insurance taxes) according to our tax and deductible reference: $704

Pre-Tax Deductions:
  • Medical Insurance: $500
  • Dental Insurance: $50
  • 401(K) + Mutual Fund Minimum Contribution: 8% OR $277 (Adjusted)
  • HSA: 3% OR $104 (Adjusted)
Post-Tax Deductions:
  • Student Loans: $1,000
Monthly Take Home Pay: $1662.40

Monthly Expenses:
  • Mortgage: $700 -->Remember, cost of living may vary and renters pay more than home-owners
  • Groceries: $200
  • Auto Loan: $175 --> This has its own interest rate and depends on your “taste” in vehicles
  • Auto Insurance: $60
  • Savings: $100
  • Phone Bill: $30
  • Channels, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Wifi Bundle: $140
  • Miscellaneous: $100
  • Entertainment: $150
Take Home: $7.40 Monthly

The example shows us within a few dollars of our budget. Keep in mind, we did not budget for vacation, dating and/or marriage, kids, and “life emergencies”. Let’s now address our third problem every graduate must consider: “Saturation.”

**Is Pharmacy Saturated? Additional Facts**

From the time the DHHS announced a shortage of pharmacist 20 years ago, unanticipated increases in tuition costs have been recorded within the newly developed pharmacy programs. Just within the last 5 years of 2014 to date, tuition has increased by 54% on average. (United States title; paragraph 6; sentence 2). More importantly, from 2008 – 2012 and 2015 to present the rate of increase of average debt greatly outpaced the rate of salary increase (23% vs 6.6%).

**Is Pharmacy Worth It?**

Now, the good news is some people graduate with little to no debt with desires to work jobs that require moving across the country. A few outliers will also get the “dream job” and avoid the burdens of the job market altogether. The majority will try to qualify for PSLF, REPAYE, or PAYE. So, is it worth it? At the going rate the majority of graduates would have been better off going elsewhere. For the few, it can be a great opportunity to contribute to the health field. Do your research and decide what you want. These are the facts of what is going on currently and students deserve to know what is ahead of them.

Additional Reference, please visit the following sub-forum: Job Market

Members don't see this ad.
  • Like
  • Wow
  • Hmm
Reactions: 13 users
We will be hosting a panel discussion on July 28th to discuss the Pharmacy Job Market - we encourage you to attend or view the recording (link will be the same):

If you want to receive reminders, you can register here:
Last edited:
  • Like
  • Okay...
Reactions: 2 users