Thursday, May 24, 2012

Gluts happen to other fields, too

From an astute reader, a terribly interesting article/story from public radio's Marketplace on a little bit of a looming issue for pharmacists:
Within the labor market, there's a lag effect as well. Industries and occupations that have job openings today might not have those same openings in a couple of years. 
Exhibit A for our purposes today is the professional pharmacist. Just five years ago, a pharmacy degree was a near guarantee of permanent and well-paid employment. So much so that a lot of universities started their own schools of pharmacy. In Tennessee, they went from one pharmacy school to half a dozen.  
Phil Johnston is the pharmacy dean at Belmont [University, in Nashville, TN]. He admits the agencies that oversee course work worried there might not be enough local drug stores and hospitals to support so many schools. Pharmacists have also been concerned that a glut of graduates may undercut their pay. [snip] 
...The pharmacy industry realizes it's hard for students like Deason to find jobs. The American Society of Health System Pharmacists recently authored a report. It's titled -- "Expansion of Pharmacy Education: Time for Reconsideration." Douglas Scheckelhoff is a vice president of the pharmacist group. [He said: When you almost double the number of graduates over the course of 8-10 years, over time that doubling of the graduates is going to have an impact."
Hey! That sounds pretty familiar!

[The comments are awesome, too; a person who seems to be a long-time health services person writes in to tell young graduates "hey, older pharmacists have had hard times, too" and "you don't have to work at a pharmacy if you have a pharmacy degree..." Hey, we've heard a version of that, too...]


  1. Even more insidiously: "There's prestige in offering a doctoral degree and -- perhaps more importantly -- revenue."

    To my knowledge, chemistry schools have not increased student #s just to raise revenue (though one could argue that the cheap labor they bring is the same).

    On + side for pharm students, it's a shorter degree (I may be wrong on this).

    On - side, yee gods! spending your life counting to 30. I'd rather be a patent agent.

  2. Conveniently, the picture of Belmont's graduating class is full of attractive young women wearing skirts. Also conveniently, they happen to be the shortest and therefore, standing right in the front. I'm sure they pride themselves on their strong academics though, they're just trying to fill a need.

    Side note: I hate how people love wearing the white coat to let the world know they're a doctor.

    1. I've always been weirded out by the lab coat in public. Knowing what mine touches (and what theirs likely does) in the course of a work day...yuck.

    2. I worked at a hospital where people insisted on wearing their coats everywhere. The physicians all wore their coats to and from the cafeteria, and most would even wear them outside to the cafe across the street. We weren't just giving young college kids physicals either, we had some patients with autoimmune diseases or who were in late stages of cancer that probably would prefer to keep the pathogens from outside away from them.

  3. There is a shortage of pharmacists (and doctors, and dentists, and other occupations requiring some advanced degree) in western KS currently. A few years ago there was a big push within the School of Pharmacy at KU to get recent pharmacy graduates out to western KS and other rural parts of the state. Based on the current shortage, that initiative must not have been too successful.

    1. I have noticed the same pattern. Rural or otherwise unpopular places to live for a 20-something recent graduate are always hiring. However, I do think there will be a glut soon, a full blown one, maybe even as bad as the lawyers that I see. Being >$100K in debt and having to take a job chauffeuring may become their reality soon...

      The shortage of doctors will persist longer though, because the cartel...I mean the AMA keeps tight control of supply. Dentists are practically in a glut, I've already seen enough big city grads have to take the rural job.

  4. I was thinking of going back to school for pharmacy when I got laid off from pharma. After doing some research, I was concerned about the doubling of schools over a 10 year period. I believe this is pure greed from the schools, looking at the tuition the schools charge.
    Ten years ago, you could count on a 6 figure salary and signing bonus. If one were to work in a rural setting, I'm confident their would be manuy opportunities. The nice thing is it cannot be outsourced to China and India, or H1b'ed, like chemistry. If it wasn't going to put me in $120k in dept, I would take the plunge.

  5. Oh, interesting. When I got laid off from my newspaper job in 2008, I seriously considered going back to school in pharmacy, and even sent off some applications and attended one interview. Should I be glad I wasn't offered a spot in UCSF's pharmacy school? Dunno, maybe.

  6. If you want to work 14 hour shifts, answer the drive up window, haggle with people, sell and give vaccinations, welcome to the world of retail chain pharmacy. That's what the pharmacists are saying.

    1. Sign me up, baby! (especially the haggling part - yes!)

    2. That's all you have to do? No getting up in the middle of the night to do critical experiments. Your drugs don't suddenly decompose after seven steps. Nor do you have to purify them?! And you get to meet people!

  7. I hope you have time to read this:
    Personally, I will have a PhD in a Biomedical fieldy very shortly. My department is 55% international graduate students and 85% international postdocs. Meanwhile MD Anderson's graduate school brings in 100 graduate students a year...pretty sure they aren't hiring that many PhD faculty a year. On the biological side we see discrepancies a bit closer because often work along side MD fellows in the lab. People with NO lab skills (and justifiably...they weren't trained to do this stuff) and are more of a hassle, yet make 50-80k a year(as a trainee!).
    I picked the wrong field...

  8. Summarizing some patterns in Gluts/Bubbles:

    Tenured elites claim compelling need for resource/outcome
    (Help the family farm, renewable energy, ownership society, train more scientists, engineers...)
    Initiative is created to fulfill that "need"
    (Crop subsidies, solar subsidies, educational loans, RO1 grants)
    People get taxed to subsidize it
    Too many people get involved
    (Everyone grows corn, Solyndra, super labs are created, foreign post-docs invade)
    They get screwed
    (Farm Bailouts, solar tariffs, "alternative careers", foreclosure, move back in with parents)
    Elites retire with public pension

    Society suckered by new set of elites and repeats process

    Moral of the story? If someone is forcing society to pay for it, be really skeptical about getting involved...unless you are doing the forcing =D

    1. Be known in economics since 1928 as the "pork cycle."

      Straight from Wiki: "Nicholas Kaldor proposed a model of fluctuations in agricultural markets called the cobweb model, based on production lags and adaptive expectations. In his model, when prices are high more investments are made. Their effect, however, is delayed due to the breeding time. Then the market becomes saturated which leads to a decline in prices. As a result of this, production is reduced but the effects take a long time to be noticed but then lead to increased demand and again increased prices. This procedure repeats itself cyclically. The resulting supply-demand graph resembles a cobweb.

      This type of model has also been applied in certain labour sectors: high salaries in a particular sector lead to an increased number of students studying the relevant subject. When all these students after several years start looking for a job at the same time their job prospects are much worse which then in turn deters students from studying this subject."

  9. Let it not be said that universities don't respond to market forces. When demand is high it's easy to justify expansion. When the inevitable oversupply occurs, however, students should prepare themselves for "the point of university education is not to train you for employment" speeches from administration.


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20