The health sector has been a booming industry for Americans over the last decade, with over 15 million employed in some kind of medical profession. Throughout the recession of 2008, the health care sector continued to hire more employees than any other sector. Technical innovations have played a large role in this phenomenon because many new developments have directly influenced medical technology. This has resulted in a change in even the way health care is administered. Today, just over half (54%) of all pharmacists still fill prescriptions behind the counter at retail stores across the country. The rest have broadened the scope of pharmacy to include more flexible, interesting career options. These include providing professional training and consulting for drug manufacturers and the FDA, working remotely for medication-management services, coordinating prescriptions for chronically ill patients who receive care from multiple physicians. Anne Burns of the American Pharmacists Association says, “There’s a big trend toward doing this coordination work by phone and videoconferencing so you can set your own hours and work from home.”
This kind of schedule flexibility has proven to be very attractive to women who now make up 55% of the profession. They are able to choose hours in order to maintain family life, social responsibilities and time for hobbies. Even those women who do still work full time at retail pharmacy drug stores have found more flexibility in the last decades with the boom of major chain stores. Companies like Walgreens and Rite Aid offer fewer barriers to entry and flexible work schedules just given their immense size. The pay is a very attractive incentive, well into the six figures even for relatively new pharmacists. In 2011 full time female pharmacists earned a median salary of $111,000 and the mean hourly wage for part-timers came to $52.59. This equates to about 92 cents to the dollar of male pharmacist wages. Pharmacy has been described as the most equal profession for men and women because this discrepancy arises from more women working shorter hours not any kind of gender discrimination.
Lucinda Maine, CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy describes how all these factors, most especially the flexibility, drew her in to the pharmacy industry and pharmacy school. She says, “That was really the magnet. I can be a health professional. It’s a reasonable length of study. The job itself is in a clean, professional environment, and I have some work-life flexibility.” The field seems to be particularly well suited to the strengths many women interested in pharmacy have. They experience the challenge of science and technologies involved in the practice of pharmacy, but are also required to be great communicators and nurturers for their patients. This in addition to the fact that women have grown not only to be taken seriously in the profession, but also desired for these positions. The combination of work-life flexibility, impressive starting out salary, equality in the field and intellectual challenge makes pharmacy one of the top professions for women. Unlike other female dominated professions, pharmacy has avoided the “pink-collar” curse and wages have continued to increase even as women have entered the field. It seems pharmacy is an ideal profession for not only women, but men looking for flexibility and strong wages as well.