Availability and Perceived Value of Masters of Business Administration Degree Programs in Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management

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The pharmacist supply-and-demand equation is changing in the United States. (1) Whereas pharmacy manpower studies of the early 2000s projected a significant shortfall of pharmacists during the coming decades, the reality is that supply has grown much faster than anticipated. (2) Because of economic conditions stemming from the recession of 2008, many pharmacists are delaying retirement and continuing to work. (3) In addition, the pace of new chain drug store development has been slower than anticipated. (4) The major reason for the significant increase in the supply of pharmacists, however, is the increase in the number of US pharmacy colleges and schools from 75 in 1995 to 124 today (115 fully accredited or in candidate status and 9 in pre-candidate status). (2) Exacerbating this is the increase in enrollments by many existing state colleges and schools of pharmacy during the past several years. This changing professional landscape for pharmacists may result in a concomitant increase in pursuit of additional education opportunities by doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) graduates, such as residencies, fellowships, and additional degrees, to distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive environment. (5)

One degree that many pharmacists are choosing to pursue is an MBA, either as part of a dual PharmD/MBA degree program or as a standalone degree program completed after graduation. (6) Some student pharmacists pursue the joint PharmD/MBA degree because they can typically complete the MBA concurrently (or shortly after receiving their PharmD degree) and do so at significant cost savings. (7) The increase in advanced management training, coupled with the PharmD or BS in pharmacy degree, affords graduates additional opportunities in middle and upper management that might not be possible without the MBA. (8) There are also degree programs that allow enough flexibility for practicing pharmacists to obtain an MBA degree, ranging from regular full-time programs to part-time ("executive") programs and online programs. (9) An MBA degree offers pharmacists the skills needed to excel in the business, management, and/or marketing aspects of pharmacy, and provides these pharmacists with an advantage over others when seeking employment in these areas.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, approximately a third (n = 47) of US colleges and schools of pharmacy offer a PharmD/MBA dual degree. (10) The one study that exists pertaining to pharmacy and MBAs revealed that graduates with an MBA in addition to their PharmD degree are presented with more career opportunities and earn significantly more money than those pharmacists without an MBA degree ($111,090 vs. $101,965, respectively). (11) However, the study focused on students who received their MBA at the same time as their PharD degree, which implied that the salaries being compared were first-year salaries. Pharmacists who complete an MBA will likely continue to earn higher incomes in later years as well. (12) These studies provide limited information as they did not compare salaries and years of experience after being awarded the MBA degree. Doing so would provide metrics with which to compare and assess the value of the MBA degree. Students also reported that, in many cases, when interviewing for employment, the MBA degree attracted the interest of their interviewers and seemed to help them obtain the employment they were seeking. (11) In other situations, an MBA is a minimal prerequisite for specific career tracks in pharmacy (eg, industrial, corporate, and executive positions).

In the past decade, specialized MBA programs offering a concentration in pharmacy/pharmaceutical industry or healthcare have increased. (13) The specialized MBA in pharmaceutical marketing and management programs focuses exclusively on the pharmaceutical industry. These MBA programs offer the same analytical and financial skills as a general/traditional MBA program, but also promise the knowledge and skills needed to understand the economic, financial, organizational, and political structure that is unique to the pharmaceutical industry. …