Update: This guide has been since updated with more recent data. Read the 2021 Salary Guide here.
Here we are, back with our annual salary guide. We provide these each year not only to provide insight into what may be the most preferable pharmacy jobs, but also to aid you in any raise negotiations you may be seeking.
While pharmacy isn’t seeing a major increase in salary, pharmacy pay is remaining consistent across all areas. Pharmacy unemployment is very low, though the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics projected in 2018 that there would be little to no job growth in pharmacy between 2018 and 2028. Pharmacy remains a respectable career with an average pay of around $125,000 annually (though you’ll find that varies some across sources).
If you’d like to check out any of our previous salary guides, you can do so here:
- 2019 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- 2018 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- 2017 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- 2016 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- 2015 Pharmacist Salary Guide
We’ve chosen several sources of information for this year’s guide. You’ll find that the exact numbers vary a bit, but that the information overall is consistent across sources. We will review data from Salary.com, Payscale.com, Drugchannels.net, Drugtopics.com, and U.S. News & World Report.
We’ll discuss where pharmacy is growing (in both number of pharmacists and salary), what factors affect salary, the best places to work in pharmacy, and some of the challenges that come with the higher-than-average pharmacist salary.
Now, let’s dive in.
As of March 26, 2020, the average annual pay of a pharmacist is $135,589, with pay typically ranging from $127,761 to $144,413.
The highest 10% earn more than $152,446 annually, and the lowest 10% earn less than $120,634. Salaries vary depending on education, certification, skills, and number of years in pharmacy.
As of 4/1/2020, Payscale.com reports pharmacy salaries ranging from $81,000 to $136,000, with the average pharmacist salary at $114,207. Pharmacists are generally looking at an average of a $2,443 bonus as well as $3,922 from profit sharing each year.
November 2018 data had reported an average pharmacist salary of $111,525. This shows a growth of 2.4% in the span of about 18 months.
The Kroger Company is the highest-paying retail pharmacy, coming in at an annual pharmacist salary of $126,261. CVS Caremark Corporation pays the lowest at $112,352 per year.
Pharmacists with skills in retail pharmacy, hospital education, pharmacotherapy, patient counseling, and long-term care tend to have higher salaries than other areas of pharmacy.
Years of experience affects salaries as follows. (The salary amounts reported here include tips, bonuses, and overtime.)
- Average earnings with less than 1 year of experience: $102,081
- Average earnings with 1–4 years of experience: $109,087
- 5–9 years: $118,566
- 10–19 years: $119,438
- 20+ years $120,914
Notice that while salaries increase significantly within initial years of work in pharmacy (the first 5 years), salary increases tend to plateau after that.
The average salary in each of these ranges of years of experience has shown little to no increase since Payscale.com reporting in 2017.
Drugchannels.net collaborates with the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to compile their salary report. Full-time work for pharmacists is considered to be 2,080 hours in a year. The numbers reported do not include non-wage benefits like contributions to retirement plans or health insurance. The report excludes business owners and partners in unincorporated firms. Independent pharmacy owners are not included, but their employees are.
Retail, mail, long-term care, and specialty pharmacy salaries exceeded $123,000. Pharmacists in hospitals have had a greater increase in income than those in outpatient dispensing formats. Pharmacists at physicians’ offices saw their salaries decline for the third straight year in a row. The overall number of pharmacists employed did not grow in 2018. (2018 is the most recent data.)
Hospitals had an increase in the number of pharmacists employed. 25.8% of pharmacists were employed at hospitals in 2018, up from the 23.2% of pharmacists employed at hospitals in 2010.
The number of pharmacists employed in retail, mail, long-term care, and specialty pharmacy has declined. 59.4% of pharmacists were employed in those areas in 2018, down from the 65.2% of pharmacists in 2010.
Pharmacists’ salaries average $42,000 (+51%) higher than healthcare employees overall, who averaged an $82,000 annual salary in 2018. Both pharmacists and healthcare professionals overall saw about a 1.5% salary growth.
According to the Drug Channels report, pharmacy is the 36th most highly paid occupation (moving up from 45th in 2017).
Drug Topics also pulls some of their data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and states that overall, pharmacists are well paid, but stressed out. In this section, we’re going to talk not only about salary, but also a bit about stress level, job satisfaction, and workload.
In 2010, 62% reported salaries in the $100,000–$130,000 range. In 2019, 40% reported pay in that range, while 50% reported that they made over $130,000.
The following shows percentages of pharmacists reporting each range of base annual salaries for 2019:
$70,000 or less: 3% reporting this annual salary amount
Over $150,000: 18%
In 2019, 61% of pharmacists reported their stress level increased since 2018. In 2018, 66% reported that their stress levels had increased since 2017. Pay has stayed about the same between 2018–2019.
Pharmacists attributed increased stress level to one or more of the following:
- Increased work volume: 81% selected this reason
- Inadequate staff support: 69%
- Increased pressure from management: 56%
- Increased paperwork: 45%
- Negative workplace environment: 33%
- Lack of training and continuing education: 16%
Two of the greatest stressors reported by pharmacists were quotas for flu shots administered and prescriptions filled as well as concerns that younger/newer and lower-paid pharmacists will take their jobs.
In 2019, 69% of pharmacists reported that their workload had increased over the past year. 24% stated their workload had stayed the same, and 4% reported that their workload had decreased. These numbers have remained relatively consistent since 2016.
30% of employees reported being satisfied with their jobs overall. 9% reported being extremely dissatisfied, 18% reported being extremely satisfied, with the rest falling between. 22% of pharmacists indicated that they were looking for a new position within the next 12 months.
According to Drug Topics, the top ten best states to be a pharmacist are as follows:
5. Iowa (tie with Ohio)
5. Ohio (tied with Iowa)
8. Illinois (tied with Wisconsin
8. Wisconsin (tied with Illinois)
Honestly, I’m not surprised by this list since these states have historically been more difficult to recruit pharmacists (no one wants to live in the MidWest? Come on!). To learn about how these rankings are determined, visit this link. You can also click this link to see the top 10 worst states to be a pharmacist.
Drug Topics reports that government data shows a projection that pharmacist job growth at retail outpatient settings will trail growth of pharmacist jobs at hospitals, physician offices, and other non-retail settings. Pharmacist jobs at non-retail settings are projected to increase 6.9% by 2028. Hospitals and outpatient care centers will see the biggest job growth.
The most recent U.S. News & World Report reported the 2018 (most recent data) median salary for pharmacists was $126,120. The highest 25% of pharmacists made $145,870, and the lowest 25% made $111,340 and below.
In 2018, pharmacists earned an average annual salary of $123,670. Other jobs in healthcare earned the following:
Pharmacists ranked #21 in best paying jobs in 2018. (They ranked 20th in 2015.)
Overall, the BLS projected 0% job growth for pharmacists between 2018 and 2028.
Pharmacists have a low unemployment rate of 1.6% (reported in 2018). As a reference, as of February 2020, the overall national unemployment rate was 3.5%. (Note: 3.5% indicates the unemployment rate prior to the 0.9% increase in March 2020 that occurred due to the effects of the COVID-19.)
Pharmacists’ opportunities for advancements and salary were above the average across all the jobs/careers discussed in the report. Unfortunately, that came with an above-average stress level. Pharmacists also have below-average flexibility (when considering work schedule and work-life balance).
The follow states and districts pay pharmacists the highest average annual salary:
- Alaska ($139,880)
- California ($139,690)
- Vermont ($135,420)
- Maine ($133,050)
- Wisconsin ($132,400)
Notice that only one of these falls into the Drug Topics report of top 10 ten states to be a pharmacist, indicating that much more goes into the appeal of a pharmacy job than salary alone.
If you’ve made it this far (kudos, my friend), you can see that while pharmacist salary data vary across sources, each source shows that pharmacists’ salaries have remained relatively stable over the past few years—increasing slightly each year—with a higher than average income of low to mid six figures.
If you’re considering pharmacy jobs, be sure to look into not just salary, but also geographic location, industry, and other factors that contribute to what are considered preferable jobs.
We hope that you have found this information insightful and helpful. Thank you for reading!
Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.