Of all the factors that contribute to pharmacists’ employment decisions, salary is one of the biggest.
In simplest terms, pharmacist salaries are unique in that pharmacists often walk directly into a 6-figure income after graduation. While that’s great for students just graduating from pharmacy school, it results in less room for salary growth over the course of a career.
In 2017, the median annual salary for pharmacists, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, was $124,170 annually in May of 2017.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $87,420 and the top 10 percent earned $159,410.
In terms of hourly pay, the median was $59.70 per hour.
The ranges, of course, depend largely on factors like location (State, rural vs urban), years of experience, level of education, and other variables. California, for example, has the highest paying ranges, but that's due to the extremely high cost of living.
We've reported these numbers for a while now, here's a list of previous reports:
- 2017 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- 2016 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- 2015 Pharmacist Salary Guide
- Why Pharmacists’ Salaries Are Decreasing: A Conspiracy Theory
For 2018, the news is a mixture of good and bad.
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Growth is expected to hover around 6 percent, which is just under the projected average of 7 percent for all occupations.
BLS estimates that pharmacists held about 312,500 jobs in 2016.
- Pharmacies and drug stores; 43% of jobs; median pay $123,670.
- Hospitals; 25% of jobs; median pay $124,900.
- General merchandise stores; 8% of jobs; median pay $128,610 .
- Food and beverage stores represent 7% of jobs; median pay $125,850.
Of those pharmacists, 1 in 5 worked part-time in 2016.
Between now and 2026, BLS predicts that an aging baby-boom generation and higher rates of chronic disease such as diabetes will increase demand for prescription medications, which is projected to increase demands for pharmacists in some healthcare settings.
Positions in traditional retail settings like grocery stores are predicted to decline in the face of increasing mail order and online pharmacy sales.
BLS also recognizes that the growth in the number of pharmacy schools will create more graduates and, as a result, competition for jobs. To that end, BLS predicts that residency programs could improve job prospects.
In addition to this information from BLS, we compiled information from a variety of sources to develop the most complete picture of pharmacy salaries in the U.S. You’ll find information here from Drug Topics, Payscale.com, Drug Channels, U.S. News & World Report, and Salary.com.
Drug Topics Pharmacists Salaries
Drug Topics reports that only 58 percent of pharmacists expect to get a raise in the next year, compared with 67 percent who expected to get one in 2017.
Although the majority of pharmacists reported getting pay raises in 2017, 86 percent of those pharmacists got a raise of 3% or less.
Additionally, 60% of those same pharmacists who reported pay raises also said their workloads increased accordingly, as did their stress levels.
The website also reports that overall compensation for pharmacists has changed as well, with only 43 percent receiving additional income in the form of bonuses, commission, and profit-sharing. Of those, almost half reported receiving less than $2,500.
Ten years ago, 55 percent reported receiving additional income, and the average value was $5,766.
Of the pharmacists who started new jobs in 2017, fewer than 2.6 percent of respondents landed a sign-on bonus. For purposes of comparison, 67 percent of new pharmacists reported sign-on bonuses of about $8,000 in 2008. Of those, 33 percent received relocation stipends and 3 percent got new cars.
Finally, Drug Topics reports that job demands have increased along with pay, and as stress levels climb, job satisfaction seems to be sinking.
In a separate study of the 25 cities with the highest pharmacy salaries, Drug Topics found that 16 were in California, 4 were in Texas, and Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Alabama each had one. (No cost-of-living adjustments were considered.)
Payscale.com Pharmacist Salaries
Payscale.com reports that, as of April 2018, the median salary for pharmacists is $111,000.
With the lowest incomes at $83,726 and the upper boundary at $136,212, pharmacists generally benefit from bonuses as high as $10,287, in addition to profit sharing, medical benefits and dental coverage.
Payscale.com reports that the employer and tenure impact salary numbers, but not as significantly as location. Overall, many of the cities with higher pay reside on the west coast, while many east coast cities lag behind their western counterparts.
Pharmacists in Miami, Boston, and New York all earn less than the national average.
Additionally, Payscale.com found that certain skill sets like immunization, pediatrics, retail pharmacy, and patient counseling positively impact pharmacist salary. Conversely, pharmacists with experience in oncology, compounding, pharmacotherapy, and mail order pharmacy did not benefit financially from their skill sets.
The study indicates that CVS Caremark offered the highest retail salaries, with Rite Aid and Kroger close behind. Walgreen’s offered the lowest retail salaries of 10 companies listed.
U.S. News & World Report Pharmacist Salaries
In a 2016 study of pharmacy salaries, U.S. News & World Report found that the median salary for pharmacists was $122,230, or $58.77 hourly. The top 10 percent of pharmacists earned $157,950, and the lowest 10 percent earned $87,120.
The best paying states for pharmacists -- the states and districts with the highest mean salary -- are Alaska at $137,650, California at $136,100, New Hampshire at $128,790, Vermont at $128,380, and Wisconsin at $124, 060.
Although pharmacists have higher annual salaries that many other health care jobs, they lag behind dentists, who average $173,860, and physicians, who earn $201,840. Pharmacists do, however, make about $88,000 more annually year than pharmacy techs.
The report also noted that opportunity for advancement and stress levels are both higher than average for pharmacists.
Finally, their survey indicates that mail-order pharmacy opportunities are expanding.
Salary.com Pharmacist Salaries
Salary.com reports that the average pay for pharmacists was $127,122 as of March 29, 2018, with pay generally ranging between $119,558 and $135,743.
In terms of hourly pay, the median wage was $61, with a range between $57 and $65.
Salary.com also reports salaries for the following job titles related to pharmacy:
- Clinical Pharmacist$113,170
- Pharmacist - Home Care$113,286
- Online Pharmacist$122,645
- Retail Pharmacist$139,459
- Pharmacist Manager$145,501
- Assistant Pharmacy Director$149,148
Drug Channels Pharmacist Salaries
Relying on numbers from the BLS (see above), this survey finds that, although pharmacist salaries are growing, they aren’t keeping pace with other healthcare practitioners.
Within those results, the study found that retail pharmacy expanded, with the greatest amount of growth occurring in drugstores.
Mass merchants with pharmacies saw a drop in salary, while supermarkets with pharmacies and mail pharmacies saw a drop in total employment. Only chain, independent, and long-term care pharmacies saw growth in employment and average annual salary.
Overall, Drug Channels found that hospital employment continues to grow, up 14 percent since 2010. At the same time, employment at mail, retail and specialty pharmacies declined, with 61.6 percent of pharmacists working in these settings.
Pharmacists at mass merchants earned the highest average salaries for the fifth year in a row.
Salary Outlook Pharmacist Salaries
It should be clear by now that the salary estimates vary by source. All sources agree, though, that the rise in demand and salary has been steady, despite slowed pharmacy growth.
Additionally, the 3.1% unemployment rate for pharmacists is far lower than the national unemployment rate.
The six-figure starting salaries make pharmacy a respected occupation that offers higher-than-average income. Although job fulfillment is a combination of factors, salary is an important consideration for pharmacists.
Research the salary for the type of job you’re seeking, understanding that different areas of the industry have their own income ranges, and consider the region you’re working in.
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Alex is the Founder of The Happy PharmD. He loves anime, his family, and video games, but not in that order.