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Career As A Pharmacist

Currently there are over 275,000 pharmacists in the United States that dispense medications in several settings, including retail, hospitals, mail-order, corporate and clinical settings. Pharmacy has been and remains one of the most stable and highest paying careers available today. Career opportunities in pharmacy have been some of the most consistent over the last 10 years, despite substantial fluctuations in the economy and job markets.

Becoming a pharmacist requires a 2 years of general study at a college or university following by four years of specialized study at a college of pharmacy.

While a career in pharmacy is specialized and technical, it does require a certain amount of personal and interactive skills, both in the handling of pharmacy staff and pharmacy customers. For this reason, many people find it a challenging and rewarding career that requires a good blend of skills that keep the job interesting outside of its salary alone.

Job descriptions for pharmacists normally include the following: transferring prescriptions, handling physician calls, data entry and reviewing utilization of drugs. Licensed to practice, familiarity with pharmacy practices, procedures and standard concepts. An ability to rely on judgement and experience to plan and accomplish goals. Career also requires a certain level of creativity and leadership.

Pharmacist Average Salary

The average salary of a pharmacist currently is $116,583.  It is important to keep in mind that there are several factors that can effect the salary of a pharmacist, including the region or city you are employed in as well as the type of pharmacist that you decide to be.

Pharmacist Salary Factors And Influences

Pharmacist salaries can fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Understanding these reason can help you choose a salary range most in line with your needs and desires.

Before we discuss the different influences on pharmacist salaries, lets look at the range of salaries. Currently, the bottom 10% of pharmacist salaries average $84,490 a year. In comparison, the top 10% of pharmacist salaries average $144,090 a year.

However, when looking at salary trends, pharmacist salary data becomes even more encouraging. For instance, in 2002, the average pharmacist made around $70,000 a year or 17% less than the bottom 10% of pharmacists make today.  To put it another way, the average pharmacist’s salary has increased 40% over the last ten years! This is exceptionally steady growth and has made pharmacy one of the most popular post graduate careers in the country.

In fact very few mainstream professions can boast the robust growth salaries in  pharmacy over the same time period. This has made pharmacy especially popular career choice. Yet, despite the increase in pharmacists, the demand of pharmacists and remained fairly high as well.

The average salary of a pharmacist can be effected by a variety of factors. The most influential factors included the specific city or region you are in and whether or not you are hired into a public or private pharmacy.

Demand for pharmacists greatly influenced how much compensation you may receive as a pharmacist in your particular city. If you live in a city with a high demand for pharmacist, chances are you have a better opportunity to make more money. Conversely, if you are in a city with a lower demand, you should expect to be on the lower end of the salary pay scale.

Here are some of the most in demand cities for pharmacists and the average salaries for those cities.

  • El Centro, California: Average Salary $163,410
  • Napa, California: Average Salary: $140,230
  • Santa Cruz, California: Average Salary: $140,220
  • Detroit, Michigan: $136,400
  • Chico, California: $135,780

It is important to note that the factors that influence higher pharmacist salaries are not always the same factors the influence job growth in any particular area. For instance, while Detroit has become a poster city for economic downturn in the last 10 years, it still pays pharmacists an average of over $21,000 more than the average U.S. city. For this reason, we encourage you to investigate average salaries for your particular city and region before making a decision on pharmacy as a career.

In general, the lowest paying areas for pharmacists are typically found in rural areas across the United States.  Smaller areas with less demand for pharmaceuticals tend to lead to smaller salaries for pharmacists. As for metropolitan areas, here are some that are on the lower end of pharmacist salaries:

  • Iowa City, Iowa: Average Salary $100,520
  • Morgantown, West Virginia: Average Salary: $101,840
  • Gainesville, Florida: Average Salary: $102,160
  • Palm Coast, Florida: Average Salary: $105,280
  • Johnson City, Tennessee: Average Salary: $106,710

In addition to where you live, another factor in a pharmacist salary is whether or not you become a pharmacy manager. Currently the average pharmacy manager makes $129,509.

Average Pharmacist Salary: $116,583 Average Pharmacist Manager Salary: $129,509

As you can note, being a pharmacy manager can increase your income by an average of over 10%.

Typically becoming a pharmacy manager is a product of seniority. However, begin a pharmacy manager also requires more responsibility and often an increase in time spent in the pharmacy. Therefore, being a pharmacy manager is not a desired promotion for everyone, which means your chances of getting promoted into that position can increase. As well, many pharmacists wishing to become a pharmacy manager and who are willing to transfer to another location, can find opportunities to do so, especially as new pharmacies open in nearby locations.

Pharmacist Salary Compared To Related Fields

Now, lets compare the salary of pharmacists to some related health care fields.

  • Average Pharmacists Salary: $116,583
  • Average Registered Nurse Salary: $65,690
  • Average Physical Therapist Salary: $78,270
  • Average Dentist Salary: $142,740
  • Average Physician Salary: $183,170

As you can see here, the average salary for a pharmacist is on the upper end of related professional salaries.  And when compared with related professions with similar education and training requirements, pharmacists make more than other comparable fields.  This combination of factors are yet more reasons why pharmacy has and remains such an attractive career choice.

Pharmacist Salary By State

Below are the five states that employ the most pharmacists and the average salary in each state.

  • California: Average Salary: $122,800
  • Texas: Average Salary: $113,570
  • New York: Average Salary: $111,750
  • Florida: Average Salary: $111,760
  • Pennsyvania: Average Salary $105,210

Below are the five states with the highest concentration of pharmacists and their average salaries:

  • West Virginia: Average Salary: $115,950
  • Alabama: Average Salary: $119,810
  • South Carolina: Average Salary: $114,780
  • Tennessee: Average Salary: $115,460
  • Michigan: Average Salary: $113,100

Keep in mind that “highest concentration” does not necessarily mean the best place for pharmacists. Areas with the highest concentration may mean less demand and more competition, depending on the area. Again, we always encourage you to investigate the salaries in your particular region or city.

Types Of Pharmacists Salaries

It is important to understand that the field of Pharmacy is a general career field, with several subsections of it. Each specific area of pharmacy has its own income range. Understanding each field can help you make a decision regarding your specific pharmacy concentration. Here are some of the most popular of these concentrations with average salary information and a brief description of each.

Clinical Pharmacist: Average Salary: $105,764

Clinical pharmacists generally work inside hospitals or clinics. They consult directly with the doctors and nurses in that hospital or clinic, providing prescriptions for patients directly associated with that specific hospital and clinic.

Retail Pharmacist: Average Salary: $117,617

Retail Pharmacists are your most common pharmacist. Retail simply means working in a retail environment. Some of the most popular large chain pharmacy retailers include Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Because of the high profitability of retail pharmaceuticals, retail pharmacists are some of the highest paid pharmacists.

Nuclear Pharmacist: Average Salary: $116,874

Nuclear pharmacy is a specific type of pharmacy that involves preparing radioactive materials in a way so that they can be used to diagnose diseases and treat diseases.  Nuclear pharamacists specifically use radioactive as treatment.  For these reasons, nuclear pharmacist must get specific training on the use and handling of radioactive materials. However, nuclear pharmacists often have a more “relaxed” work environment as they rarely if ever work directly with the public. Instead most of their work is done in highly regulated environments where no consumers are allowed.

Home Health Care Pharmacist: Average Salary: $102,544

Home health care pharmacists work specifically with patients in their homes or other residential facilities such as facilities for assisted living patients. Home health care pharmacist typically have fewer patients but much more face time with their patients. Home health care has been on the rise, because this type of pharmacy typical provides a more flexible schedule. However, one downside is that many home health care pharmacists have to be “on call” for house visits.

Online Pharmacist: Average Salary: $107,538

Just as it sounds, online pharmacist are pharmacists that are employed by online mail order sites to authorize prescriptions direct to customers. Unfortunately there are an array of non-legitimate online “drug stores”. However legitimate online pharmacies often work as similar to those of community pharmacies and most require a written prescription.  However, online pharmacists do not have to work direct with customers in the same way as retail pharmacists, which may be a preference to consider.

Pharmacy Tech: Average Salary: $32,242

It is important to keep in mind that a pharmacy tech is not a pharmacists, nor are the educational requirements of a pharmacy tech the same as those of a pharmacists. Therefore, pharmacy techs cannot fulfill prescriptions. Pharmacy techs instead assist pharmacists in running the pharmacy, taking orders and taking payments.

History of Pharmacists

Pharmacy in some form is ancient, with its roots literally in prehistoric times. The independent science of pharmacy as we know it today began in the early parts of the 19th century. Today pharmacy is a highly regulated field requiring a wealth of specialized knowledge. The combination of its billion dollar industry coupled with the very liability associated with malpractice, is one of the reasons this industry pays so well in comparison to so many other industries. It is also the reason that the industry has grown to where it is today.   

Pharmacist Salary Outlook – Conclusion

As we have mentioned several times in this article, careers in pharmacy have been in a boom over the last decade. The rise in demand and salary for pharmacists have been upward and steady despite many ups and downs in the overall economy. But how are the prospects for those interest in becoming pharmacists in the future?

Currently there is only a 3.1% unemployment rate for pharmacists. Compared to the national unemployment rate, that is very low. Although the fast growth of pharmacy has slowed down over the recent years, we expect pharmacy to remain a very active and growing industry.

With an every aging population and a constantly expanding array of medications coming to market, opportunities for aspiring pharmacists should be good for years to come. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 25.4% over the next 8 years, with an estimated 68,000 jobs being added

However, if you are interested in becoming a pharmacists, we do recommend the following steps to improve your chances for employment and a high salary. First, your job hunt should ideally begin while you are still in school studying to be a pharmacist. Internships are extremely important, as well as direct interaction with patients and customers. Make sure you focus on your skills of leadership and business. We also recommend you explore several different potential angles of pharmacy, including online, nuclear, home health care and wholesale pharmacy.  Also note that career opportunities for pharmacist exist in marketing and lobbying divisions of large pharmacy groups. Often these jobs can lead to some of the highest salaries in the entire field of pharmacy.

For more information on salary statistics of pharmacy you can read here.