Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
Before we dive into 2016 data, let’s revisit pharmacy salary information from 2015. In 2015, full-time pharmacists made between $90,000 and $140,000 a year, with the average annual salary coming in between $112,000 and $119,000, depending on the data source.
Staff pharmacists at mail-order pharmacies were the lowest paid in 2015, earning an average wage of $56.69 per hour. Aside from team managers, clinical pharmacists were the highest paid, earning an average wage of $61.28 per hour. Overall, 37% of pharmacists reported earning between $61/hr and $70/hr.
For the 2016 Pharmacist Salary Guide, I consulted a number of sources to try to give you a well-rounded picture of pharmacy salaries in the United States. The good news is that, no matter which source I consulted, a career as a pharmacist is still considered to be respected and stable with above-average income.
According to the results of a PayScale.com survey, pharmacists’ annual salaries fell between $84,000 and $134,000 in 2016. The current median annual salary is $108,267.
Factors that influence a pharmacist’s salary include (in order of influence):
- Area of residence
- Specific employer
- Experience level
- Average earnings with 0-5 years of experience: $108,000
- Average earnings with 5-10 years of experience: $115,000
- Average earnings with 10-20 years of experience: $118,000
- Average earnings with 20+ years of experience: $119,000
Drug Channels based its statistics on the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics from 2014 and reported that the average gross salary for retail, mail-order, and specialty pharmacists is $119,400.
The following chart displays total employment and average salary by dispensing format:
|Dispensing Format||Total Employment||Average Annual Salary|
|Chain and independent drugstores||125,450||$119,420|
In 2014, the number of pharmacy graduates was 13,838, up 84.8% from 2003. By 2017, the number of pharmacy graduates is expected to grow to 15,632, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).
The 2016 Drug Topics survey, which was conducted in 2015, found that the 2393 pharmacists surveyed reported high levels of job satisfaction, growing salaries, and manageable hours. However, the survey also found that pharmacists are reporting greater workloads across all practice settings and receiving more modest raises compared with previous years.
In 2015, 81% of pharmacists reported earning more than $100,000. Most pharmacists (41.9%) earned between $61/hr and $70/hr.
The following chart shows a breakdown of pharmacists’ hourly wages in 2015:
|Hourly Wage||Percentage of Respondents|
|$40 or less||3.2%|
|$71 or more||7.8%|
Although raises are more modest, pharmacists reported that salaries are growing:
- Percentage of pharmacists who received raise in 2015: 63.8%
- Percentage of pharmacists who said they expect a raise in 2016: 61.7%
|Amount of Raise||Percentage of Respondents|
|Less than $1000||47.6%|
|More than $7000||18%|
Nearly 20% of pharmacists earn between $121,000 and $130,000.
The following chart provides a breakdown of pharmacists’ annual salaries in 2015:
|Pharmacist Annual Earnings||Percentage of Respondents|
|$70,000 or less||8.7%|
|$150,000 or more||10.4%|
A majority of pharmacists (52.4%) reported working between 40 and 44 hours per week, while 28.1% reported working 39 or fewer hours per week. Only 3.9% of pharmacists reported seeing a decrease in workload, while 70.9% said they saw an increase.
Despite the increased workload, 78.3% of pharmacists surveyed reported being satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with their job, and most (74%) don’t plan to change jobs within the next year.
Each year, PharmacyWeek teams with Mercer to conduct a national compensation survey of pharmacists. In 2015, pharmacists reported earning an average hourly wage of $60.88, representing an increase of slightly more than $1 compared with the average reported hourly wage in 2014. However, the pay rate varies widely depending on a pharmacist’s job title, setting, and specialty area.
Here’s the breakdown of average hourly pay for different job titles in the pharmacy industry, as reflected in Pharmacy Week’s 2015 survey:
|Job Title||Hourly Pay Rate||+/- From 2014|
|Staff pharmacist – mail order||$56.83||$0.14|
|Staff pharmacist – satellite||$60.57||$3.50|
|Staff pharmacist – retail||$58.35||-$0.46|
|Staff pharmacist - hospital||$60.75||$0.63|
According to this survey, hourly wages are down by 46 cents for retail pharmacists, but slightly up for mail-order pharmacists, hospital pharmacists, team managers, and clinical pharmacists. Satellite pharmacists and nuclear pharmacists saw significant increases in hourly wages, and nuclear pharmacists have surpassed clinical pharmacists as the highest-paid specialty.
Pharmacists on the West Coast earn the most, making an average of $68.07 per hour, or $141,600 per year. Meanwhile, pharmacists in the Northeast earn the least at $56.75 per hour, or $118,000 per year.
Pharmacists in California earn the highest wage in the United States, pulling in an average of $70.61 per hour, or $146,900 per year. Pharmacists in Puerto Rico are the lowest paid, earning an average of $45.89 per hour, or $95,500 per year.
Here’s a breakdown of pharmacists’ average annual and hourly salaries by state:
|State||Average Annual Salary||Average Hourly Salary|
|North Dakota||Data not available||Data not available|
Hospital/health system pharmacists are the highest paid at an average of $127,700 a year, or $61.41/hr. Supermarket pharmacists make an average of $125,200 a year ($60.21/hr), mass merchandiser pharmacists make an average of $123,000 a year ($59.12/hr), and chain drug store pharmacists earn an average of $122,500 a year ($58.91/hr). Mail-order pharmacists are the lowest paid at an average of $119,200 per year, or $57.31/hr.
BLS 2014 Report
In its 2014 report, BLS reported that there are 297,100 pharmacy jobs in the United States and the median pay for pharmacists is $120,950 per year, or $58.15 per hour. The pharmacy industry is expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 3%, adding 9100 jobs between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS report.
U.S. News & World Report 2014 Rankings
In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, U.S. News & World Report ranked “Pharmacist” as No. 18 on its list of best-paying jobs. The publication reported that the annual median salary was $120,950, or $58.15/hr, which is in accordance with the 2014 BLS report.
- The best-paid 10% of pharmacists earn $150,550 a year
- The lowest-paid 10% of pharmacists earn $89,320 a year
Although academics continue to earn the lowest salary among pharmacists, the average full-time faculty salary in 2015-2016 increased to $104,400, up from $103,100 in 2014-2015.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably realized that pharmacy salary data varies depending on the source you use. Still, it’s safe to say that pharmacists across the United States have seen modest increases in their salaries this year, and that a career as a pharmacist continues to be a well-paying gig.
Little has changed from 2015 regarding salary variations by location. Pharmacists in California are still the top earners in the country because of their higher cost of living. Nuclear pharmacists are the highest paid, and hospital/health systems are the highest-paying settings.
So, whether you’re a pharmacy student trying to anticipate how quickly you can pay off your student loans after landing your first job, or a hard-working retail pharmacist looking for fodder to make a case for a raise, I hope that this information has given you some food for thought and proves useful as you start—or continue—your career.