Average Pharmacist Salary
The average salary for pharmacists in the United States is $123,670, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The last survey to determine the average pharmacist salary in the U.S. was in May of 2018.
While the average salary of practicing pharmacists can give you an idea of your earning potential, it’s essential to keep in mind the various factors which impact your salary. Based on these components, you could earn significantly higher or lower than the national average.
Pharmacist Salary Range
The BLS reports the average pharmacist salary in the United States by percentile. This information gives us an indication of the full range of average salaries being earned nation-wide.
Here is how the highest-earning pharmacists and the lowest-earning pharmacists compare:
- 10th percentile (lowest-earning 10% of pharmacists): $87,790
- 25th percentile (earning more than 25% of pharmacists): $111,340
- 50th percentile (median pharmacist salary): $126,870
- 75th percentile (earning more than 75% of pharmacists): $145,870
- 90th percentile (highest-earning 10% of pharmacists: $161,250
The lowest-paid 10% of pharmacists in the United States earn an average of $87,790, while the highest-paid 10% of pharmacists earn an average of $161,250. The median pharmacist salary—the point at which half of all pharmacists earn more, and half of all pharmacists earn less—is $126,870.
Top-Paying States and Cities for Pharmacists
One of the influencing factors that will determine whether you fall on the higher end or the lower end of the salary spectrum is where you live and work. Below are the top-paying states and cities for pharmacists according to the BLS in 2018.
The Top-Paying States for Pharmacists
|State||Average Annual Salary|
Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Pharmacists
|Metro Area||Average Annual Salary|
|Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA||$155,330|
|Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA||$151,590|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$149,790|
Top-Paying Nonmetropolitan Areas for Pharmacists
|Nonmetro (Rural) Area||Average Annual Salary|
|North Valley-Northern Mountains Region of California nonmetropolitan area||$159,670|
|West Central Illinois nonmetropolitan area||$158,730|
|Alaska nonmetropolitan area||$157,640|
|Southwest Missouri nonmetropolitan area||$146,180|
|Southeast Alabama nonmetropolitan area||$144,570|
Highest-Employing States and Cities for Pharmacists
It’s also important to consider which states and cities employ the highest number of pharmacists.
Pharmacy can be a highly-competitive career path, so living in a location with ample job opportunities may improve your ability to begin your career quickly and eventually earn a higher salary.
However, a larger number of pharmacists working in an area can also mean pharmacists are less in-demand, and therefore earn a lower salary on average.
For example, pharmacists in nonmetropolitan Kansas, where there are only 810 pharmacists employed, make more on average than their peers in New York City, where there are over 21,000 pharmacists employed.
Below are the states and cities with the highest levels of employment for pharmacists.
The Highest-Employing States for Pharmacists
|State||Employment||Average Annual Salary|
Highest-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Pharmacists
|Metro Area||Employment||Average Annual Salary|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||21,140||$121,260|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||11,730||$137,780|
Highest-Employing Nonmetropolitan Areas for Pharmacists
|Nonmetro (Rural) Area||Employment||Average Annual Salary|
|Kansas nonmetropolitan area||810||$135,660|
|Southeast Coastal North Carolina nonmetropolitan area||800||$129,580|
|Piedmont North Carolina nonmetropolitan area||590||$127,370|
|North Northeastern Ohio non-metropolitan area (non-contiguous)||580||$115,520|
|Hill Country Region of Texas nonmetropolitan area||550||$127,260|
Top-Paying Industries for Pharmacists
The industry in which you work as a pharmacist will impact every aspect of your career, from your schedule to what you do on a minute-to-minute basis. It also affects your earning potential. Below are the top-paying industries for pharmacists and the average pharmacist salary in each sector.
|Industry||Average Annual Salary|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$137,530|
|Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services||$137,040|
|Local Government, excluding schools and hospitals||$130,510|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||$128,000|
|Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing||$127,900|
Highest-Employing Industries for Pharmacists
The above are the highest-paying industries for pharmacists in the United States. However, you’re more likely to find employment in the sectors below. These are the highest-employing industries for pharmacists.
|Industry||Employment||Average Annual Salary|
|Health and Personal Care Stores||135,300||$122,380|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||75,270||$125,660|
|Food and Beverage Stores||23,970||$125,240|
|General Merchandise Stores||19,630||$125,280|
Pharmacist Average Starting Salary
Your salary as a pharmacist will also be impacted by how much experience you have. The average starting salary for a pharmacist can be determined using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale.
BLS Pharmacist Starting Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t offer an average pharmacist starting salary. But we can use the pharmacist salary range reported by the BLS to deduce the average starting salary of a pharmacist in the United States.
As a starting pharmacist, your salary is more likely to fall between the low 10th percentile reported by the BLS (an average annual salary of $87,790) and the median pharmacist salary of $126,870.
As you gain experience in your field, you’ll be able to earn a salary that is higher—likely falling between the median annual salary and the 90th percentile ($161,250) or higher.
PayScale Pharmacist Starting Salary
According to PayScale, the average entry-level pharmacist salary is $101,906 in 2019. With tips, yearly bonus, and overtime pay, the average starting salary of a pharmacist with one to four years of experience is $108,116.
Here is how your salary is likely to increase as you gain working experience, according to the PayScale survey, which had 9,008 responses.
- Entry Level (1-4 years): $108,116
- Mid-Career (5-9 years): $116,791
- Experienced (10-19 years): $119,208
- Late-Career (20-plus years): $119,925
The PayScale survey also includes specific starting salaries reported by popular pharmacist employers. The top respondents and their respective salaries are below.
- CVS Pharmacy: $114,000
- Rite Aid Corp: $113,000
- Walgreen’s Pharmacy: $111,000
- Wal-Mart Stores: $97,000
Are Pharmacists in Demand?
If you’re still deciding whether or not pharmacy is right for you, you may want to consider the job’s outlook for the future: Is the pharmacist career expected to increase in employment? Are pharmacists expected to be more or less in demand in the future?
The good news is that pharmacy employment is expected to increase by 6% by 2026. The BLS predicts that an aging baby boomer population will lead to a higher need for pharmacy professionals in the near future.
However, the BLS also expects jobs in one of the highest-employing industries—grocery stores and drug stores—to decline. This is because of the growing mail-order pharmacy industry.
Additionally, new pharmacy schools continue to open at a relatively high rate. That means there are more qualified pharmacists looking for jobs, and more competition for pharmacy positions.
Increase Your Skills as a Pharmacist
In light of these potential employment difficulties, the BLS recommends that students complete residency programs and gain additional experience and skills to improve their value as employees.
Adding to your skills as a pharmacist will make it easier to find employment, as well as increase your earning potential.
To improve your job prospects, the BLS also recommends gaining certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties or becoming a Certified Diabetes Educator.
Alternative Job Opportunities for Pharmacists
With a pharmacy degree, you can go into one of the industries discussed above, where you’ll likely work directly with patients and their medications.
However, a pharmacy degree also gives you useful skills that are valuable in multiple other professions.
If you decide that patient-centered pharmacy isn’t right for you, you may choose to pursue one of the following alternative career opportunities. Additionally, these jobs may be perfect for earning additional income while working in your pharmacy career.
- Medical or Science Writing
If you have a Pharm.D. degree, you have a wealth of medical and scientific knowledge that many people will find useful. If you’re a skilled writer, you can take advantage of the growing career opportunities in medical and scientific writing. To boost your value as an employee or contractor in this field, you may consider studying journalism or technical writing more in-depth while you’re in school and possibly earning writing qualifications.
- Regulatory Affairs
If working one-on-one with patients in a pharmacy setting isn’t for you, you may want to consider a more big-picture position in pharmaceutical regulation. Regulating organizations, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, and Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority, are always on the look-out for talented pharmacists.
Learning everything there is to know about pharmaceuticals and the pharma industry also gives you the ability to teach others. If you’ve earned your Pharm.D. degree and gained some working experience in the pharmaceutical industry, you may choose to go into lecturing at a university or earn your teaching credential to become a full-time professor or secondary teacher.
Another position in academia is research and laboratory study. As a pharmacist, you’re a science expert with a relatively niche knowledge base, which can be highly valued in university research settings. In this position, as in medical writing, strong communication skills and possible writing qualifications will give you a leg up.
Many consultancy firms seek graduates in science fields, and in pharmacy, in particular, to assist them with their pharmaceutical industry and hospital clients. If you’re more business-minded and prefer an office setting to a clinic, working as a pharmaceutical consultant may be the right choice.
Average Pharmacy Salary Compared to Other Medical Careers
To understand your earning potential as a pharmacist, we can also compare the average pharmacist salary to other salaries in the medical field.
Here is how the average salary for pharmacists, according to the BLS in 2018, stacks up compared to other professional degree and masters-level medical careers:
|Medical Career||Average Annual Salary|
|General Medical Doctor||$211,780|
|Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)||$174,790|
Is a Pharmacist Salary Worth the Student Debt?
More than 84% of students who earn their Pharm.D. degree use financial aid and student loans to pay their way through school, according to the AACP in 2018. But how much debt is normal at the end of a Pharm.D. program, and is it worth it?
The AACP reported in 2018 that the average debt at graduation for Pharm.D. students was $166,529 overall. Graduates from private institutions owed an average of $193,000, while graduates from public institutions owed an average of $137,256. Compare these figures to the average medical school debt of $190,000 overall.
No matter where you attend school to earn your Pharm.D. degree, you’re likely to graduate with three figures’ worth of student loan debt.
But with such a high salary potential, as compared to the national median single-person salary of just $38,640, it’s up to you to decide whether the benefits are worth the cost.
Keep in mind that as a pharmacist, you may have the opportunity to go into a public service field that qualifies you for PSLF. You can also enter an income-driven repayment plan that allows you to pay more as you earn more and pay very little while you’re still starting out.
As you begin to earn more as a pharmacist, you can also refinance your student debt privately with a lower interest rate.
Average Pharmacist Salary Bottom Line
Whether you’re a practicing pharmacist or applying to pharmacy programs, understanding your income potential and what affects it is an important step. Using the information above, you can better strategize for your career as a pharmacist, in terms of both salary and your career interests.
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