Americans rely on medication to manage symptoms, treat illnesses and prevent diseases. Since 2009, the number of medical prescriptions issued each year has increased, according to Statista, with pharmacists dispensing 6.47 billion prescriptions in 2021 alone. As medication experts, pharmacists play a critical role in healthcare and are among the highest-paid allied health professionals.
Whether you’re just starting your pharmacy career or exploring options for improving your current salary, use this guide to get a better sense of your earning potential. We take an in-depth look at the average pharmacist salary by state and workplace setting, helping you find the best-paying staff and travel pharmacist jobs.
Where Do Pharmacists Work?
There are about 312,550 pharmacist jobs across the nation, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) posted in May 2021. The states with the most pharmacist jobs are:
- California: 33,130
- Texas: 22,550
- Florida: 19,620
- New York: 18,680
- Pennsylvania: 14,550
Most pharmacists find jobs in the community, filling prescriptions and advising patients in grocery store, drug store and general merchandise store pharmacies. Some pharmacists work in clinical settings such as hospitals, collaborating with healthcare teams and advising physicians on medications for treatment.
The following is a breakdown of pharmacist jobs by workplace setting, per May 2021 BLS data.
- Pharmacies: 40%
- Hospitals: 27%
- Food and beverage stores: 8%
- Ambulatory healthcare: 5%
How Much Do Pharmacists Make?
A pharmacist’s salary depends on many factors, including experience and education, local demand for pharmacists, cost of living and whether the position is staff or travel. According to Vivian’s salary data, the average staff pharmacist salary nationwide was $60.34 per hour on March 23, 2023.
Staff Pharmacist Salary Comparison by State
To compare geographic differences in salaries for staff pharmacist jobs, we turned to the BLS. Its May 2021 data reveals that staff pharmacists earned the most in California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Vermont.
While comparing salaries by state, don’t forget to consider the cost of living. You might find that the high costs of housing, groceries and transportation offset any gains in pay.
The table below highlights average pharmacist salaries and cost of living in various states based on job count and salary information from BLS and living costs from Sperling’s Best Places.
|Average Annual Staff Salary||Cost of Living Compared to the National Average||Total Pharmacist Jobs|
|New York||$128,260||+ 21.5%||18,680|
|West Virginia||$117,420||– 20.6%||2,120|
|North Dakota||$115,480||– 11.4%||1,100|
Sources: BLS (May 2021), Sperling’s Best Places (March 23, 2023)
Travel Pharmacist Salary Comparison by State
According to Vivian’s salary data on March 23, 2023, the travel pharmacist jobs paid an average of $2,955 per week, which translates to $73.88 per hour when divided over a 40-hour workweek. The states paying the highest travel pharmacist salary were New Jersey, Arizona and California.
When you consider living expenses, you come out ahead financially in New Jersey and Arizona, where the cost of living is more affordable than in California. Similarly, travel pharmacists in Oklahoma typically earn more than those in New Hampshire while paying significantly less for basic necessities.
The following table outlines the average weekly travel salary based on Vivian’s salary data on March 23, 2023, compared to the cost of living posted on Sperling’s Best Places on March 23, 2023, and total job counts from the BLS’ May 2021 data.
|Average Weekly Travel Salary||Cost of Living Compared to the National Average||Total Pharmacist Jobs|
|New Hampshire||$2,852||+ 5.8%||1,190|
|New Mexico||$2,165||– 11.6%||1,890|
Sources: Vivian Health (March 23, 2023), Sperling’s Best Places (March 23, 2023), BLS (May 2021)
Pharmacist Salary by Workplace Setting
Community pharmacists work directly with the public in retail settings. Clinical pharmacists work in healthcare environments, often collaborating with physicians to recommend medications and dosages.
A clinical pharmacist’s salary is typically higher than a community pharmacist’s. According to BLS data from May 2021, staff pharmacists working in outpatient care centers earned the highest average pay, followed by specialty hospitals, then general medical and surgical hospitals.
|Workplace Setting||Average Annual Staff Salary||Total Pharmacist Jobs|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$150,710||7,300|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals||$132,970||81,500|
|General Merchandise Stores||$131,830||19,540|
|Electronic Shopping and Mail Order||$130,260||5,950|
|Food and Beverage Stores||$120,150||24,220|
|Health and Personal Care Stores||$118,570||126,060|
Source: BLS (May 2021)
Pharmacist Salary vs. Similar Healthcare Jobs
Pharmacists earn a relatively good salary compared to many other healthcare professions requiring graduate-level degrees and credentials.
Advanced practice registered nurses pursue a Master of Science or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Clinical nurse specialists earn an average of $41.20 per hour, and nurse practitioners earn an average of $53.77 per hour, based on Vivian’s data on March 23, 2023.
Occupational therapists (OTs) have a master’s degree and physical therapists (PTs) hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy. According to May 2021 BLS data, the average staff OT hourly rate was $43.02 and the average PT hourly rate was $44.67.
Pros and Cons of Being a Pharmacist
While potential earnings are important when choosing a career path, you also should consider job outlook and personal fulfillment.
Advantages of Being a Pharmacist
Pharmacists can look forward to a stable job market in the coming years. The BLS projects modest growth in pharmacist jobs between 2021 and 2031, with about 13,600 openings yearly due to new job creation and pharmacists leaving the workforce.
These allied health professionals may take on a more significant role in direct patient care in the coming years, which can lead to more rewarding and challenging work. In some states, a pharmacist’s scope of practice has expanded to include testing for and treating common illnesses, including strep throat or prescribing drugs such as oral contraceptives.
You can choose hospital or retail-based settings, depending on your interests. However, pharmacists also have the flexibility to work part-time hours or pick up extra shifts in retail settings.
Challenges of Being a Pharmacist
While the BLS predicts an average 2% increase in pharmacist jobs between 2021 and 2031, this growth rate is slower than the average of all occupations. The BLS also forecasts fewer pharmacists working in retail due to increased numbers of online and mail pharmacies and the consolidation of retail stores.
Some pharmacists may find the retail environment challenging. Corporate stores often have performance measures that differ from healthcare settings. Community pharmacists might also have to deal with demanding customers or spend time ringing up non-medical purchases.
More than 61% of pharmacists experience high levels of stress and burnout, according to a 2020 article in U.S. Pharmacist. This burnout rate is one of the highest among healthcare professionals. Some hospital-based pharmacists reported having too many non-clinical duties, and community pharmacists felt overworked and lacking control. Pharmacists working more than 40 hours per week were most at risk of burnout.
How to Become a Pharmacist
Plan on devoting 6 to 8 years of education to become a pharmacist. You must complete 2 to 4 years of undergraduate postsecondary studies, followed by a 4-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program.
While most PharmD programs don’t require a bachelor’s degree for admission, it’s strongly recommended to prepare you for the rigors of a graduate-level program.
After earning your PharmD from an accredited program, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and apply for a state license to practice. Depending on the state, you must pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination or a state-specific jurisprudence exam.
If you pursue work as a travel pharmacist, you need a state license for every state where you practice. Most states provide licensure by reciprocity if you already hold a license in a state with similar standards.
Those interested in careers as clinical pharmacists continue their education with post-graduate residencies to gain the expertise to provide patient care.
Is Pharmacy School Hard?
PharmD programs incorporate a graduate-level, professional curriculum and are highly intensive. You must complete extensive coursework in biomedical science, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, infectious diseases and immunology. You learn to make therapeutic decisions related to different diseases and conditions and cover areas such as ethics, law, public health and patient management. In addition to classroom learning, the programs include hands-on rotations.
Can a Pharmacy Tech Become a Pharmacist?
Some pharmacy technicians decide to advance their careers and train as pharmacists to assume greater responsibilities and better pay. You must still fulfill the requirements for admission to a Doctor of Pharmacy program, earn a PharmD, pass the NAPLEX and state licensure exams and obtain a state license.
Can Pharmacists Become Doctors?
While a PharmD is a doctorate, it isn’t the same as a medical degree. Pharmacists who wish to become physicians must follow the same path as other doctors. Steps include fulfilling prerequisites for medical school, passing the Medical College Admission Test, completing a 4-year medical school program to earn a Doctor of Medicine and completing residency and fellowship programs.
How to Earn More as a Pharmacist
- Compare salaries. Use Vivian’s salary tool to explore the pay rates for jobs in different markets and ensure you’re getting fair compensation.
- Train as a clinical pharmacist. The average clinical pharmacist’s salary tends to be higher than the typical community pharmacist’s salary.
- Pursue certification through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Pharmacists can establish expertise in 14 specialties, including cardiology, critical care, oncology, solid organ transplant and pediatric pharmacy. A specialist credential can lead to career advancement and better pay.
- Work as a travel pharmacist. Travel contracts typically pay a higher rate than staff jobs.
Pharmacists are highly trained medication experts positioned to play an exciting and growing role in healthcare. Explore opportunities to build your career in this dynamic field and take your earning potential to the next level.
Browse current job openings to find your next travel, staff, per diem or local contract job on Vivian today.
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