How much do US pharmacists get paid?

Pharmacists in Alaska earn an annual salary of AU$206,000 or $99 an hour, while even the worst-paid state in the US sees pharmacists earning AU$152,000

Latest statistics reveal the national average annual wage of a pharmacist in the United States is US$123,670 (AU$182,000), according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.

This is much higher than the average annual salary for all occupations in the country, US$51,960 (AU$76,468).

There are approximately 309,550 pharmacists employed in the country.

US states with the highest annual mean wage were:

  1. Alaska – US$139,880 (AU$205,931) or an hourly wage of US$67.25 (AU$99)
  2. California – US$139,690 (AU$205,652)
  3. Vermont – US$135,420 (AU$199,365)
  4. Maine – US$133,050 (AU$195,876)
  5. Wisconsin – US$132,400 (AU$194,919)

The states with the lowest annual mean wage were:

  1. North Dakota: US$103,250 (AU$152,005)
  2. Montana: US$112,290 (AU$165,313)
  3. Oklahoma: US$115,000 (AU$169,303)
  4. West Virginia: US$115,130 (AU$169,495)
  5. Iowa: US$116,160 (AU$171,011)

Based on a 2018 analysis of salary data from employment site Glassdoor, pharmacists and pharmacy managers are in the top three highest paid of all professionals – not just in health – across the US, after doctors.

Meanwhile pharmacists are one of the lowest paid healthcare professionals in Australia.

A report released earlier this year by Professional Pharmacists Australia revealed the average base salary for an community pharmacist was AU$76,333 (42% of the average US pharmacist salary), and for a hospital pharmacist, $88,214.

This rose to $93,000 for an experienced community pharmacist and $102,233 for an experienced hospital pharmacist.

Pharmacists-in-charge in community pharmacies earned $88,967, and pharmacist managers $92,289.

Directors of pharmacy in hospitals earned $136,250.

The hourly rate of $24.50 for interns; $32.77 for pharmacists; $37.73 for experienced pharmacists; $37.76 for pharmacists in charge; and $39.35 for pharmacist managers.

There are a few marked differences between the pharmacy industry in Australia and the US.

In the US, pharmacy students must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree before they can register to practise, which usually takes six-to-eight years to complete (including internship).

Pharmacy ownership in the US is not restricted to just registered pharmacists, and the country’s pharmacy chains are some of wealthiest companies in the world.

CVS, which holds about one-quarter of the US pharmacy market share, saw a total prescription revenue of US$102.8 billion (AU$151.3 billion) in 2018, according to Drug Channels.

The retailer came in eighth on the Fortune 500 list for 2019.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, which holds 17.5% of the market share, made $74.4 billion in prescription revenue (up 15.6% on the year before).

Walmart, which holds about 5% of the prescription drugs market share, came first in the Fortune 500 list this year with a total revenue of $514 billion – making it the richest company in the US.

Meanwhile Australian pharmacy groups such as the PSA and PPA have called for pharmacist wages to be raised in line with their training and expertise.

PSA’s 2019 report on pharmacist roles and remuneration suggests for bands of pharmacist pay that should be achieved by 2023.

These pay bands are based on level of experience and qualifications – from $80,000-$100,000 for general pharmacist registration, up to $140,000 and above for pharmacists with more than five years’ experience in a defined area of advanced practice.

“We must work together as a profession to understand how we might start to achieve that,” PSA national president Associate Professor Chris Freeman told AJP in July.

“The [Community Pharmacy Agreement] is not a panacea for all the problems in the pharmacy profession at the moment, whether that be wages, services or scope of practice,” he said.

“It is one component of looking at how pharmacists should be remunerated but it’s not the panacea – we’ve got to start looking at other areas of funding as well.”

Suggested avenues of funding outside of the CPA include the Medicare Benefits Schedule, Primary Health Networks, aged care, and from private health insurers.

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  1. Michelle Gerrie

    Yep – I used to work in CA where I managed a pharmacy for 12 years. Pharmacist are really held in high regard in the USA and have a lot of autonomy. Took a massive financial hit when we moved back to Brisbane.

  2. patrick Mahony

    Let’s accept that “the money” is wrong on all sides of the equation. Let’s do something about it, but what? Many pharmacists pay close to the values in the USA to attract pharmacists to particular locations and requirements. The simple single issue about pushing for more money without solving other issues will not work. The Australian system of “universal” healthcare is not an even playing field, for anyone.

  3. Anthony Zehetner

    How much does their professional indemnity cost?

  4. Charbel Habchi

    Several times now I have read the following statement in similar AJP articles;

    “This rose to $93,000 for an experienced community pharmacist and $102,233 for an experienced hospital This rose to $93,000 for an experienced community pharmacist and $102,233 for an experienced hospital pharmacist. Pharmacists-in-charge in community pharmacies earned $88,967, and pharmacist managers $92,289”

    Yet in the paragraph preceding this one it says the PPA reported that an experienced pharmacist earned $76K… so at what point did it jump to $93K ?? Who exactly managed to get themselves this 20% pay rise? Some pharmacists? All pharmacists?

    • Sheshtyn Paola

      Hi Charbel,
      The PPA reported community pharmacists (NOT experienced) earned average base salary of $76k.
      Average base salary went up to $93k for an experienced community pharmacist.
      This is directly from their report, which you can view here (see page 12):
      ‘Experienced Pharmacist’ is a classification under the Pharmacy Industry Award meaning a pharmacist who has gained at least four years full-time experience or the part-time equivalent as a community pharmacist.
      If you are questioning the data, you will need to get in touch with PPA and ask them about their data collection methods.
      Kind regards
      Sheshtyn Paola

      • Charbel Habchi

        Thank you for the reply Sheshtyn. Hopefully this time I can be clearer in the message I am trying to convey, which is not to question the methods of the report or the accuracy of the details you have written.

        What I am saying is that the article paints a picture that is brighter than the reality. I feel that the article suggests that on average an “experienced community pharmacist” earns $93K p.a. This figure is of course derived directly from the report in the section reporting the average “salaries”. However it’s important to note the report also states that only 7% of community pharmacists are paid by “salary”. Thus for the 93% of pharmacists paid by an “hourly rate”, and at a rate of $37.73 on average for the experienced community pharmacist working a typical 38 hour week , most will take home about $75K p.a. Apologies for the long explanation and picking at details, but I just dont think that using “salary” is doing the majority of pharmacists any justice within this context.

  5. Valentino Cosic

    All the article has really stated is that pay rates for remote locations in USA are exactly the same as remote locations in Australia, eg Alaska versus no-where-ville in WA approximately $140,000.

    The only thing that is of significance is the exchange rate.

    It wasn’t long ago when Australian dollar was stronger than US dollar. Try doing this comparison of wages then..


      No, if you examine the data in detail the mean HOURLY wage is ~US$60/hr for ALL areas in US. That’s AU$88.This puts them above air traffic controllers and lawyers. Income TAX is a LOT less in the US and cost of living in US is less too.
      Notably, general practioners and surgeons @ ~ $US100/hr are top.

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