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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