No future

Many pharmacists are turning their backs on the profession – and more than 80% say they would not recommend it as a career

Professional Pharmacists Australia president Dr Geoff March has slammed big corporates and banner groups in an introduction to the union’s newly released 2018 Community Pharmacists Report.

“2018 has seen the intensification of the shift away from professionalism towards commercialism,” Dr March writes.

“Approximately 60% of the ‘My Chemist’ group’s revenue comes from retail product sales.

“The tradition of local pharmacy being independent has been further eroded with greater concentration of ownership into smaller groups of owners and corporations through complex legal arrangements.

“The four largest corporates and banner groups now account for 70% of revenue in community pharmacy.”

This trend, combined with a continued decline in real wages across most of the profession, including via another round of cuts to penalty rates, together create a greater imbalance of power between larger employers, which have human resource departments, and individual employee pharmacists, he writes.

“The result is the lower reported wages for pharmacists working at discount pharmacies.”

In a statement on its website, PPA also said that “discount pharmacies like Chemist Warehouse are leading the race to the bottom on wages”. 

“They use low rates of pay to support their focus on profits. To compete, more traditional pharmacies and banner groups like Amcal and Priceline are also lower their wages.

“Many pharmacists are turning their backs on the industry, saying they see no future in the profession.

The PPA found that morale in the profession is not good.

When asked whether they would recommend pharmacy as a career, only 17.2% said yes.

“Pharmacists working for independent pharmacies not under a banner group were the most positive, but even then only 22% said they would recommend pharmacy as a career,” the report said.

“Attitudes were particularly negative within National Pharmacies where only 3.8% of respondents said they would recommend pharmacy.

“There are many factors within the pharmacy industry that contribute to these low levels of morale. Survey respondents were given a list of general issues from which they could specify any number as contributing towards the unhappiness they feel within their current employment situation.

“The top three factors contributing towards unhappiness across all community pharmacists were the ‘pressure/stress of work’, ‘inadequate staffing’ and ‘poor pay’.

“Each of these was identified by more than half of respondents. Respondents could indicate they felt no unhappiness by selecting ‘not applicable’, however only 9.1% of respondents felt that way, the least reported of all.”


How much are you paid?

The report examined rates of pay and found a mean 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.

The gender pay gap was small, with a mean base hourly rate of $36.72 for men and $36.38 for women; pharmacists in WA were the best paid, with a mean of $39.92 per hour, while those in Victoria, earning a mean $34.86, earned the lowest base hourly rate.

Hospital pharmacists generally reported higher base salaries than their colleagues in community pharmacy, whether the latter were paid a salary (which was uncommon) or an hourly wage.

The mean base salary for a community pharmacist was $76,333, and for a hospital pharmacist, $88,214.

This rose to $93,000 (community) and $102,233 (hospital) for an experienced pharmacist; pharmacists-in-charge in community pharmacies earned $88,967, and pharmacist managers $92,289. Meanwhile directors of pharmacy in hospitals earned $136,250.

Since 2013, PPA has reported an annual decline in pay rates, but this more recent survey showed signs of a turnaround, with growth ranging from 0.4% for a pharmacist up to 2.5% for pharmacists in charge. These rises still see most wages decline against the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

Discount pharmacies consistently paid less than traditional banner group pharmacies at every classification, with a median hourly rate of pay much less for pharmacy managers. In discounters, they earned a mean of $34.63; in banner group pharmacies, $40.92.

Of those banner groups that had 10 or more respondents to the survey, pharmacists working at Chemist Warehouse had the lowest median hourly rates of pay both overall and at every classification excluding Pharmacy Intern. National Pharmacies pharmacists reported the highest median hourly rates of pay.

“Roughly one in five pharmacists reported not having a written employment agreement outlining their conditions of employment, remuneration and hours of work,” the report found.

“The situation was worse for those working in independent pharmacies not part of a larger banner group where 38.0% reported not having a written employment agreement.

“Pharmacists employed in discount pharmacy chains were much more likely to have

written employment agreements and every pharmacist employed by National Pharmacies reported having a written employment agreement.”

As for professional services performed, 69% of pharmacists employed by discount pharmacies and 65.1% of those at banner groups performed MedsChecks; 27.6% at discounters and 37.4% at banner pharmacies gave vaccinations; and 25.9% of those at discounters and 24.6% of those at banner group pharmacies said they performed no professional services at all.

PPA also asked pharmacists whether they worked through their lunch break, and found this practice extremely prevalent, with 48.3% of pharmacists doing so.

This was most common at Priceline (82.8%); at independent pharmacies (59.8%); and at “other” banner groups and TerryWhite Chemmart, at 52.4% and 52.2% respectively. National Pharmacies employees were the most likely to have their break, with only 17.9% working through.

Of those who worked through, 50.6% were remunerated for doing so; this was most likely at National Pharmacies (81.8%) and least likely at Discount Drug Store pharmacies (40%).


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  1. Kristine Hall

    The PPA survey results are a real concern. There are clear systemic issues in community pharmacy for employee pharmacists that need to be acknowledged and addressed by all relevant bodies – Guild, Government, PSA, PPA, universities & banner groups. These matters are urgent and need to be the focus ahead of expanded scope of practice, turf wars etc. The current system is leading to loss of trust in the profession, brain drain (as disillusioned employees leave the industry) and potentially compromised patient safety.

    It was interesting to see the pharmacists working for independent pharmacies were much less likely to rate stress/pressure & inadequate staffing as contributing to unhappiness when compared to the pharmacists working for banner groups and discounters.


      Pharmacists will soon be at the bottom of the healthcare food chain! You will be the victims of offloading by other health professionals – you are even doing the jobs of nurses vaccinating patients!
      Reducing pressure on GPs will be just another straw on the back of the pharmacist donkey. No approintment needed. No significant extra remuneration to the employee pharmacist.
      Remember pharmacists earn less per hour than many professions and trades.

      Pharmacists will face higher and more unrealistic unrealistic expectations from their patients; and we all know what that will lead to.

      Trust me. READ between the lines. Don’t be a pawn in a much bigger game. I predict ordinary pharmacists on the coalface will feel even more pressure and stress as time goes on. Without adequate pay commensurate with their expected professionalism how can they be happy?

    • Paul Sapardanis

      Talking with employed friends of mine I can’t believe the workloads they are subjected to . Now speaking to pharmacist/ owner colleagues like myself we do half as much and think how busy we are

  2. pagophilus

    Pharmacy leadership used to be an old boys’ club. Now there are increasing numbers of women, but I get the feeling that regardless of gender distribution, leadership is self-serving, imposing their ideas in the profession and not listening to the silent majority of employee pharmacists who could easily tell them what is like in the task world and what they would like to see in the industry.

    The are many more who would leave and retrain i’m another field if not for the necessity of supporting one’s family, paying off the house etc.

    • Apotheke

      In a recent survey done by the AJP the majority of respondents felt that the Board should require ALL owners to work a minimum number of hours in their Pharmacies. The only area of disagreement was over how many hours this should be. The suggested number of hours ranged from 150 hours p.a to 500 hours p.a depending on how many Pharmacies an owner had a pecuniary interest in.

    • Apotheke

      If you are disgruntled with working conditions and pay in community Pharmacy I have a number of suggestions for you; 1. If you are under 40years of age and you want to re train go for it. 2. If you want to stay in the Pharmacy profession start looking for jobs in hospital, industry, academia and the State and Federal government (including the military) these are all better paid and do have career progression. 3. Join your union PPA. I know union is a dirty word for many employee Pharmacists but only by joining with others in the same situation as you can YOU make any difference to your pay and conditions. Alone you have zero bargaining power with your employer and he/she knows it hence your pay and conditions are as dismal as they are and will remain so.

      • pagophilus

        And look for rural work. Some rural areas (and I don’t necessarily mean remote) have trouble getting good pharmacists because the city-centric mentality still predominates. And if you want to transition to hospital pharmacy, rural may be the way to go because thy may be more prepared to train up am otherwise good pharmacist with no rural experience in the ways of hospital pharmacy who’s willing to commit, than take a mediocre pharmacist with hospital experience.


    Exactly. WAKE UP! Pharmacists are becoming slaves to retailing in their own prisons. The whole pharmacy concept is now so optimised towards retail. KPI’s, KVI’s, discounts, catalogues, loyalty systems designed for nothing more than data mining. Wholesalers now insist you order on X day and for Y amount or else. Self-feeding and self-serving banner groups insisting owners take huge allocations of retail product. Then conjuring up some hair-brained, marginally ‘heath-orientated’ scheme to convince people to buy/join. Many don’t realise this as it has happened sooo gradually. WAKE UP!
    I would certainly NOT recommend pharmacy as a career to my child
    There is little to NIL career progression. This is why Pharmacy as a degree is a prison. You can’t even go overseas with it – who actually wants you??? Ownership is near impossible due to restrictive location rules and artificially overvalued pharmacies. Young entrepreneurs that want to have a go and open their own business just simply can’t!
    The best pharmacies are not even sold on the open market and are ONLY OFFERED & SOLD BEHIND CLOSED DOORS to the big shots in the industry. The younger generation of pharmacists have no hope. More responsibilities with less pay (no pay increases in line with inflation). Good Luck.

    • Still a Pharmacist

      I became a registered pharmacist in Australia in the beginning of 2009 and joined a pharmacy as a locum with an hourly rate of $35.00/hr (my friends said that that was a good pay). There I had to do about 150 scripts, counsel patients, attend patients to sell S3, dose about 30 methadone patients, and do dispensary orders in 9 hrs.

      After 10 years, I am working in another pharmacy with same wages, similar script volume, more S3 selling, more methadone patients, bigger dispensary orders and clinical interventions in 8.5hrs/day. This owner loves to talk about other owners’ “shop owner” mentality and always say that if he could he would increase my wages. About 6-7 years back when he was making enough money from generic substitutions, did nothing.

      At that time it was told that wages were determined by “Demand-Supply” situation and having a job was enough. I have seen my friend lost his job (well his hours reduced to almost nil) for not supplying Phenergan syrup to an old loyal patient for his grand children aged 1.5yrs.

      I used to think what is the point of keeping pharmacist only ownership of pharmacy when profit was the main objective. When Pharmacist owners were not looking after their employee pharmacists, could Coles-Woolworths be better employers? At that time I was not sure, but now I believe that possibly they will be a better employer.

      Is there any reason (other than inability to find a job in other industry) to stay in pharmacy industry?

      • Paul Sapardanis

        What is disturbing in your post is that a friend of yours was sacked for a clinical decision . I also have heard of similar stories.

  4. Kevin Hayward

    I am happy with my future career prospects!!!
    I work in my own business
    I set my own (high) professional standards
    I dictate my own fees, apart from the 6cpa work I undertake
    I decide how many hours each week I work
    I work in a very professional, demanding and interesting environment where I am respected for my professional input
    I know I can grow and contribute more to the healthcare environment
    I feel valued
    I enjoy the challenge each day brings to me
    I feel that I may have made a small difference to every patient I see
    I enjoy being a primary care practice support pharmacist

    • Still a Pharmacist

      Lucky you. Congratulations! Imagine you are trying to buy a pharmacy in Bondi with asking price of $1.6 million and its bank valuation is about $760,000. Most of the people become a pharmacist with a dream of becoming an owner one day. No boss, full freedom; you set your own standard and add value to others life. Since buying a good pharmacy has become almost impossible for average earners (thanks to location rules), so these pharmacists are seeing the reality now. No wonder we see an exodus of good pharmacists.

      • Kevin Hayward

        I would not invest again in bricks and mortar pharmacy stores, stock, etc the capital requirements are too intense, the trading model is passe. As a PSP my investment is almost totally intellectual, low overheads and a flexible place of trading make this model much more acceptable

        • Andrew Gray

          What’s a ‘PSP’?

          • Kevin Hayward

            PSP practice support pharmacist

  5. Paige

    If you want more money go rural. I have two positions up for grabs right now $40 ph to newly registered pharmacists more for exp. They just cant bear to be separated from mummy and daddy.

    • Paul Sapardanis

      Do you believe that $40 per hour is good to relocate your life??? What do other professions earn.

    • Red Pill

      $40 to pack up and go bush!
      If you’re young and single, you want to enjoy your 20s in a big city spending time with your friends and family and possibly meet your better half. So paying $4-$5 more than the city is not that enticing.

      And for those that are older and have family commitments, what is their partner meant to do when you go rural? Would becoming a single income family be financially sound? I don’t think so.

      The least rural pharmacists should be paid is $55-$60 an hour to make it worthwhile and that’s only if their partner is willing to quit their job and go bush.

      • Paige

        Where are you supposed to find the $GP to cover that and the overheads? If that’s the case, the government really need to consider how viable rural pharmacy is going forward. A Plaza shopping centre in a regional town will set you back ~$30k a month rent. With 3-4 $60 an hour pharmacists and other misc staff you’d be lucky to live above the poverty line even with a decent local following.

    • Apotheke

      If you think $5.00/hr above the minimum going rate in the city is enticing then no wonder you have had no takers. Go and talk to Ravens recruiting and other jobs agencies and find out what the real going rate is plus the other sweeteners you must offer to get people to relocate. That is if you really want to fill those positions.

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