Pharmacy grads the lowest earners

Oversupply of pharmacists depressing salaries, union believes

Graduates in pharmacy earn the lowest of all higher education graduates within the first several months of finishing their degrees, new data indicates.

In a 2014-15 survey of Australian graduates, the average starting salary for an intern pharmacist was found to be $40,937 per annum, four months after finishing their degree.

The figure is lower than starting salaries for those in creative arts, communications, tourism and hospitality, making it the lowest of all industries requiring higher education training, according to The Good Universities Guide 2016.

Under the Pharmacy Industry Award for minimum rates, pharmacy graduates need to power through the internship year and potentially a few years of work before breaking the $50,000 mark.

“It’s been the same situation for quite some time that pharmacy graduates are at the bottom of the league table, interns in particular,” says Professional Pharmacists Australia national director, Matt Harris.

“We’re witnessing an oversupply of pharmacists, which is a product of our on-demand education system.

“Since about 2009, we’ve seen stagnation in community pharmacy wages in general,” he says.

In comparison, medical graduates earn an average of $62,624 in their internship year, according to the same survey.

The government’s minimum industry award for medical interns sits at $45,399.

“The fact that medicine interns get more is hardly a surprise. That’s why everybody wants to get into that industry,” says a spokesperson from the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, who agrees that there is an oversupply of pharmacists in urban areas but an undersupply in rural areas.

“The pay rate for interns is set out in the Pharmacy Industry Award 2010, although many pharmacies pay above award,” he points out.

In an effort to shift the balance, PPA will be putting forward a submission to the Fair Work Commission at the end of this year towards lifting the minimum work rate.

“We’d like to see a 30% pay lift and reimbursements for profession-related things like registration. Pharmacists have also taken on a lot more professional services, which are not currently recognised in the award rate,” Harris says.

He adds that most owners he has spoken to have been quite supportive of raising award rates.

“Many owners that we’ve spoken to, many of whom would be Guild members, were quite supportive,” says Harris.

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  1. David Newby

    I think the comparison to the medical intern needs to viewed cautiously as they do a lot of paid out-of-regular-hours shifts (e.g. night shift) and so penalty rates come in.

    • David Haworth

      agree, and pharmacy interns do not have this option.

  2. Pete

    An intern pharmacist cannot keep a pharmacy ‘legal’ all their dispensing needs to be double checked to satisfy legal requirements, everything must be done under close supervision. Yes, its great having an extra pair of hands – but they are also being taught at the owners expense. Also, there is not an oversupply of pharmacists outside major metropolitan centers – there is a severe shortage.

    • Jimmy Brurilius

      At the owners expense? Piss off. Plenty of interns slaving away on pennies and basically running the store aside from the final Rx check. If anything the situation is abused by owners – owners don’t have to take on interns, but they do because there are so many and they can employ them for cheap

  3. Jo Khoo

    Dear Matt Harris, maybe it is time that PPA is advocating for the profession as a whole, instead of the select few that does nights and weekends.

    Stop wasting time and resources on penalty rates; last time I checked, there are more weekdays than weekends, more day hours than night hours or retail trade (including community pharmacies) will continue to deteriorate as service levels drop.

    Why not focus instead on increasing award wages to a level that reflects the responsibility and liability attached to the profession. Correct me if I am wrong, but this would represent a significantly larger proportion of your members?

  4. Catherine

    The wage depression is one of the main reasons I chose to leave the profession & no longer work in pharmacy beyond casual relief work to help out previous employers/colleagues – apart from the depression in wages, the other effect of the current supply-to-demand ratio in the job market is a greater demand from workplaces for extra services outside remunerated hours. In my last 3 jobs in pharmacy I have been asked to put in unpaid overtime to fulfill additional duties, with the implication that if I don’t, someone else will easily be found who is willing to do so. Now since leaving pharmacy I make more money, have less stress & none of the previous workplace hazards associated with holding drugs of addiction on the premises.

  5. Ex-Pharmacist

    I worked as a Pharmacist Owner, Manager, PIC etc over at lot of years. I now find it a lot easier to collect a part pension. I do some book work for a company (all legit) and some specialised cleaning with my wife (also legit). Much less stressful than Pharmacy and the pay rates are similar although some specialised cleaning jobs can pay more than double a PIC wage.
    How have Pharmacy organisations allowed pay rates to fall so much in the past 10 years? In my last position as PIC I received $35/hour plus a few perks. I applied for a permanent part time job a year or two back and said I would like $35/hour. The owner laughed at me and said he could get a new graduate for $25-26/hour.

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