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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