What is a Pharmacist

Pharmacist (also known as Apothecary, Chemist, Clinical Pharmacist, and Druggist) is a health care professional responsible for dispensing medications to patients and monitoring their health and progress. As an integral part of the health care team, pharmacists provide continuing care to patients by assisting physicians to identify potential drug related problems and ensure patients are educated on the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications. Read more about Pharmacist Job Description.

Work Environment

61% of pharmacists employed in United States works in a community or retail setting. You will find them in big chain drug stores like Walgreens or within department stores such as Walmart. Only 23% of pharmacists work in hospitals. Pharmacists spend much of their day on their feet.

Work Schedule

Pharmacists hours varies widely depending on where they work. Hospital pharmacists are more likely to have a normal 9-5 work schedule, while community pharmacists may have to work evenings, weekends, or even overnight shifts. Their hours and work schedule are largely dependant on their employer, for example, some Walgreen pharmacies open 24/7 requiring the pharmacist to work graveyard shifts.

How Much Do Pharmacists Make?

Pharmacists are very well compensated for the services they provide. The average annual pharmacist salary is $116,500. The bottom 10% of pharmacist make less than $89,000 while the top 10% of pharmacist make well above $147,350. California holds the highest level of employment for this profession. Pharmacists working in other general merchandise stores and warehousing/storage industries take home the highest annual salary. Top earners in this profession work in the following cities:  Gadsden, Alabama; Santa Cruz, California; and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Pharmacist Salary: Quick Summary

2013 Mean Salary$116,500 per year
$56.01 per hour
Top 10% Salary$147,350 per year
$70.84 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary
$89,000 per year
$42.79 per hour
Number of Jobs, 2013287,420

Average Pharmacist Salary vs. Related Occupations

With an average salary of $116,500 in 2013, pharmacists make a very comfortable living in the United States. Pharmacists earn much more than pharmacy technicians ($30,840) and registered nurses ($68,910). They also make more than physician assistants ($94,350) and nurse practitioners ($95,070). However, there are a few health care professionals that earn a higher salary than pharmacists, including dentists ($164,570) and family physicians ($183,940).

Read About: Pharmacist Salary Analysis

Job Outlook

The demand for properly trained pharmacists is growing every year; in fact, employment of pharmacists is expected to increase by 14% or 41,400 jobs by 2022. In the past few years, the pharmaceutical industry has been on the rise; as the result, the number of pharmacists needed has also increased. Pharmacists are no longer individuals who just stand behind the counter, but have instead become healthcare professionals who are actively involved in research, business, and administration. The scope for pharmacy professionals gets even broader if the individual has ample experience and certification. As the baby boomers begin to retire, there will be a drastic increase in the demand for medications in the upcoming years.

In recent years, the number of pharmacy schools have grown tremendously, thereby creating a whole slew of newly graduated pharmacists. Consequently, job competition can be fierce especially in more populated cities such as New York or Los Angeles.  Students who choose to further their degree by completing a residency program may improve their job prospects. Nonetheless, vacant positions will continue to be available due to new store openings, retirees, and the rapid expansion of the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmacists are still considered to be one of the most popular post-graduate careers in the United States.

Influences on a Pharmacist’s Salary

A quick glance at the pharmacist salary trend over the last 10 years is very encouraging. In 2004, the average salary of a pharmacist reached $84,000 per year. In 2008, their annual salary jumped to $104,000. This drastic increase of 24% happened over just a period of 4 years. In May of 2013, there were almost 300,000 pharmacists throughout the United States earning a mean annual salary of $116,500.

Pharmacist salaries can fluctuate for a variety of reasons. To understand salary differences, we must take a closer look at the following factors: specialization/education, experience/position, industry, and location.

Education and Specialization

Hospital pharmacists and community or retail pharmacists provide the same essential service in distinctly different settings. Recent statistics gathered from Indeed.com suggest that registered retail pharmacists earns close to $137,000 per year while hospital pharmacists make just shy of $129,000 annually, yet there are almost twice as many pharmacists employed in the community settings. This suggests that there is a higher demand for pharmacists in the private retail sector as opposed to state owned hospitals. Another reason, as most people may not know, is that retail pharmacies absorb a large chunk of their revenue through reimbursement from drug companies. This additional source of income ensures their employees are compensated handsomely.

Experience and Position

Pharmacists with more experience, and hence higher-level positions, are more likely to earn higher salaries, reaching upwards of $150,000 and more annually. Substantial experience can mean the development of specializations and management skills, which can facilitate an individual’s ability to secure employment in these sparsely concentrated industries, putting them in the upper percentiles of the earning brackets.

Typically, a managing pharmacist will earn 10% more than a staff pharmacist income, as a result of increased responsibility and seniority. As well, managing pharmacists have multiple incentives that may add to their income, including bonuses from store performance.


The highest earning industries for pharmacists are those with the lowest levels of employment, suggesting that more tailored skills and extensive experience can secure such positions, leading to increased pay. The top industries include pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing as well as physician offices, representing vastly different skillsets than those required for basic retail or hospital settings.


Coastal states have the highest levels of employment in the pharmaceutical industry, followed closely by certain states in the Midwest and the South as well. Naturally, these states tend to have higher salaries with Alaska being the state with the highest-earners followed closely by California and Maine.

Not surprisingly, metropolitan areas pay pharmacists significantly more than rural areas, primarily because their services are in higher demand. Additionally, the nonmetropolitan areas with the highest earning positions are those in states with top-paying pharmaceutical positions.

Best Paying Cities for Pharmacists

1. Gadsden, Alabama

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The average salary of a pharmacist working in Gadsden is $154,700.

2. Santa Cruz, California

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The average salary of a pharmacist working in Santa Cruz is $151,270.

3. Pascagoula, Mississippi

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The average salary of a pharmacist working in Pascagoula is $149,530.

4. El Centro, California

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The average salary of a pharmacist working in Anchorage is $147,740.

5. Dalton, Georgia

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The average salary of a pharmacist working in Dalton is $141,460.