Pay dirt: Pharmacist salaries are still climbing, but at a slower rate. Our exclusive survey shows who gets top dollar

March 5, 2007

Pharmacist salaries are still climbing, but at a slower rate. Our exclusive survey shows who gets top dollar.

In the heady days of 2002, when prescription volume just kept soaring and desperate employers were throwing buckets full of signing-bonus cash in front of would-be hires, pharmacists' base salaries jumped nearly $11,000 from our survey in 2000. By 2004, pharmacists' average base salary was about $7,000 higher than two years earlier, but last year that increase slowed to $5,204.

The average annual base salary of all 910 respondents to our on-line survey was $94,927. Retail pharmacists averaged $92,291, while their institutional brethren pulled down an average of $97,545. Pharmacists in retail earned $47 per hour, compared with the $49 per hour institutional pharmacists were paid.

Another sign that increases are slowing is the amount of extra income pharmacists took home. For example, only 50% of our respondents received additional pay from sources such as bonuses and profit-sharing, compared with 88% whose bosses handed out bonuses in our 2000 survey. Spread across the entire respondent pool, the average amount was $6,420, down from $6,814 worth of bonuses and overtime in our 2004 survey. All our institutional pharmacists took home an average of $5,551 last year, compared with $6,239 for toilers in the retail vineyard.

Fewer pharmacists expect to receive a raise this year, as only 81% of our respondents think their pay checks will be fatter, compared with 87% two years ago. The average expected raise is 3.4%, not much above the cost of living. Next year's anticipated raises are a continuation of a downward trend for what pharmacists actually received. They banked an average raise of 3.8% in 2006, compared with 4.9% in 2004 and 7% in 2002.

It should be noted that this year's survey was conducted differently from those of years past. Instead of our usual paper-based mailed survey, we switched to an on-line format. In addition, some questions were eliminated and others were added, so it's not always possible to make direct comparisons between the results this time around and the past.

Fair is fair

The majority of our respondents (71%) believe that their salary is average or above average compared with other pharmacists in their area. In fact, 14% think their pay is better than that of their peers, while 58% figure it's average. On the other hand, 23% think they're getting the short end of the salary stick and 5% don't know which way the salary winds are blowing across their area.