Salaries see modest growth

January 10, 2016

Drug Topics' 2015 Salary Survey finds that according to most respondents, pharmacy is still a rewarding profession.

As the industry continues to evolve and change one thing remains the same: pharmacy is still a rewarding profession.

 The 2016 Drug Topics Salary Survey found that pharmacists once again report high levels of job satisfaction, growing salaries, and manageable hours, indicating an industry that continues to thrive.

While most of the news is positive, pharmacists said they have seen an increase in their workloads across all practice settings and noted that today's raises are more modest than those in previous years.

See also: The changing face of pharmacy

"Pharmacists are asked to do more, and by doing more, personally, I think that means less patient interaction and more just making sure the right pills are in the bottle," said Paul Lofholm, PharmD, FACA, owner of a human compounding pharmacy, veterinary compounding pharmacy, and closed-door long-term care pharmacy practice in the San Francisco area.

Pharmacist demographics

The survey, deployed Nov. 18, 2015, and open through Dec. 3, 2015, included feedback from 2,393 pharmacists who practice in various settings throughout the United States, including hospital-operated pharmacy departments (27.8%), chain pharmacies (24%), independent pharmacies (16.1%), and others (32%).

The number of years on the job also varied. Those newer to the profession, who were under the age of 30, represented 4.4% of the respondents, while pharmacists between the ages of 30 and 54 represented 53% of the survey population. Those who were 55 or older accounted for 42.8%.

 

Pharmacists are continuing to find steady employment opportunities. According the results of the survey, 85% report working full-time and another 10.5% hold part-time positions. Just 1.2% of those surveyed say they are not currently employed.

The most common job titles for respondents were staff pharmacist (41.1%), pharmacy department manager (19.6%), or clinical pharmacist (13%).

Compensation trends

For many pharmacists, 2015 meant growing salaries, raises, and a bump in income due to additional compensation from commissions, bonuses, or profit-sharing.

This year's survey found that the 55.4% of those surveyed are paid on an hourly basis. The hourly rate for pharmacists varies from $40 or less an hour to $71 or more an hour, but the largest percentage, 41.9%, reported earning between $61 and $70 an hour (Table 1).

Pharmacist earnings based on salary also continued to be healthy, with 81% reporting earning more than $100,000 a year in 2015 (Table 2)

It also appears that salaries are growing. Drug Topics found that 63.8% of pharmacists said they received a raise in 2015, and nearly as many pharmacists (61.7%) expect to see a raise in 2016 as well (Tables 3 and 4). Raises typically have been modest, with 57.8% saying their raises in 2015 were less than $2,000.

"It used to be higher. Probably 10 years ago, our salaries were increasing pretty rapidly, but they've definitely leveled off, I guess, due to all the pharmacy students that the schools are graduating. The market is flooded with pharmacists, and jobs aren't quite as prevalent as they used to be," said James Taylor, PharmD, ambulatory care clinical manager at the North Mississippi Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program.

In addition to seeing their own salaries increase, most pharmacists also believe they are being compensated fairly when compared to their peers. Almost half of pharmacists, or 45.8%, said their salaries in 2015 were average compared to salaries of others in the same practice setting, and another 16.9% said they were above average.

 

For many pharmacists, yearly income was not restricted to salary alone. According to the survey, 47.5% reported also receiving some type of additional income in 2015, whether it was a bonus, commission, or a form of profit-sharing.

Rising workload

In addition to healthy salaries, most pharmacists have also managed to avoid significant overtime. The majority of those surveyed, or 52.4%, said they work between 40 and 44 hours each week and an additional 28.1% reported that they work 39 hours or fewer per week (Table 5).

But while the number of hours that pharmacists typically log each week is not overly taxing, the workload on the job is increasing. A significant number of pharmacists (70.9%) said that they saw an increase in workload in 2015 (Table 6). Only 3.9% said they saw a decrease.

See also: The 2015 Drug Topics Salary Survey

Lofholm, who also serves as clinical professor of pharmacy at University of California San Francisco, said that business in his veterinary compounding pharmacy has been booming and he had to hire four new technicians in one week.

"They are very busy, and the objective, of course, is to fill or compound a prescription the day it comes in," he said.

But his philosophy in his pharmacies has always been that the number of prescriptions that his pharmacists need to fill each day is lower than chain pharmacies require, he said, which allows pharmacists to spend more time with patients.

"My objective was always to have enough time to spend with patients whenever they wanted it, and in order to do that, I never attempted to reach the 150 [prescription fill] level of a chain store," he said.

 

 

Increased work volume was also the top factor listed most often as a reason for increased stress levels in 2015 (Table 7). Other factors contributing to stress were inadequate staff support, increased paperwork, and a negative work environment.

The largest factor leading to decreased stress levels in 2015 was improved work environment.

 Job satisfaction

Overall, pharmacists appear happy in their profession.

Drug Topics found that 78.3% report being satisfied, very satisfied, or extremely satisfied with their current position, and most (74%) don't plan to leave their post in the year ahead (Tables 8). However, the ones who plan on finding a new position in the next 12 months listed a number of reasons, including professional advancement, job security, income, and geographic location (Table 9).

Taylor said he is very satisfied with his position. As an ambulatory care clinical manager at a family medicine residency-training program, he says, his days are filled with variety. He typically works with patients, helps with educational efforts, provides transitional care at the hospital to prevent readmissions, improves quality initiatives at the clinic, and works closely with pharmacy residents and students.

 

 

"I get to do a lot of education, and provide recommendations and interventions, so that's why I really like my job - because it's varied," he said.

Jill Sederstrom is a freelance writer based in Kansas City.