Salary Survey: Pharmacist salaries continue to climb

March 1, 2009

Drug Topics' exclusive salary survey reveals good news for pharmacists.

Key Points

Despite the ever-worsening economy, which has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs and has pushed unemployment to levels unseen in decades, the increasing demand for pharmacists, driven by the country's aging population, pushed industry salaries in 2008 up by 4.4 percent, according to an exclusive Drug Topics survey.

Our salary survey has a margin of error of ± 2.7 percent. Drug Topics' research staff interviewed 1,245 pharmacists between December 9, 2008 and January 5, 2009. Here's what we found:

Rising salaries reflect the disparity between market demand and the number of available pharmacists, a situation that won't be corrected anytime soon. "There are currently a limited number of pharmacy schools in many states," said Bruce Kneeland, consultant and owner of PharmacyConnections. "There has been a serious shortage of pharmacists for the past several years because of the limited number of those schools. The demand for pharmacists has [also] increased because of the aging population."

When Heather Sucech, PharmD, turns on her television, she hears news about unemployment levels hovering near 11.1 million - the highest since 1993. When she picks up a newspaper, she sees front-page stories about American automakers receiving $17.4 billion in bailout funds to help safeguard millions of jobs. She turns on the radio and hears about businesses of all kinds closing their doors forever because of the staggering economy.

But she is lucky, Sucech said, not to have to worry about the stability of her job. She knows her job at Walgreens in Springfield, Ill., isn't going anywhere. "I feel like even though the company's restructuring, I don't think my job is in jeopardy," she said. "I think that we're all pretty secure, and pharmacists are always going to be necessary. I think it's a good field to be in, especially with the current economic difficulties."

She's not alone in her sense of security. Drug Topics' latest survey of employee-pharmacist salaries indicates that many pharmacists may be feeling additional stress in their jobs, the result of added responsibilities. But the money, benefits, raises, and job security have helped them to tough it out through this crisis.

The survey, completed online by pharmacists in various practice settings around the United States, revealed that unlike many other workers, pharmacists enjoyed a median bonus of $4,000 to $4,999 in 2008. Eighty-one percent of those polled earned a mean raise of 3.7 percent (median dollar amount: $5,100) in 2008.

Experience was one of the factors determining salary, according to respondents. Of the respondents with more than five years' experience in their current profession, 5 percent said that relative to new hires, their salary is much higher, 33 percent said it is higher, 37 percent say it is similar, 11 percent said it is lower, 2 percent say it is much lower, and 12 percent said they didn't know.

Practice settings also played into salaries in 2008. Pharmacists in urban and suburban settings made roughly $112,000, while pharmacists in rural pharmacies made about $110,500. Pay in pharmacies in the Southwest, Northwest, Southeast, Northeast, and the Midwest ranged between $104,000 (Midwest) to $115,500 (Southwest).