The Top 10 States to Be a Pharmacist


The definitive ranking of the best places to practice pharmacy in America.

Top 10 States to Be a Pharmacist

One of the great things about living in the United States of America is that if you don’t like where you live, you have a choice of 49 other states to hang your hat. But before you pack the car and uproot your family, consider our list of the top ten states for pharmacists.

Update August 2018: Click here to check out our 2018 rankings. Did your state make it this year?

There are a number of variables involved in declaring which states are better than others. Salary is, of course, important, but doesn’t mean everything. If it did, then Alaska would be number one. Now, we aren’t disparaging Alaska, by any means, but we also looked at other factors that impact the pharmacist’s quality of life. (Incidentally, even though Alaskan pharmacists got paid the most-an average of $137,650 per year-when other variables were considered, it ranked number 43).

The 12 metrics we considered were:

  • Mean annual wage (the national average for pharmacists was $122,230)

  • Number of pharmacists per state (there were about 297,000 pharmacists nationwide in 2016)

  • Location quotient of the industry (the local concentration of pharmacists as compared to the national average)

  • Cost of living

  • Overall crime statistics

  • Number of Pharmacy Robberies (including armed robbery, employee pilferage, and night break-ins-there were 632 pharmacy robberies nationwide)

  • Overall well-being for the state population

  • Health insurance rates in the state

  • Pharmacy job openings

  • Financial savviness in the state

  • Stress (including stress related to work, family, money, and health and safety)

  • State education level

We looked at each state using these criteria and then gave each a number from 1 to 50, depending on their ranking (as with golf, the lower the score the better). We then compiled the 12 rankings for each state to give that state a total and ranked them from 1 to 50 based on that final score. Here are the ten best states to be a pharmacist.

Interestingly, this list is really two sets of regional neighbors-portions of the upper Midwest and New England.

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Of course, this is a snapshot of the averages of different metrics. The world is a bell curve-most statistics fall mostly in the middle of the data, while the extreme high and low ends tell different stories.

Without further ado, here are the top ten.



1. Minnesota

  • Mean wage: 11

  • Number of pharmacists: 18

  • Location quotient: 35

  • Cost of living: 31

  • Crime statistics: 11

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 40

  • Overall well-being: 1

  • Health insurance coverage: 4

  • Pharmacy job openings: 28

  • Financial savviness: 1

  • Stress: 1

  • Education level: 8

Total: 189

It may be cold in Minnesota, but pharmacists in the North Star State enjoy a good quality of life, a low stress level, and are quite financially savvy.

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Salaries are just a few hundred dollars less than the national average ($122,900), and health coverage for the overall population is high up in the rankings (number four), meaning residents have good access to their prescription medications. Not so great, however, is that Minnesota ranks 10 on the list of pharmacy robberies (there were 18 in 2016). In fact, Minnesota is the only state in our top ten that made the DEA’s top ten for pharmacy robberies.



2. Wisconsin

  • Mean wage: 5

  • Number of pharmacists: 21

  • Location quotient: 38

  • Cost of living: 24

  • Crime statistics: 21

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 17

  • Overall well-being: 19

  • Health insurance coverage: 9

  • Pharmacy job openings: 10

  • Financial savviness: 7

  • Stress: 9

  • Education level: 24

Total: 204

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The Badger State is Minnesota’s eastern neighbor and pharmacists make a couple thousand dollars more than the national average-$124,060. Another good indication is the amount of job openings. Coming in at the tenth place for job openings placed it higher than any other state in our top ten. More job openings means that, obviously, it is easier to get a job and that employers are likely to pay a little more to attract pharmacists. The fact that there are so many job openings drops the location quotient, which means pharmacists may not find a robust peer community.



3. Iowa (tie with Vermont)

  • Mean wage: 49

  • Number of pharmacists: 30

  • Location quotient: 25

  • Cost of living: 15

  • Crime statistics: 6

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 22

  • Overall well-being: 14

  • Health insurance coverage: 5

  • Pharmacy job openings: 13

  • Financial savviness: 10

  • Stress: 3

  • Education level: 26

Total: 218

Pharmacists in search of a low-stress life might want to consider the Hawkeye State. Its overall stress ranking was number three. Crime statistics were low and pharmacy robberies ranked right about in the middle of the pack. The high rates of health insurance coverage indicate that residents have good access to their prescription medications.

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The pay, however, is not so good. With pharmacists earning an average of $110,240 per year, Iowa ranked second to last in terms of overall pay. That being said, the cost of living is only in 15th place and pharmacy job openings were a few places shy of cracking the top ten.



3. Vermont (tie with Iowa)

  • Mean wage: 4

  • Number of pharmacists: 49

  • Location quotient: 49

  • Cost of living: 43

  • Crime statistics: 1

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 10

  • Overall well-being: 11

  • Health insurance coverage: 7

  • Pharmacy job openings: 18

  • Financial savviness: 19

  • Stress: 7

  • Education level: 5

Total: 218

Iowa tied with Vermont for third place honors, but the two are quite different in several of the metrics. For our entire list, the Green Mountain State was the safest place to live-it came in best on overall crime and in the bottom ten of the pharmacy robbery rates (there were only two reported robberies in 2016).

Even better is the money. The average annual salary ($128,380) was several thousand dollars more than the national average, health insurance coverage was high, and job openings were in the top 20 in the country. However, Vermont ranked 49 when it came to the total number of pharmacists and the location quotient, so if you are looking for a professional community, you might not find it in Vermont.



5. New Hampshire

  • Mean wage: 3

  • Number of pharmacists: 44

  • Location quotient: 47

  • Cost of living: 40

  • Crime statistics: 10

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 11

  • Overall well-being: 7

  • Health insurance coverage: 18

  • Pharmacy job openings: 29

  • Financial savviness: 2

  • Stress: 6

  • Education level: 6

Total: 223

Vermont’s eastern neighbor, New Hampshire, comes in at the number five spot. The Granite State earns the highest spot on our list for average annual salary ($128,790). New Hampshire residents’ financial savviness helps make the most of that money. Their low amounts of stress and education levels are also good attractors. The overall crime level was fairly low, as was pharmacy robberies (like Vermont, there were only two reported in New Hampshire in 2016).



6. New Jersey

  • Mean wage: 31

  • Number of pharmacists: 11

  • Location quotient: 29

  • Cost of living: 23

  • Crime statistics: 2

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 39

  • Overall well-being: 6

  • Health insurance coverage: 25

  • Pharmacy job openings: 30

  • Financial savviness: 8

  • Stress: 10

  • Education level: 10

Total: 224

Continuing our foray into the Northeast, we move to New Jersey. While the mean wage is about $5,000 below the national average ($117,440), pharmacists in the Garden State enjoy very low crime rates, in general, but the pharmacy robbery rate (18 reported cases in 2016) is somewhat high. Financial savviness, stress, and education are at respectable levels and the state’s overall well-being is fairly high. The number of pharmacists in New Jersey ranks 11 while pharmacy job openings is in the lower fifth of the nation.



7. Connecticut

  • Mean wage: 18

  • Number of pharmacists: 33

  • Location quotient: 48

  • Cost of living: 45

  • Crime statistics: 3

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 15

  • Overall well-being: 13

  • Health insurance coverage: 10

  • Pharmacy job openings: 26

  • Financial savviness: 4

  • Stress: 12

  • Education level: 4

Total: 231

 Pharmacists in Connecticut enjoy a fairly high education level and low crime rate, including pharmacy robberies (only three were reported in 2016). Health insurance coverage for The Constitution State came in at number 10, which was a respectable showing.

The state ranked pretty high for cost of living, but was number four in financial savviness, which is helpful for those pharmacists who earned a couple thousand below the national average, at $120,780.



8. Massachusetts (tie with Nebraska)

  • Mean wage: 41

  • Number of pharmacists: 13

  • Location quotient: 23

  • Cost of living: 47

  • Crime statistics: 7

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 33

  • Overall well-being: 15

  • Health insurance coverage: 1

  • Pharmacy job openings: 39

  • Financial savviness: 6

  • Stress: 14

  • Education level: 1

Total: 240

Pharmacists in Massachusetts have a couple of things to brag about-they rank first in both overall education level and health insurance coverage. With 96.8% of the population covered for medical insurance in 2016, nearly everyone in the state has access to their prescription medications. Overall crime statistics were low, including 12 pharmacy robberies reported in 2016.

It’s a good thing that Bay State residents are so smart-being the fourth most expensive state in the country, residents have to know how to stretch a dollar, thus explaining their number six ranking in financial savviness. Unfortunately, pharmacists have to be a little extra savvy, because they make about $7,600 less than the national average, $114,600.



8. Nebraska (tie with Massachusetts)

  • Mean wage: 50

  • Number of pharmacists: 35

  • Location quotient: 13

  • Cost of living: 13

  • Crime statistics: 26

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 13

  • Overall well-being: 12

  • Health insurance coverage: 21

  • Pharmacy job openings: 16

  • Financial savviness: 17

  • Stress: 6

  • Education level: 18

Total: 240

About 1,500 miles to the west, Nebraska’s numbers tie with Massachusetts, but-like Iowa and Vermont-their numbers tell different stories.

Pharmacists in the Cornhusker State are at the bottom of the rankings for salary- making an average of $108,670 per year. Overall crime is in the middle of the pack and pharmacy robbery rates are reasonably low (only three were reported in 2016). The state’s total stress level was number six on our list, but most of the other metrics were in the top fifth of the state rankings.



10. New York

  • Mean wage: 25

  • Number of pharmacists: 4

  • Location quotient: 26

  • Cost of living: 49

  • Crime statistics: 5

  • Pharmacy robbery rates: 27

  • Overall well-being: 27

  • Health insurance coverage: 19

  • Pharmacy job openings: 20

  • Financial savviness: 5

  • Stress: 26

  • Education level: 13

Total: 246

Pharmacists in the Empire State experience an interesting mix of high and low numbers. They rank fourth in the number of pharmacists (there are 20,440 of them). One might be surprised to see that they rank very highly in overall crime statistics, but what we see on TV-shockingly-doesn’t tell the whole story. New York State isn’t just one big city; there’s a lot of Upstate area to account for.

That being said, the cost of living is the second worst in the country, and pharmacists make an average of $118,530 per year-about $4,000 less than the national average. But New Yorkers know how to stretch a dollar, coming in number five for financial savviness.


DEA Drug Theft & Loss Database as of 1/13/2017

U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey

Pharmacist Demand Indicator:

Bureau of Labor Statistics


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