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The Pharmacist Salary: How Much Do Pharmacists Make?

Published on: Nov 6, 2022
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
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An important consideration when choosing a profession—especially in today’s economic climate—is its earning potential. In this article, I'll guide you through the question: How much does a pharmacist make? 

As pharmacists, we make a good living.

Before exploring salaries and picturing yourself in a role, you should know the hurdles. Pharmacy school is lengthy; becoming a pharmacist requires years of training.  Once that training is finished, you certainly want to ensure you are rewarded for those years sacrificed to earn your pharmacy degree.  The salary, or the amount paid to the employee by the employer, is typically an annual salary. 

This is the amount you will earn over the entire year.  Sometimes, a pharmacist's salary is earned hourly, which can then be converted to an annual salary if the average hours worked per week and the total number of weeks worked per year are known.  An annual salary is based on an hourly rate; however, it is estimated since it doesn’t account for overtime hours or an increased overtime or weekend / nightly rate.

The average pharmacist's salary can vary greatly depending on how experienced you are, where you live, and your role. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2022, the median salary in the United States was $132,750.  Those in the 90th percentile (your salary is higher than 90 out of 100 pharmacists) earn over $160,000 yearly, while those in the 10th percentile (90 out of 100 pharmacists earn more than you) earn under $125,000 yearly. 

In general, an entry-level pharmacist (a recent PharmD graduate) could earn less than the median salary, while a more experienced pharmacist with a unique skill set could expect to earn more than the median salary. This salary range will vary from pharmacist specialties.

Below are some of the most common pharmacist jobs and expected earning potential.

The Retail Pharmacist: Salary Estimates

Currently, almost 60% of all pharmacists in the US work in a retail setting.  This is the traditional community pharmacist who works in your neighborhood pharmacy.  This could be a large-chain pharmacy such as Walgreens, CVS/Caremark, or an independent or family-owned pharmacy.  This also includes pharmacists in grocery stores or supermarket chains, such as Krogers or Walmart.  While neighborhood pharmacies make up the majority of retail pharmacies, almost 10% of pharmacists in retail settings now work in grocery stores or supermarkets. This percentage is expected to grow in the coming years.  

Retail pharmacy is the most common job for new pharmacy school graduates. The median salary for a retail pharmacist is over $150,000, with only 10% earning less than $140,000 and most making between $145,000 and $160,000. Throughout the years, the retail pharmacist has been one of the highest-paying positions for pharmacists. Many new graduates will receive starting salaries over $140,000 or more depending on your desired location.

The Hospital Pharmacist: Salary Estimates

This setting is the second most common of the pharmacist jobs, with over 30% of all pharmacists working in the hospital setting.  

Unlike retail pharmacies, which are trending towards consolidation and shrinking job opportunities, hospital pharmacists are expected to be in greater demand in the coming years.  While securing a job as a hospital pharmacist as a new graduate from a pharmacy program may be challenging in a more extensive health system or teaching hospital, it is still possible in smaller or rural community hospitals. 

A one—or two-year residency after pharmacy school may be necessary for an entry-level pharmacist position in a teaching hospital offering more specialized pharmacy care. While the starting salary of a hospital pharmacist may not be as competitive as that of a retail pharmacist, a hospital pharmacist typically has more upward mobility and a higher earning potential over time. The median annual salary of a hospital pharmacist is around $140,000, with the middle 50% percentile ranging from $135,000 to $150,000.  

A hospital pharmacist can be a staff pharmacist who works in a centralized inpatient dispensing pharmacy or a clinical pharmacist who is embedded within the healthcare team and engages in daily patient rounds. Many hospital systems also have hybrid roles. Due to specialization and shift differentials, these positions can be highly variable.  

For example, it’s not uncommon for a night-shift pharmacist with a similar responsibility to earn $7-$10 per hour more than a day-shift pharmacist with a similar responsibility. Also, larger hospital systems typically have more specialized clinical pharmacists who service specific patient populations, such as cardiology pharmacists, transplant pharmacists, oncology pharmacists, critical care pharmacists, and psychiatric pharmacists. These specialized positions often require more experience and board certification and, as a result, demand higher pay than other hospital pharmacist positions.

The Pharmacy Manager

All retail pharmacies have a manager or pharmacist who oversees general store-specific pharmacy operations. This licensed pharmacist will oversee the pharmacy technician (pharmacy tech) team.  There are also regional retail pharmacy managers who oversee multiple stores within a given region. Similarly, hospitals have pharmacy supervisors who oversee various areas of the pharmacy, such as pharmacy operations, clinical operations, and medication safety.  These roles may be for experienced pharmacists and/or require advanced degrees such as a Master’s in Business (MBA) or Hospital Administration (MHA).

There are also pharmacy residency programs (often two years) geared towards administration in the retail or hospital setting.  Not surprisingly, pharmacy managers have higher salaries, larger opportunities for performance bonuses, and a greater salary range with a higher ceiling.  These positions have a median salary of approximately $160,000 and typically start at no less than $140,000.  Pharmacy managers or supervisors can see salaries over $175,000.

The Online or Mail Order Pharmacist

This pharmacist works for an online retailer or mail-order retailer.  Most large chain retail pharmacies have an associated mail-order pharmacy that typically will send out 90-day supplies of maintenance medications.  You wouldn’t want to use this pharmacy to get your antibiotic, but if you’re on a daily high blood pressure medication that may only change in dose once yearly, you will likely utilize a mail-order pharmacy.  These pharmacists may have licenses in more than one state, but they typically carry out similar responsibilities as that of a traditional retail pharmacist.  The average salary for an online or mail-order pharmacist is approximately $135,000, with most pharmacists with this job description making between $130,000 and $140,000 annually.

The Compounding Pharmacist

These pharmacists work in compounding pharmacies and are responsible for making suspensions, gummies, suppositories, or other dosage forms that are not commercially available.  They must follow strict safety protocols to ensure that the medications that they make are free of bacterial contaminants and are highly pure.  Special training is typically involved in preparing these pharmacists to practice in this unique setting.  A median salary for a compounding pharmacist is approximately $130,000, with most making between $120,000 and $140,000 annually.

The Nuclear Pharmacist

This pharmacist specializes in preparing and handling radio-labeled or nuclear medicines for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Special training and board certification are typically required for this niche practice area. Nuclear pharmacists can expect to make between $120,000 and $160,000.

The Ambulatory Pharmacist

Similar to a clinical pharmacist in the hospital setting, these ambulatory care pharmacists typically provide clinical services in the community or clinic.  These pharmacists may work alongside physicians in clinics or doctor’s offices and may play a vital role in managing diabetes, asthma, blood-thinning, or HIV/AIDS medications.  Ambulatory pharmacists often counsel patients and provide education on the administration of self-injectable medicines for a wide range of diseases and disorders.  These pharmacists may also hold academic positions at a college of pharmacy and may split time between academia (teaching pharmacy students) and pharmacy practice (working in an ambulatory setting). The median salary of an ambulatory pharmacist is approximately $130,000.

The Homecare Pharmacist

This pharmacist works in a homecare pharmacy and is responsible for getting medications to a patient’s home that are typically administered by a homecare nurse.  These are usually injectable medications that may need to be given over several hours and may need monitoring by nursing to watch for reactions to the drug being administered.  The homecare pharmacist has a median salary of approximately $135,000; most earn between $130,000-$140,000 per year.

The Long-Term Care or Managed Care Pharmacist

These pharmacists specialize in patients in long-term care facilities or managed care facilities. Their median salary is approximately $130,000.

The Non-Traditional Pharmacist Salary

The above pharmacist positions represent the most common job types held by pharmacists. However, 5-10% of people with a PharmD degree don’t practice in the traditional setting. These pharmacists may work in research for a pharmaceutical company, for government organizations such as the CDC or FDA, as consultants, or as medical writers. Check out our guide to learn more about alternative career paths for pharmacists.

Some positions may be in well-established companies, while others may be in biotech or tech startups with high risk and rewards.  There is significant variability in the median salary of these positions.

portrait of Jim Herbst PharmD

Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS is an advanced patient care pharmacist at a nationally ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital.  Dr Herbst received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ohio State University in 2012.  He started his clinical career as an inpatient patient care pharmacist covering the neurology and complex care services, before transitioning to a pediatric neurology ambulatory care clinic in 2019. 

Dr Herbst's areas of interest in pediatric neurology include treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, infantile spasms, the ketogenic diet, and neuroimmunology.  He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed pharmacy and neurology journals, including Neurology, Epilepsia, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.  Dr Herbst is board certified as a pediatric pharmacy specialist.

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Advanced Patient Care Pharmacy, Neurology, Epilepsia