If you're considering a career as either a pharmacist or an accountant, not only are the responsibilities and skills required for the respective jobs vastly different, but the pay is also dramatically different, according to 2008 median salary data from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for both professions.
As a pharmacist responsible for distributing prescribed drugs and advising doctors and patients, your average annual salary is some $45,000 more than the average salary for those professionals responsible for the preparation, analysis and verification of financial documents -- accountants. According to BLS statistics from May 2008, the median annual salary for a pharmacist was more than $106,000 -- as compared to the nearly $60,000 median annual salary of an accountant.
To put this in even greater perspective, those accountants who represent the top 10 percent when it comes to wage earners make less than those pharmacists who fall into the "median" salary range, according to the BLS Occupational Outlook for these professionals for 2010-11. The top-earning accountants make around $102,000 annually, while the top 10 percent of pharmacists make more than $130,000 annually, according to 2008 data. On the low end, the bottom 10 percent of earners make around $37,000 and around $77,000 for accountants and pharmacists, respectively.
Both professions offer substantial opportunities for advancement; with additional responsibilities come increasingly lucrative positions. Generally speaking, according to professional education resource Smart Pros, which specializes in accounting and engineering professions, accountants move through the ranks of staff, associate, senior, manager and later director and partner. If you get on the "partner" track, according to the organization's 2006 data, as partner, your salary can exceed $150,000 annually. There are also opportunities for more responsibility and salary boosts in the pharmaceutical world; you can start as staff and then move into a managerial, supervisory or even an ownership role.
You must also consider the time and monetary investment that come with becoming either an accountant or a pharmacist. For starters, would-be pharmacists must earn their doctor of pharmacy degree at an accredited college of pharmacy, while generally a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline is required to break into this field, according to the BLS. In addition, both professions demand continuing education; in the case of pharmacy, you must attain licensure after several tests and maintain it to practice, while some senior accountants filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, are required to earn their certified public accountant designation, which also involves substantial testing and a continuing education component.