As of 2013, the average annual pay of 287,420 pharmacists nationwide was $116,500, and the top 10 percent made $147,350 annually or more, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many factors influence pharmacists' pay, but careers that require both a Ph.D. and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree are among the highest-paid. All pharmacist jobs require a Pharm.D., but academic or research positions usually also require a Ph.D. Students can complete both degrees at the same time in dual-degree programs.
Community pharmacists, also called retail pharmacists, dispense medications directly to the public. As of 2013, they made up the largest segment of the profession. Pharmacies and personal care stores were the largest employer of community pharmacists and paid them an average of $117,870 annually. However, the highest-paid retail pharmacists worked in general merchandise stores, where they earned an average of $125,240 per year.
Health Care Pharmacists
Health care pharmacists, or clinical pharmacists, work for hospitals, outpatient centers and doctors' offices. Their duties typically include helping physicians determine treatment plans and assisting with patient care.
The highest pay in the clinical sector went to pharmacists in physicians' offices, who received an average of $123,160 per year in 2013, the BLS reports. Pharmacists in general and surgical hospitals reported the next-highest clinical pay of $115,420 per year.
The Importance of Location
The 2013 BLS survey revealed that location is an important factor in receiving the top pay as a pharmacist. The highest-paying states for all industries were Alaska, where salaries averaged $133,030 per year, and California, where they averaged $129,560.
In four metropolitan areas, average pay exceeded the 90th percentile mark of $147,350 annually. In Gadsden, Alabama, pharmacists averaged $154,700 per year, while in the Santa Cruz-Watsonville area of California they averaged $151,270. Pharmacists in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and El Centro, California, also exceeded $147,350 per year on average.
The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists surveyed member salaries in 2014. As researchers, most members had the Ph.D. as their highest degree, while others had a Pharm.D. or other degree as their top degree. Those with dual pharmacy degrees reported the Ph.D. as the highest. Researchers whose top degree was from a school of pharmacy reported a median annual base salary of $180,000.
Experience was the most important factor in salary regardless of degree type. Median annual pay for entry-level workers was $89,000 but reached $186,000 with 30 years experience or more. Researchers in private industry earned the highest median pay of any sector -- $160,000 annually with a Pharm.D. and $150,000 with a Ph.D.
The 2014 AAPS report also surveyed academic positions for pharmaceutical scientists. Respondents with a rank of full professor had the highest median pay of $150,000 per year, compared to $88,500 for assistant professors. Those who balanced research and teaching earned a median of $127,500 per year, more than those who focused on only one or the other. Department chairs also reported a high median annual salary of $150,000.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Pharmacists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 -- Pharmacists
- American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists: 2014 Salary Survey
- Purdue University: The Pharm.D./Ph.D. Combined-Degree Option
- Photo Credit XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images
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