Tuesday, April 22, 2014

For 2013, Pharmacist Salaries Rise Yet Again For This Family-Friendly Occupation

Time for our exclusive annual analysis of pharmacist salaries, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) latest 2013 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES).

Once again, pharmacist salaries grew faster than overall U.S. wages. The highlights:
  • In 2013, the average gross salary for a pharmacist at a retail, mail, and specialty pharmacy was $117,500—up 1.1% from 2012.
  • Average salaries for pharmacists at mass merchants climbed above $121,000.
  • Of the 820 detailed occupations that BLS lists in the OES survey, the “pharmacist” classification ranked 29th in compensation.
  • Retail, mail, and specialty pharmacists’ salaries are 57% higher than the average healthcare figure.
Details below. I also highlight a neat paper that analyzes how the growth of national chains turned pharmacy into a family-friendly, female-majority profession with a very small gender wage gap. It's a new twist on how free-market industry evolution can lead to positive social outcomes.


BLS and the State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) collaborate to create the OES survey. BLS funds the survey and dictates its structure, while the SWAs collect most of the data. The OES survey categorizes workers into detailed occupations based upon the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Your many burning questions are answered on the OES FAQ page.

The “pharmacist” occupation code is 29-1051. Using these data, we identified pharmacists working at retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies by analyzing the following NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) industries:
  • Chain and independent pharmacies: NAICS 446110
  • Supermarkets with pharmacies: NAICS 445100
  • Mass merchants with pharmacies: NAICS 452000
  • Mail pharmacies: NAICS 454100
In 2013, retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies accounted for 63% of total U.S. pharmacist employment. Hospitals accounted for an additional 24% of pharmacist employment. The remaining 13% work at manufacturers, wholesalers, government agencies, non-hospital healthcare providers, and other organizations.

Note that BLS computes the annual wage data by multiplying an hourly mean wage by the "year-round, full-time" figure of 2,080 hours. The data above show full-time, gross salary data. The wage data exclude bonuses and employer costs of nonwage benefits, such as health insurance and employer contributions to retirement plans.


In 2013, pharmacists at retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies earned annual salaries averaging more than $117,500, up 1.1% from 2012. (See table below.) For the second consecutive year, pharmacists at mass merchants had the highest average salaries, earning a full-time average of $121,060. Annual salaries at supermarkets and mail pharmacies are lower, averaging about $112,000.

[Click to Enlarge]

In 2013, pharmacist employment growth differed among dispensing formats.
  • Pharmacist employment at drugstores and supermarkets grew slightly.
  • Pharmacist employment at mass merchants dropped by 2,330 (-7.3%). However, this decline was attributed entirely to the “Department Stores” subcategory, which lost 3,090 pharmacist jobs. The “Other General Merchandise Stores” subcategory, which includes such companies as Walmart, had employment growth of 760 pharmacists.
  • Mail pharmacist employment grew by 660 (+21.2%).
In 2013, the average pharmacist salary grew more slowly than did that of the average healthcare worker. While pharmacist salaries grew by 1.1%, salaries for all “Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations” grew by 1.6%, to $74,740. Pharmacist salaries in retail, mail, and specialty pharmacies, however, are 57% higher than average healthcare salaries.

The OES data exclude “the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms.” Pharmacy owners are therefore not included in these figures. Based on industry survey data, the average pharmacist owning a single pharmacy earned about $245,000 in 2012 (the most recent year available). See Profits Rebound for Pharmacy Owners.


“The Most Egalitarian of All Professions: Pharmacy and the Evolution of a Family-Friendly Occupation” is a neat National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. They argue that female pharmacists benefited as owner-operated, independent pharmacies were replaced by national chains and hospitals.

Here's an excerpt from the NBER’s summary:
“[T]he transformation of the pharmacy profession over the past half century, from one dominated by independent pharmacies to an industry overwhelmingly controlled by national pharmacy chains and hospitals, has made the occupation more family-friendly and female-friendly, with higher earnings and a lower gender earnings gap than other fields.”
“The authors don't attribute these dramatic changes to legislation, anti-discrimination policies, licensing requirements, or regulations specific to the pharmacy profession. Instead, they find that the changes are primarily due to structural transformation of the pharmacy profession's ‘compensation framework’ over the decades, including the decline of earnings premiums flowing to self-employed pharmacists and the reduction of implicit earnings penalties for those who work part-time and part-year. Both of these developments generally have worked in favor of women. Pharmacists also are good substitutes for each other, which leads to more flexibility in work hours and scheduling than in many other professions.”
You can purchase the full paper for $5 here.


  1. Still regretting your decision to count numbers instead of pills?

    When I looked at a “career” book in high school in 1982 salaries were $27,000. I happened to be as drug store delivery boy at the time.

    Considering I was a stoner whose only goal was to be a professional downhill skier, I made the mistake of mentioning to my parents that I thought that looked like good money….next thing I know applications for pharmacy school started showing up at the house…the rest is history.

  2. Awesome, but I had hoped you would find a new pharmacist holding money image since the last time you posted this salary report.

  3. I looked, but didn't find one that was as good. Maybe next year!

  4. Do you know what is included in this salary number? Insurance, loan payments, etc, etc?

  5. The data above show these full-time, gross salary data. The wage data exclude bonuses and employer costs of nonwage benefits, such as health insurance and employer contributions to retirement plans.

  6. The salary increase is a little surprising given the growth in the number of pharmacy schools to around 130 and the increase in enrollment at many established schools. Basic laws of supply and demand tell us not to expect this trend to continue.
    Prof Albert Wertheimer
    Temple University

  7. Do you have any data about PBM or industry pharmacists? I know this doesn't align with a job code as outlined above, but is there breakout in the full article? Or what category would be best to refer to?

    Does the full report have data broken out by state?

  8. I agree with you sir. If you look at any of the job sites there are roughly 10 positions open in a city and surrounding county of 600,000… That would be good for the few who are currently displaced by the large chains and retailers take it or leave it attitude now that there is an overabundance of pharmacists. I don't think we can absorb all 150 new graduates in the state of Maryland. The chain pharmacies have created such a horrible atmosphere that everyone is for themselves and is ready to "throw anyone else under the bus" in order to keep their job. It is interesting to see those companies hire new grads to manage and then burn them out throw them away and get new grads next year. The new grads can be treated any way the company decides is fair…. they don't know any better.

    Keep donating money big pharma and retailers and keep over producing pharmacists… surely we can drive the salary down for the next ten years so you can save money and live better with your dividend growth.

  9. You can get fairly decent salary data from glassdoor.

  10. Yes. If you muck around on the BLS site, you can extract wage data by industry. Not easy or intuitive, but possible.