Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Pharmacist Job Market in 2019: Salaries Grew, Retail-to-Hospital Employment Shift Accelerated

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its employment data for 2019. That means it’s time to update our annual Drug Channels analysis of pharmacist salaries and employment.

Average base salaries were about $125,000, though there was substantial variation across practice settings.

Total pharmacist employment grew in 2019. Consistent with our previous analyses, the share of pharmacists who work at hospitals reached a new high.

However, the number of pharmacists working in retail settings decreased. The challenges facing the retail pharmacy industry, which I discuss in this video, are now showing up in the employment data. It’s more bad news for the pharmacists who are working for the weakened.


The table below profiles overall employment and salaries for U.S. pharmacists in 2019. Details on the data and our methodology appears at the bottom of this article.

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Here are our observations about the recent employment trends:
  • Hospitals and physician offices continue to grow as a source of pharmacist employment. Pharmacist employment at non-retail settings—hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, and home health—grew by 11,580 from 2017 to 2019. Hospitals accounted for 85% of pharmacist employment in non-retail settings.

    This recent growth reflects a long-term shift in pharmacist employment to non-retail settings. U.S. pharmacist employment has grown over the past seven years, from 286,530 in 2013 to 311,200 in 2019. The share of pharmacists employed in non-retail settings has grown significantly during this period, from 27% in 2013 to 31% in 2019. (See chart below.) Note that this figure likely understates pharmacist employment by hospitals. That’s because hospital-owned retail pharmacies are included within the retail category. (See our Notes for Nerds section, below.)
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  • Retail pharmacist employment dropped again. For 2019, there were 180,920 pharmacists employed at retail outpatient settings: chain drugstores, independent pharmacies, supermarkets, mass merchants, and mail pharmacies. Employment in these settings declined by 5,320 pharmacists in 2018, and by a further 2,800 in 2019.

    More than 80% of retail job losses occurred at mass merchants with pharmacies. However, pharmacists at mass merchants have the highest average salary of pharmacists working in retail settings.


Here are our observations about the recent salary trends:
  • The average pharmacist’s salary grew in 2019. Salaries in all industry settings increased, though there was variation between industries. Pharmacists who work in hospitals had greater increases (+2.1%; green line in chart below) than those in retail outpatient dispensing formats (+1.2%; orange line).

    Salaries for pharmacists in physician offices (blue line) rebounded in 2019. These sites account for a small share of total employment.
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We rely on the 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS and the State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) collaborate on the OES survey. BLS funds the survey and dictates its structure, while the SWAs collect most of the data. The OES survey categorizes workers by detailed occupations based upon the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. For more on these data, see the OES FAQ page.

The Pharmacist occupation code is 29-1051. Using these data, we identified pharmacists working in various retail and non-retail settings based on the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System).

A few more items of note:
  • BLS computes the annual wage data by multiplying an hourly mean wage by a "year-round, full-time" figure of 2,080 hours. The data exclude bonuses and employer costs of nonwage benefits, such as health insurance and contributions to retirement plans.
  • Pharmacists employed by an independent pharmacy are included. Paid owners and officers of incorporated independent pharmacies are also included. However, the data exclude business owners and partners in unincorporated pharmacies.
  • The data show the location of employment as a "pharmacist." They do not specify the duties the pharmacists perform or the entity that operates the pharmacy.
  • The NAICS industry code “446110 Pharmacies and Drug Stores” includes drug stores, pharmacies, and on-site institutional pharmacies. Thus, a pharmacist employed in a hospital’s retail outpatient pharmacy is probably classified as an employee of a retail pharmacy.


Pharmacy experts Loverboy aptly expressed how many pharmacists feel about their current jobs—even when they have to actually work on the weekend. Click here of you can’t see the video.

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