Career Choice: Pharmacist

Career Choice: Pharmacist
  • Type: Career Type
  • Opening Intro -

    College students considering a career in the growing medical field may want to consider a career as a pharmacist.

    These professionals, who typically have a doctorate or professional degree, play an important role in keeping Americans healthy.


Pharmacists compound and dispense medications as prescribed by physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists or other allowed medical practitioners. Licensure is required of pharmacists in all states, the District of Columbia and in several U.S. territories. Pharmacists must complete a four-year Pharm.D. degree, following two years or more of specific professional study according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of May 2010, the mean annual wage for pharmacists was $109,380 reports the BLS.

Average Salaries

More than 250,000 pharmacists were employed as of 2010 reports the BLS. Salaries for those in the 10th to 25th percentiles ranged from $82,090 to $98,810 per year. The median annual wage was $111,570. Those in the 75th percentile averaged $125,740 per year and those in the 90th percentile made $138,620 on average.

Top Employers

Nearly 45 percent of all pharmacists work for retail outlets such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, earning $1,620 above the national mean. Salaries for these pharmacists was $111,000 per year reports the BLS. Medical and surgical hospitals also employed large numbers of pharmacists, offering an average salary below the national mean at $108,430 per year. Those pharmacists working in grocery stores such as Harris Teeter, Kroger, Ingles, Farm Fresh and elsewhere earned $107,530 on average. Department stores and general merchandise stores paid $106,740 and $112,860, respectively. Top pay averaging $122,380 per year was given to those pharmacists working in residential facilities which includes substance abuse homes and mental retardation facilities.

Geographic Pay

Pay for pharmacists also varies depending on geographic location. Among the states where pharmacists earned top pay were Maine at $121,470; California at $118,810; Alaska at $118,060; Alabama at 117,930; and Vermont at $117,900. Nebraska, at $93,400, had some of the lowest mean wage averages for pharmacists in the nation. Metropolitan areas offering the highest wages in the country included three in California: Modesto at $142,840; Santa Cruz-Watsonville at $142,750; and Napa at $134,760. The Detroit, Michigan, area was next with average annual wages of $134,050, followed by Laredo, Texas, at $133,320 according to the BLS.

Job Outlook

Jobs for pharmacists are expected to increase by 17 percent as projected by the BLS for the 2008 to 2018 period. That rate is approximately 50 percent faster than all jobs. Credit an aging population that needs access to medications with fueling this increase, as well as a shortage of pharmacists occurring in some parts of the country as some professionals choose to work part-time and others retire and are not easily replaced. Besides jobs through pharmacies, grocery stores and other retailers, pharmacists will continue to be in demand at mail-in pharmacies which can efficiently dispense medicines at costs lower than the typical fixed based pharmacy reports the BLS.


O-Net Online: Summary Report for: 29-1051.00 – Pharmacists; 2010

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition; Pharmacists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics; 29-1051 Pharmacists

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Categories: Career Planning