Francis Bacon is credited with having said that “money is a great servant but a bad master.” No one, including pharmacists, should allow salary alone to be a determining factor in your career. Job satisfaction cannot be measured in dollars and cents. We dare not make the bottom line our top priority. That being said, we have to pay the bills. Pharmacists would be wise therefore to pay some attention to the latest salary data when making important career decisions.
Adam Fein, President of Pembroke Consulting, Inc., writes an annual summary of the most current information available about pharmacist salaries. The 2016 data show that the average pharmacy paycheck rose by just 0.6% last year to $122,188. This growth is slower than the average growth of other healthcare professions which came in at 1.7% overall. The data also show that the highest average salaries are currently being paid by the mass merchant pharmacies and chains, but only by a small amount.
Pharmacists need to think carefully about what the average salary information may mean for their careers. If you are considering employment offers it is a good idea to have these figures in your mind as you evaluate a salary offer. An offer far below the national average may not be something to jump into too quickly. A low offer may indicate an employer has lots of candidates and doesn’t really value your unique skills and experience.
However, pharmacists also need to bear in mind that a lot more than money is involved in a great career. In a recent article published in Drug Topics the author discusses research done assessing the best places to work as a pharmacist in America. The research analyzed all 50 U.S. states, specifically considering 12 variables which included things such as salary, number of pharmacists, costs of living, crime, job openings and several others.
The result of the above analysis were shared in an article entitled “The Top 10 States to be a Pharmacist.” What it revealed is that money and salary alone can’t make up for deficiencies in other areas. In fact, Iowa, one of the worst states in terms of pharmacist’s salaries (2nd lowest overall) ranked # 3 overall best state to work in. Low stress and crime rates may compensate for cash when it comes to career satisfaction.
One concerning piece of information about the most recent data is that for more mature and experienced pharmacists, their current salary might be well beyond the current starting rate. When you factor in annual raises, the cost of employing a seasoned pharmacist can be substantially more than a new graduate. For this reason, pharmacists should regularly be looking for new ways to add value to their portfolio of skills by looking for opportunities to take on greater leadership, management and staff development roles.
Pharmacists should bear in mind that “average” salaries for a given employer category don’t tell us much about earning potential for that job. For example, while retail chains may have a relatively high average salary, it is possible that the ceiling for salary growth may be quite low. According to pharmacist salary data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the top 10% of pharmacists are earning $75.94 per hour or more. To earn at that level pharmacists may need to think about different career paths and career locations.
It is also wise, in my opinion, to look at the areas of pharmacy practice that are currently growing and expanding. Chains, independent and long-term care pharmacies are still the largest pharmacist employers in the country. There is a shift toward hospital pharmacy that is going on as well, but according to information available from Pharmacy Manpower, the demand for pharmacists in these institutional settings is still lower than the current supply.
Money alone can’t buy you a great career. And, as Bacon pointed out, it makes a bad master. But carefully considering average salaries, along with other benefits related to employment, can help pharmacists make career choices that they will be happy with down the road. You can take that to the bank.