How much does a pharmacist make? The median annual wage for pharmacists in May 2018 was $126,120, or about $60 an hour, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But a six-figure pharmacy salary doesn’t come without challenges. Pharmacy school graduates face high student debt balances, steep job competition and flat wages.
“The pharmacist job market is becoming saturated, which is driving wages flat or down,” says Tim Ulbrich, a pharmacist and co-founder of the site Your Financial Pharmacist. He adds that some pharmacies are cutting full-time workweeks down to 32 hours.
How much does a pharmacist make?
Pharmacists’ salaries vary slightly based on the setting. Many pharmacists (43%) work at pharmacies and drugstores, where the median pay was $124,760 in May 2018, according to BLS data.
Median pharmacist pay in May 2018 by industry:
- General merchandise stores: $131,460.
- Food and beverage stores: $130,140.
- Hospital: $127,330.
- Pharmacies and drugstores: $124,760.
Pharmacists who do a residency will make far less during their one- or two-year training. The average salary for pharmacy residents is around $40,000 annually, according to the job site Glassdoor.
Most hospitals and other jobs won’t look at you if you don’t have a residency.
But a residency gives pharmacists a competitive edge in this tight job market, says Brandon Dyson, pharmacist and co-founder of the website tl;dr pharmacy.
“Increasingly, unless you want to work at a CVS or Walgreens … most hospitals and other jobs won’t look at you if you don’t have a residency,” Dyson says.
Paying off student debt on a pharmacist’s salary
The average pharmacist student loan debt among 2018 pharmacy school graduates with student debt was $166,528 — more than the annual salary for a typical pharmacist.
Depending on your career plan and financial situation, consider these options for student loan repayment:
- If your income is too low to afford monthly payments: Whether you’re doing a pharmacy residency or earning less than you’d like in your full-time job, an income-driven repayment plan can help make monthly federal student loan payments more manageable. These plans cap monthly payments at 10% to 20% of your income and offer taxable loan forgiveness after you make payments for 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan.
- If you’re working for the government or a nonprofit: You may be eligible for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which offers tax-free loan forgiveness after you make 10 years’ worth of student loan payments while working for a qualifying employer. To maximize forgiveness, make qualifying payments on an income-driven plan.
- If you have good credit and are aggressively paying down student debt: Student loan refinancing through a private lender may save you money and help you get out of debt faster. To qualify for a lower rate, you need a credit score at least in the high 600s and a relatively low debt-to-income ratio — 50% or less — indicating that you have enough income to afford loan payments. When you refinance student loans, you lose access to federal programs including income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness.