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Overall Score
(8.1 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

3.2 percent

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This Job is Ranked in
Best Health Care Jobs #3
The 100 Best Jobs #5

Even in a tough job market, the unique mix of medical knowledge and people skills required to run a pharmacy counter remain in demand. The more than 281,560 pharmacists in the United States dispense medicine and advice in tens of thousands of retail pharmacies and hospitals, as well as in clinical and corporate settings. Earnings potential remains relatively high in the health care field, and wages have climbed slightly from a year ago. A recent focal point in the industry is medication therapy management, or MTM. Pharmacists counsel patients by thoroughly reviewing their medications and finding the best way to reduce drug-related costs, but more importantly, the goal of MTM is to improve the quality of a patient’s life.

With an aging population of baby boomers, more Americans expected to seek health services due to the Affordable Care Act and increased demand for prescription medications, industry growth will likely remain high for years to come. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 14.5 percent employment growth for pharmacists by 2022, with the field adding 41,400 new jobs. Solid employment growth and a high median salary help make pharmacist a top contender on this year’s list of Best Jobs, ranking No. 5 overall and No. 3 among the Best Health Care Jobs.


The median annual salary for a pharmacist was $116,670, or $56.09 per hour, in 2012. The best-paid 10 percent made $145,910 in 2012, while the lowest-paid made $89,280. The best-compensated pharmacists are employed in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. Some of the highest-paid in the profession work in California near the metropolitan areas of El Centro and Chico.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $133,700
Median $116,670
25th Percentile $103,350


There’s a long learning curve for pharmacists. Training usually starts with two years of professional study at a college or university before beginning a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program at a college of pharmacy that generally takes four years to complete. As of July 2012, there were 124 Doctor of Pharmacy programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, and most require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. After the Pharm.D. program there are several examinations to pass and often a one- or two-year postgraduate residency program or fellowships designed to prepare pharmacists for specialized areas such as clinical practices or research labs. Some degree plans also include a master’s degree in business administration or a public-health component. All states require a license to practice pharmacy and a specific number of hours worked in a practice setting. Some require additional exams covering pharmacy law.

Reviews & Advice

The job hunt should start during school, with internships early in the process. “Exposure to patients and patient care during school will make them more successful,” says Papatya Tankut, who began her career as a pharmacist at CVS/pharmacy and is now vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS Caremark. While technical skills matter, evidence of leadership, communication and conflict resolution can help set applicants apart from the pack. Business acumen also counts, since pharmacies are often part of larger retail operations. Pharmacists usually begin their career dispensing drugs and advice, but can move into supervisory or administrative positions covering multiple pharmacy locations or larger geographic regions. About 40 percent of pharmacists work in pharmacies or drug stories, but jobs with mail-order or Internet pharmacies or wholesalers are expanding. Large pharmacy groups also often maintain administrative, lobbying, marketing or real estate arms staffed with trained pharmacists. “Today the options have broadened so much,” Tankut says.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility poor Below Average
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Last updated by Stephanie Steinberg.

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