Most people are familiar with pharmacists. Whenever a doctor prescribes medicine, it’s the pharmacist who fills the prescription. Perfusionists, on the other hand, are medical professionals rarely in the public eye. It isn’t until a patient needs open-heart surgery or a related procedure that a perfusionist steps in, as they operate the medical equipment that diverts and circulates blood when the heart is immobilized.
As with any career, earnings for perfusionists vary by experience. In 2012, recent graduates earned an average base pay of anywhere from $60,000 to $75,000 a year, according to a survey by the American Society of Extra-Corporeal Technology, or AmSECT, a professional organization of perfusionists. Those with two to five years of experience earned $70,000 to $90,000, while perfusionists with six to 10 years of experience earned $80,000 to $100,000 annually. For those in managerial positions, salaries often exceeded $100,000 a year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics sets the average salary for a pharmacist at $114,950 a year as of 2012. While this figure is obviously higher than the wages of perfusionists, it still doesn’t account for experience, making it hard to compare salaries. The University of Florida, however, provides a bit more detail on the subject. In 2011, recent graduates earned anywhere from $68,250 to $100,200 a year. With one to four years, salaries ranged from $69,500 to $101,800, while pharmacists with five to nine years of experience earned $83,400 to $112,400. Over 10 years of experience, salaries were $90,100 to over $119,000. In fact, the top 10 percent earned over $145,910.
Both perfusionists and pharmacists start their training in undergraduate programs, typically taking courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy and related studies. Upon graduation, the two professions split. Perfusionists enter a certificate program, where they learn how to not only operate heart-lung machines but also monitor patients, perform autotransfusions and provide long-term supportive care. In general, certificate programs last anywhere from one to four years. Pharmacists enter Doctor of Pharmacy programs, where they learn pharmacology, medical ethics and pharmaceutical care of various conditions, such as those of the cardiovascular, circulatory, endocrine and gastrointestinal systems. Doctoral programs typically last anywhere from three to four years.
The BLS expects job opportunities for pharmacists to be very good, with an average job growth of 25 percent through 2020. The BLS doesn’t track perfusionists specifically, but the outlook for similar positions were also fairly good, with average growth rates of anywhere from 28 to 29 percent through 2020.
- American Medical Association: Health Care Career Directory – Perfusionist
- University of Florida: Pharmacy Salary
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Pharmacists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Pharmacists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians and Vascular Technologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Respiratory Therapists
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