While many consumers may associate pharmacists as dispensers of prescription medication at retail establishments, there are numerous specialty practices that make the pharmacy profession a lucrative and desired profession in many areas. Clinical pharmacists assist physicians by making drug recommendations, create intravenous medications, and even obtain and administer nuclear medications. Although pharmacists may typically find employment in metropolitan areas, there is a growing need for clinical pharmacists in rural areas. Your salary may be impacted by the type of training you have, your years of experience and the policies of the organization you work for.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in May 2012 pharmacists in the U.S. earned an average salary of $114,950, with typical salaries for all areas of the profession ranging between $89,280 and $145,910. At the time of this report, there were approximately 61,460 estimated pharmacy jobs in general medical and surgical hospitals, with an average reported salary of $113,180.
Salary by Location
Salaries of clinical pharmacists in rural areas can vary by state. Pharmacists working in the non-metropolitan areas of Kansas were reported by the BLS to have earned between $61,910 and $145,040 in May 2012, as opposed to pharmacists working in non-metropolitan areas of Alaska, who earned between $110,040 and $150,700. Your geographic location within a state can also significantly impact your salary. Pharmacists practicing in non-metropolitan areas of northern Texas earned between $95,580 and $147,880, while pharmacists in non-metropolitan areas of southern Texas earned between $93,820 and $181,050. Montana also saw discrepancies in pay due to geographic location within the state, as pharmacists working in non-metropolitan areas of eastern Montana earned between $39,350 and $121,600, while pharmacists in western Montana earned between $84,880 and $132,050.
Incentives at Sign On
In an attempt to attract pharmacists to rural settings, some hospitals offer pharmacists a sign-on bonus in addition to their base salary. For example, South Dakota has recently offered a $10,000 sign-on bonus to pharmacists who agree to work for a minimum of three years in a rural setting, according to the Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Other states and hospitals have offered similar sign-on bonuses, including monetary incentives and even luxury car leases.
Student Loan Forgiveness
Another factor to consider when comparing salaries of rural pharmacists versus metropolitan pharmacists is the possibility of student loan forgiveness. Unlike sign-on bonuses, which provide an upfront and immediate incentive, student loan forgiveness programs reward pharmacists for long-term service by paying down, or forgiving a pharmacist's student loan debt after completing a minimum amount of service in a rural hospital setting. Loan forgiveness programs may be selective, and the terms and conditions of such programs can vary by state. Taking a clinical pharmacy job in a rural area that pays less than an average salary may still make economic sense depending on the amount of your student loan payments.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Pharmacists Summary
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Annual Mean Wage of Pharmacists, by area, May 2012
- University of Illinois at Chicago: Rural Pharmacy Program
- Minnesota Department of Health: Guidelines for the Minnesota Rural Pharmacist Loan Forgiveness Program
- Argus Leader: $10K Bonuses Dangled for Hard-to-Fill Jobs in Rural Health Care
- NWJobs: Competition for Pharmacists is High -- and so are the Salary and Incentives
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