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The Salary of Pharmacists Vs. Veterinarians

by Beth Greenwood, studioD

Pharmacists and veterinarians are both health care professionals, although they work in very different areas of the industry. Pharmacist’s salaries can be affected by their chosen industry, geographic location and responsibilities. Veterinarians' salaries are affected primarily by geographic location and the industry in which they work.

Education, Licensing and Job Tasks

Pharmacists and veterinarians both have advanced degrees -- a doctorate in pharmacy, or Pharm.D., for the pharmacist and a doctor of veterinary medicine, or D.V.M., for the vet. Both must be licensed in all states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pharmacists actually pass two licensing exams. The first is specific to pharmacology in general and the second is for the state in which the pharmacist will practice. Veterinarians might be certified in a subspecialty and licensed. Pharmacists dispense or compound medications and educate patients and health care professionals about medication effects. Veterinarians provide medical care for mammals, reptiles and birds.


Pharmacists held more than triple the number of veterinary jobs, for a total of 281,560 employed in 2012, according to the BLS. The national average salary for pharmacists was $114,950 in 2012. Pharmacists in the primary industry for this occupation -- health and personal care stores -- earned $116,980. Of the 56,020 veterinarians the BLS reported as employed in 2012, most worked in the professional service industry as solo practitioners or in partnerships and groups. The average salary for these veterinarians was $93,570, compared to an industry average of $93,250.

Contributing Factors

Work setting and industry affected salaries for pharmacists and veterinarians. Pharmacists employed in grocery stores earned $111,040. Earnings for pharmacists in general medical-surgical hospitals and department stores were similar, at $113,180 and $113,290 respectively. Pharmacists in general merchandise stores earned the most, with an average annual salary of $122,810. Pharmacists in management roles earned more, with annual salaries ranging from $123,400 to $139,600, depending on work setting, according to a 2013 salary survey by “Pharmacy Week.” Veterinarians in colleges, universities and professional schools earned the least in 2012, at $75,190 annually. Other veterinary salaries ranged from $85,420 in social advocacy organizations to $89,480 for the federal government.

Regional Comparisons

The top-paying states for pharmacists are widely scattered, from Delaware -- with an average annual salary of $121,830 -- through California, at $125,800. Alaska was the best-paying state, with an average annual salary of $129,170. Rhode Island paid the least, with an average salary of $102,410.Veterinarians in the Northeast earned the highest wages, according to the BLS. New Jersey veterinarians earned $110,230 and those in Connecticut, the top-paying state, earned $121,480. Montana was the lowest-paying state for veterinarians at $61,050 annually.

Career Outlook

The BLS notes that demand for both pharmacists and veterinarians is expected to be significantly greater than average for all occupations from 2010 to 2020. Demand for pharmacists will be driven by pharmacist retirements, an aging population, new drug products, complexity of medical care and the use of multiple medications for chronic conditions. Although demand for pharmacists is expected to grow 25 percent, demand for veterinarians will be even greater, with a 36 percent growth rate between 2010 and 2020. Advances in veterinary medicine, increased numbers of pets, and the need for veterinarians in food and animal safety, disease control and public health will drive the need for veterinarians.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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