Pharmacy in the United States vs. Australia: The differences and similarities

Pharmacists and pharmacy managers make the top three highest-paying jobs for Americans, according to a new analysis of salary data.

Doctors, pharmacy managers and pharmacists are the best paid professionals across the US, according to a new analysis of salary data from employment site Glassdoor.

The nearly 300,000 pharmacists across the United States get paid a median base salary of US$127,120 (AU$173,995) across the profession. Pharmacy managers see a median base salary of US$146,412 (AU$200,400).

Physicians top the list of highest-paid jobs in the US with a median base salary of US$195,842 (AU$268,058).

Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs in America

Job Median base salary (US$)
1 Physician $195,842
2 Pharmacy Manager $146,412
3 Pharmacist $127,120
4 Enterprise Architect $115,944
5 Corporate Counsel $115,580
6 Software Development Manager $108,879
7 Physician Assistant $108,761
8 Software Engineering Manager $107,479
9 Nurse Practitioner $106,962
10 Software Architect $105,329

Source: The Highest Paying Jobs of 2018, August 2018

Pharmacy in Australia

Some healthcare professionals get paid similarly high salaries in Australia – for example, anaesthetists get paid a median salary of AU$196,527, and GPs receive AU$143,505.

However in comparison, Australian pharmacists earn less than half that of their US counterparts with a median salary of AU$66,679, according to salary research index PayScale.

The median salary for pharmacy managers sits about the same point as for pharmacists, although the range increases up to AU$129,128.

Dentists receive a median AU$97,681 and optometrists receive AU$85,290, says PayScale.

The average starting salary for an intern pharmacist is about AU$41,000 per annum, four months after finishing their degree, according to data from The Good Universities Guide.

This is lower than starting salaries for those in creative arts, communications, tourism and hospitality, making it the lowest of all industries requiring higher education training.

There is a need for improved remuneration across the profession, pharmacy leadership concedes.

“This is saying to pharmacists across our profession that ‘you are valued’,” PSA National President Dr Shane Jackson said recently.

“That you deserve to receive remuneration that is commensurate with your vital role in the healthcare system, that you deserve to be paid a fair day’s pay for your expertise and training and your level of responsibility in the healthcare system.”

United States and Australia: The differences and similarities

There are some major differences between pharmacy in the US and Australia, not just related to salary levels.

In America, pharmacy students must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree before they can register to practice, which usually takes six years to complete (including a one-year internship).

Pharmacy ownership in the US is not restricted to just registered pharmacists. These pharmacy chains are some of the wealthiest companies in the world.

Walmart topped in the Fortune 500 list for 2018, coming in first with a revenue of US$500 billion and beating oil giant Exxon Mobil by US$256 billion.

Largest US Pharmacies, by Total Prescription Revenues

Source: Drug Channels Institute analysis and estimates, 2017

Gender split

However similarly to Australia, there are more female than male pharmacists in America.

In 2015, 57% of US pharmacists were women, while about 62% of Australian pharmacists are women.

Author Hanna Rosin covered the feminisation of the pharmacy industry in her book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women.

She wrote that the replacement of “mom-and-pop” pharmacies with national chain stores in the 1970s opened the way for more women in the workforce, explaining that by this time Walgreens already had more than 600 stores around the country, and employed 1500 pharmacists.

“The image of the pharmacist was no longer an entrepreneur and community leader dishing up fizzy concoctions and cures. A pharmacist was increasingly a salaried employee, and more and more often a woman.

“As one William S. Apple said at a 1971 gathering of a pharmaceutical group, ‘Once pharmacy shed the Victorian view that you had to ‘own a store’ in order to practice the profession,’ it would unleash a ‘wave of woman-power into our profession,” Ms Rosin writes, adding that the new setup was more practical for women.

Ms Rosin shared the results of a 2002 study of the pharmacy workforce which found: “Wage rates for female pharmacists have grown to a point where it is more beneficial, from a financial standpoint, for a family to have the female work full-time and the male work part-time. Gender role reversal may be more common in families where one spouse is a pharmacist.”

For more information on average medium salaries across a range of fields of study, visit


This article originally appeared in the Australian Journal of Pharmacy – Fancy a $174,000-a-year salary? 


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