How Much Does a Pharmacist Earn?

Pharmacist - Square [square]When it comes to choosing a career, there are a number of factors to consider: personal interests, working hours, terms and conditions of employment. However, money remains a key motivating factor. In this article, we examine the earning potential for students who are interested in pursuing a career as a Pharmacist. Furthermore, we examine what is the process of becoming one and what can one expect.


The National Careers Service provides the following guide for pharmacist salaries in the UK:

  • Starter: £26,500
  • Experienced: £32,000 to £41,000
  • Highly experienced: £41,000 to £83,000

These figures are based on NHS pay grades and are likely to be similar in community pharmacy.

In the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary for pharmacists in 2016 was $122,230, with a median hourly rate of $58.77. 

Further information on pharmacist income:

Pharmacist Careers in the UK

In order to become a qualified pharmacist in the UK you must undertake the following:

  • A 4-year Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree, approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
  • A 1-year pre-registration course in a pharmacy
  • A registration exam

A number of universities across the UK offer the MPharm course, each with their own entry requirements. You can find out more about becoming qualified as a pharmacist in the UK on the NHS Health Careers website.

In the UK, newly qualified pharmacists may work for the NHS in hospital pharmacies or as community pharmacists, for example in high street chemists such as Boots or Lloyds Pharmacy. Working hours are usually 37.5 to 40 hours per week, with a starting salary range of approximately £26,500 to £32,000.

As a qualified pharmacist in the UK, you may wish to join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). As with any profession, it is important to keep up to date with the latest developments and best practice. The RPS provides training (e.g. courses, seminars, workshops) for registered pharmacists to keep up to speed and network with others in the field.

Pharmacist Careers in the US

In the US, becoming a pharmacist involves earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD) from a school or college of pharmacy that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

The PharmD itself is usually 4 years in duration, and most require applicants to have already completed at least 2 years of undergraduate study. There are also combined courses of up to 6 years that will take students straight out of high school.

You can learn more about applying to and attending pharmacy school by visiting the Student Centre of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy website.

After completing a PharmD, pharmacists in the US become licensed by taking the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), and any other exams / tests that may be required by their state.

Newly qualified pharmacists in the US may find employment in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, or in local pharmacies such as those found in drug, general merchandise or grocery stores.

Career Progression and Specialisation

As you develop your skills and become more experienced as a pharmacist, your salary may increase and you may also be able to take on additional responsibilities, such as training new members of staff, supervising junior pharmacists and potentially managing your own team. Additional training may allow you to become qualified to prescribe medicines.

Pharmacists can also choose to specialise in a particular area of practice. You may have the opportunity to narrow your field of study as part of your MPharm / PharmD, or develop specialisations on the job once qualified. Possible specialisms include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Mental health
  • Paediatrics
  • Oncology

Career progression and specialisation can also be pursued through further study. Kingston University London, for example, offers MSc courses in Pharmaceutical Science and Pharmaceutical Analysis. Schools of Pharmacy usually offer a range of postgraduate courses, so it’s worth seeing what’s out there.

You may also wish to develop your pharmaceutical research by undertaking a PhD. Funding for PhDs in science fields is usually more readily available than in arts or social science subjects. Senior research roles are likely to attract the higher end of the pharmacist salary brackets in both UK and US.


So, do pharmacists get paid well?

Becoming a fully qualified pharmacist is a hefty time commitment due to the required undergraduate degree and roughly 4 year study period for the MPharm or PharmD, plus any further study you may with to undertake - however it does have the potential to be a highly lucrative career path with top salaries of around £80,000 in the UK and $120,000 in the US.

The following organisations provide information on becoming a pharmacist and pharmacist income on their websites:

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