Philadelphia—For the first time in 3 years, retail pharmacists saw an increase in average base salaries, according to a new report.

In its annual analysis of pharmacist salaries and employment, the Drug Channels Institute (DCI) stated that the salary base rose to approximately $124,000. "What's more, retail salaries grew at the fastest rate in years—reflecting the post-pandemic employment environment," the DCI noted, adding that pharmacists employed by hospitals and other nonretail settings also saw higher salaries, which averaged about $139,000.

At the same time, according to the group, pharmacist employment in retail settings returned to its prepandemic levels. In nonretail settings, such as hospitals, physician offices, outpatient centers, and home healthcare, positions continued to be added. Approximately one-half of pharmacists now work in the nonretail practice setting, the DCI pointed out.

Analyzing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the DCI said an estimated 182,000 pharmacists are employed at all retail outpatient settings: chain drugstores, independent pharmacies, supermarkets, mass merchants, and mail pharmacies.

For 2021, retail pharmacist employment had declined by about 7,000, but employment in 2022 rebounded to a level that was about the level of 2020's prepandemic figure. "However, total employment in retail settings has declined from its peak of about 189,000 pharmacists in 2017," according to the analysis.

In other trends, the economic analysis group found that hospitals and physician offices continue to grow as a source of pharmacist employment. "Total U.S. pharmacist employment has grown from more than 286,000 in 2013 to more than 325,000 in 2022," the report stated. "The share of pharmacists employed in non-retail settings—hospitals, physician offices, outpatient care centers, and home health—grew significantly during this period, from 27% in 2013 to 33% in 2022. Consequently, pharmacist employment at nonretail settings grew by about 28,000 from 2013 to 2022."

Salary growth for pharmacists working in hospitals remained strong (+4.1%), but those working in home healthcare had the fastest growth of any major practice setting (+11.6%).

On the other hand, the salary gap between a pharmacy owner and an employed retail pharmacist has grown for the fourth year. "Our analysis of industry survey data indicates that the average pharmacist owning a single pharmacy earned over $200,000 in 2021 (the most recent year for which data are available). Independent pharmacy owner profits improved due largely to better expense control and the administration of COVID-19 vaccines," wrote DCI CEO Adam J. Fein, PhD. "Owning a pharmacy, with all of its hassles and obligations, remains more lucrative than being an employee."

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