Pharmacists earn an average of $128,570  annually, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), but that number can vary based on your industry, area and experience. Of course, salary potential isn’t the only factor to consider if you’re thinking of becoming a pharmacist — you’ll have to complete at least six years of schooling, which can delay your career and leave you with debt — but it can help sweeten the deal if you’re already interested in this career path.

What’s the starting salary of a pharmacist?

The latest data from PayScale, which is for 2023, shows that the average salary of an entry-level pharmacist is currently between $85,000 and $127,000 annually. However, that number could be higher or lower for your specific circumstance; BLS data shows that the bottom 10 percent of pharmacists earn less than $76,840, and metropolitan areas typically pay more than nonmetropolitan areas regardless of experience.

What’s the average salary of a pharmacist?

The average salary of a pharmacist is $128,570, according to the BLS, but the government agency’s data from May 2021  also shows how much annual figures can vary by industry:

  • Health and personal care stores: $118,570
  • Food and beverage stores: $120,150
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $132,970
  • Local government: $140,780
  • Outpatient care centers: $150,710

Areas with a high cost of living tend to pay pharmacists more overall. For instance, San Jose-based pharmacists earn an average of $168,640, while pharmacists in Johnson City, Tennessee, earn an average of $110,100.

What states pay pharmacists the most?

Location plays a key role in your earning potential. The five highest-paying states for pharmacists, according to the BLS, are:

  • California: $146,140
  • Alaska: $145,910
  • Oregon: $136,520
  • Washington: $134,290
  • Vermont: $130,460

Is becoming a pharmacist worth it?

Before you become a pharmacist, it’s important to do your homework, including thinking about how much you’ll earn and how that compares to the cost of a degree. According to a 2022 report from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the average student loan debt for pharmacists is a steep $170,444. The same study, which involved surveying recent graduates, found that the vast majority—83.8 percent of PharmD degree holders—had to take on student debt to pay for their degree.

If you find a doctor of pharmacy degree for a reasonable cost, such as at a public college instead of a private college, and you end up earning a higher-than-average salary, then you’ll get a much better return on your investment. If you take on a lot of student loan debt, on the other hand, a large portion of your salary could be taken up by monthly payments for years after you graduate.

Of course, finances aren’t the only factor to consider when deciding whether a career as a pharmacist is right for you. A pharmacy degree is only worth it if you’ll truly enjoy the career path ahead of you; a higher salary isn’t worth it if you aren’t happy with your job.

Before pursuing this career field, make sure you have an idea of the costs involved, how long it will take to repay that debt and how much you’ll earn later. Once you have all of that information, think carefully about whether the subject matter interests you enough for a lifelong career.

Bottom line

A career as a pharmacist can be quite lucrative, depending on where in the country you plan to live. In some of the highest-paying regions, the average salary approaches $170,000 annually. But that’s not the case everywhere. And the cost to obtain a PharmD degree can result in years of student loan debt. Before making such a significant investment, consider whether it’s a career path that will hold your interest for years to come. If you decide to move forward, consider less expensive options for obtaining a pharmacist degree, including public colleges.