Category Archives: PharmD Costs

Pharmacist Salary Analysis

We have updated our pharmacist salary page to show that the United States national pharmacist median average salary as of May 2019 was $128,090, the mean salary was $125,510, and the number of pharmacist employed was 311,200. This is an increase of $1,970 (or 1.56%) from the 2018 median salary of $126,120 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the median is the middle point (50%) in the frequency distribution of salary ranges). To provide a measure of reference for this increase, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a consumer price increase, a measurement of inflation or measurement of the average change in cost of goods and services, ranged from as low as 1.5% (Feb 2019) to 2.9% (Jun-Jul 2018) in the period between Jan 2018 to Dec 2019. Therefore, this 1.56% would fall at the low end of the spectrum of ranges between the Jan 2018 and Dec 2020 time period. It is of note that the percentage and salary changes are a national average as a whole; some regional areas may show even broader changes, while other areas may show less variability.

Here are a few notable sections provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more in-depth breakdowns of salary differences based on various regions and industries.

A range between $123,150 to $129,040 within the top five industries for pharmacist employment, with General Merchandise Stores showing the highest average salary.

Ranges between $123,620 and $128,030 within the top five highest concentrated areas of pharmacist employment. Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses show the highest pharmacist annual mean salary, although it holds far less in employment compared with Health and Personal Care Stores.

The top paying industries show a higher annual mean wage compared to the industries listed in the first two charts. The top industry, Outpatient Care Centers, also shows vastly more employment numbers than the next four top paying industries.

The dark green areas display the states with the highest number of pharmacists. The below chart shows California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania as the states with the most pharmacists, with California showing the highest salary out of the group. However, the cost of living in California is probably significantly higher than most other states.

The state with the highest range of salaries ($127,460 to $144,050) include California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri, Alabama, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Alaska.

The top state, California, shows the highest Annual mean wage, $144,050. However, California is also one of the most expensive places to live behind only Hawaii according to a CNBC article and US News and World Report, and the dollar may not go as far as other states such as Arkansas or Iowa.

States with the highest location quotient include Montana, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, and West Virginia (see above and below).

Rhode Island is the state with the highest quotient, and highest salary within the list of states rated by quotients.

Can you draw any conclusions from the previous year’s data if you are just graduating and looking for a job? A simple review of the website data would draw a simple conclusion that pharmacists earn the most and are employed more in the Health and Personal Care Sector (e.g. retail) in California. Does that mean California is the best place to work? Not necessarily if you factor in the cost of living (US News and World Report), or individual preferences as not everyone will enjoy unchanging seasons year-round, high taxes, and difficult traffic (e.g. Los Angeles). Perhaps Texas may be the best place to work considering the high salaries ($161,790) in certain metropolitan areas like Tyler, Texas, or West Virginia with its higher location quotient and low cost-of-living? Not necessarily either, as some may not like the Dallas Cowboys, or some may want a professional sports team to root for =).

To each their own, and you can draw your own conclusions as everyone has their own preferences in life where earning a good wage isn’t everything.

In summary, here are the relevant numbers from the BLS webpage as of May 2019 for your quick perusal:

Mean Annual Salary: $125,510

Median (50%) Annual Salary: $128,090

Mean Hourly Wage: $60.34

Median Hourly Wage: $61.58

Employment: 311,200

Industry where most pharmacists work: Health and Personal Care Stores (133,410)

Industry where pharmacists earn the most: Outpatient Care Centers ($143,150)

State where most pharmacists are employed: California (32,150)

State offering the highest annual mean salary: California ($144,050)

Metropolitan area employing the most pharmacists: New York/Newark/Jersey City (21,310)

Metropolitan area where pharmacists earn the most: Tyler, TX ($161,790)

Non-metropolitan area employing the most pharmacists: Southeast Coastal North Carolina (920)

Non-metropolitan area where pharmacists earn the most: Southwest Alabama ($162,910)

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Return on Investment Analysis between pharmacy schools and physician assistant schools

It can be a major investment going through the training necessary to become either a physician assistant or a pharmacist, so it’s definitely worthwhile to consider what the return on investment (ROI) is likely to be for either of these two careers, so you can make the most informed decision about a profession.

In terms of educational requirements, a physician assistant (PA) will generally have to commit 4 to 6 years beyond high school to more advanced education, earning either a BA or BS degree, and generally accumulating clinical hours as well. A residency is optional, but generally any specialty within the field will require one to two years of residency. At the end of all that, you will have earned a physician assistant certification (PA-C), and as of 2014, you can expect to earn an average salary around $97,280.

By contrast, a pharmacist can expect to commit 6 to 10 years for ongoing education after high school, which will probably include at least three years of coursework and another year of clinical internship, with an optional residency lasting between one and two years. The reward for this commitment is a Pharm.D degree and an average salary in the neighborhood of $118,470.

Cost vs. Reward

The rewards offered by these two professions are easy to learn about, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles such information annually, and makes it available publicly. Information about the total cost of the education necessary to embark on one of these professions is much harder to calculate however, because student loans are almost always involved, and these can take a considerable amount of time to pay off, and the duration of payments will differ from person to person. A person who aggressively pays off a student loan each month will end up paying far less than someone who stretches out payments longer and accumulates greater interest along with the original amount owed.

Pharmacy school debt load and repayment

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), the total cost of going to a good pharmacy school program can range between $65,000 and $200,000. For a program which costs a total of about $100,000, it would take roughly 11 years for any graduate to pay off that loan, assuming the starting salary mentioned above, and monthly payments of about 10% of that annual income.

Obviously there are several variables in this formula, so the total duration of payments and the total amount repaid can be much different for individuals, depending on the beginning loan total and the monthly amount paid on that loan. It’s easy to see that a fairly large monthly payment is more advantageous for a graduate, because it not only reduces the number of payments to be made, but the total amount eventually repaid. Of course, not every graduate will be able to pay the loan down so aggressively, and that will result in many more years of payments, plus a larger total repayment.

Physician assistant debt load and repayment

Since the length of programs for physician assistant are generally shorter than those for a pharmacist, most graduates from PA programs have accumulated considerably less debt load by the end of their academic careers. Findings from the American Association of Physician Assistants (AAPA) showed that about 25% of PA graduates in 2011 had accumulated $100,000 or more in debt load, with 33% accumulating student loan debt between $50,000 and $100,000, and about another 25% accumulating debt less than $50,000.

Although the overall debt load is less across the boards than it would be for a pharmacy program, the expected salary is also somewhat less, which means that it may not be possible for PA graduates to pay off loans as aggressively as their pharmacist counterparts. Still, it might reasonably be expected that the total duration of payments for a student loan debt incurred by a PA graduate would be significantly less than for a pharmacist graduate, which means the total amount repaid would also be significantly less.

Pharmacy Schools or Dental Schools…What’s Better for My Money?

Because the costs of dental school and pharmacy school are so high, and the debt load incurred can take so long to pay off, it is important for those considering such careers to determine the real return on investment provided. Depending on the total investment of money compared to the anticipated income as a professional, it just may not be worthwhile for some people to embark on careers in pharmacy or dentistry.

The dental field also offers some areas of specialty, which hold out the hope of even greater income, but also require greater initial investment to acquire the specialized skills associated with those areas. None of the figures involved in return-on-investment (ROI) calculations are set in stone, and even official government figures which provide guidelines on anticipated incomes are only averages, and do not account for regional differences. This is why the return on investment should be calculated on a personal basis, using figures specific to your own circumstances.

Calculating ROI for the dental field

In 2014, the cost of going to a four-year dental school program varied between $21,600 and $300,000, depending on whether the schools were public or private. These figures do not include such fees as books, dental kits, scrubs, lab dues, pre-clinical supplies, associated school fees, financial aid, starting tuition cost, and personal expenses. All these other costs can significantly increase the total cost of going to school for a dental education.

According to the American Dental Education Association, the class of 2014 graduated with an average debt load of $247,227, with interest accruing over 10 years (a standard loan repayment period), in the amount of $141,000. In total, this means a dental education would therefore cost approximately $380,000 including financing fees. If an aggressive 10-year program of school loan repayment is chosen, each monthly payment would therefore be $3,184. This would be offset by an average starting salary of $184,140, although even greater salaries might be possible in specialized dental careers.

Calculating ROI for the pharmacy field

The cost of a enrolling in a pharmacy school program can range anywhere between 65,000 and $200,000, but its return on investment is viewed as one of the most advantageous in the entire medical profession. A recent ABC news documentary declared that pharmacy careers were in the top five best investment returns, making it one of the most advantageous professions to pursue in terms of financial gain.

A student whose college investment was $90,000 could expect to pay off that loan in 11 years, assuming an average annual salary of $116,670, and a consistent monthly payment amount of 10%. Granted, this is a very aggressive repayment schedule, but if affordable, could leave a pharmacist free and clear of all student loan debt very early in his or her career, with the prospect of considerable future earnings. In 2014, the National Pharmacist Workforce Survey conducted by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy reported that pharmacists with less than five years of experience as professionals had already paid off roughly 1/3 of their student loan debt.

Other factors influencing ROI

It should be noted that calculations for return on investment in both the pharmaceutical and dental fields can be significantly impacted by other factors which may drastically affect the figures involved. As previously mentioned, anticipated salaries can also be more or less than the averages used by the authoritative sources in each field, even though those averages come directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On the expense side, the cost of education can be much higher if a student is attending a university with high visibility and a national reputation. If you happen to be a student from out-of-state, attending any university always costs more and that too can have a significant impact on education cost. Some students attending college are able to defray the total cost of education by subtracting scholarships, grants, family contributions, and other sources of financial assistance.

When all ‘hidden’ factors are added in to the total expense side, those are the figures which should then be compared to anticipated earnings for a final accurate calculation of return on investment. The prospects for both the pharmaceutical field and the dental field are among the most promising for students, although in most cases it will take at least a decade or more to pay off the considerable cost of a college education before achieving debt-free status.  Of course, there are other unexpected variables to consider such as whether a graduate can find a job, which will impact how long it may take to pay off a loan.

MD vs PharmD: Return on Investment between pharmacy schools and medical schools

The high costs of pharmacy school and medical school make it important that any student considering entry into one of those two programs should carefully assess what the return on investment would be for each. Any such assessment should take into account the cost of tuition for each year of the program, loan interests, room/board, the total debt load likely to be accumulated while at school, and the anticipated future salaries which would hopefully offset that total investment.  Of course, expected salaries are dependent on market demand, the ability to obtain and maintain employment after achieving the targeted degree, passing the board requirements, and being licensed to practice.

As of 2014, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the average tuition rate for pharmacy school education was $25,000 per year. The Association of American Medical Colleges tells us that the tuition cost for medical school during that same period was $39,500 per year.  Costs may vary considerably between in-state and out-of-state tuition, but it may be safe to suggest that on average, medical school are more expensive than pharmacy schools, generally speaking.  The corresponding debt loads for students graduating from those two programs were as follows: for pharmacy school $144,000 of indebtedness, and for medical school $161,172.  Again, this may vary dependent on whether a student gains in-state or out-of-state tuition status.

Expected salaries of the two professions

As of May, 2015, the average salary for a pharmacist in the US was $119,270, with that figure being higher in some sections of the country, and lower in others. For physicians, the 2015 average salary was $197,700, with the same qualifier regarding salary differences and sectionalism. Part of the reason for the differential between salaries in these two fields comes from the fact that some doctors will have specialties which allow them to earn significantly more in their profession, whereas pharmacists have fewer such opportunities.

Paying off your college loan

How long will it take to pay off the debt load mentioned above for pharmacists and physicians? One of the factors influencing this answer is the duration of both programs, since the longer the program, the greater the debt incurred. Another factor is that with areas of specialty available for physicians, the potential for greater earnings exists, thus facilitating quicker payoffs of the debt load.  Also, one must consider the demand for employment as it may greatly influence the ability to pay off the loans.  Higher demand may garner better compensation, whereas the inability to obtain employment quickly could severely impact the the time it would take to pay off the loan.

However, for physicians coming out of school, residency wages will be fairly low, and with the accumulation of interest on student debt, the total investment in a medical school education can approach a staggering $1 million. The US government allows new professionals to repay student loans based on their level of income, so this Income-Based Repayment (IBR) program permits medical professionals to repay their loans at a rate equal to 10% – 15% of their income.

Pharmacists may also have the option to apply for a residency or fellowship program, although they are optional unlike medical school graduates.  If they choose a residency or fellowship program, the wages will be significantly less.  Pharmacists graduating with the typical $144,000 of debt, and incurring a 7% interest rate on that amount, can expect to pay off a loan in about 26 years, assuming a $1,000 monthly payment. By doubling that amount to $2,000 monthly, the entire loan could be paid off in only 8 years, so the obvious conclusion is that a significant increase in monthly payment can dramatically lessen the number of years necessary to pay it off, similar to paying off a mortgage.

Medical school students would be faced with a similar scenario, except that the debt load coming out of school would be higher on average. Assuming a slightly larger pay scale for doctors, the rate of repayment would probably be somewhat higher than for pharmacists, with the same proviso for earlier payoff using higher payment amounts.  One must also consider that with graduates of both pharmacy and medical programs finishing school or residency in their 20s and 30s, more than likely they will have other financial considerations that are expected in life such a wedding, honeymoon, hourse, car, or having kids.

Return on investment 

In order to determine whether the obviously considerable investment in either of these two programs is justified by future earnings, it is necessary to compare the total payoff against the expected earnings in salary for both fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that over the next 10 years, there will be a greater demand for more physicians, as opposed to pharmacists, so the likelihood of finding desirable employment would also be greater in the medical field.

Given all the above data, it would seem that there is a slightly greater return on investment for those entering the medical profession, and that the potential for paying off college loans is somewhat easier. Statistically speaking, the expected salary rate for pharmacists will be lower for the foreseeable future, with the job outlook also being less optimistic, so debt repayment is likely to take longer.

In the end, the return-on-investment will depend on many factors which include but are not limited to the financial health of the individual considering either of these programs, the ability to finish all the requirements to practice the profession and obtain/maintain employment, the demand for the professions, the specific school the applicant is enrolled in, the loan rates, life situations, and the chosen speciality.  Still, both jobs have historically provided good futures for incoming professionals, and can be expected to yield worthwhile returns on investment, although freedom from debt may take a while.


Pharmacy School Expenses

Acceptance into a PharmD program deserves much praise. It could be a difficult feat for some, but the field of pharmacy is respected by many in the community. With all the rigorous studies that one has had to accomplish in order to meet the requirements of enrolling into a program, most candidates may expect to be bombarded by more work and examinations, and prepare themselves accordingly. However, one of the most important decisions in investing in higher education are the expenses that are accrued throughout four years of study. These expenses include tuition, room and board, books, university fees, technology and/or laboratory fees, transportation, student loan interest rates, etc.

1. PharmD Selection. To cut costs, many students prefer to apply to public universities within their state. In-state tuition usually requires records of residence, including tax records, for at least a year in most states. Out-of-state tuition could be very costly, almost comparable to private university tuition costs. For those that are not accepted into an in-state PharmD program will have to look to other PharmD programs out-of-state or private universities if they want to increase their probability of acceptance into a PharmD program, which could be expensive.

2. Housing. Many professional students prefer to live in off-campus housing rather than dormitories (reserved usually for undergraduate students) and take on roommates to split the costs of rent, utility, and possibly even food.

3. Location. Living expenses are arguably cheaper in rural areas compared to a big metropolitan city as New York City, although the lifestyle may not be as exciting.

4. Online/Used Textbooks. With the emergence of more products and applications available on the internet, more and more schools are moving away from traditional books and paper and moving towards online subscriptions of textbooks. Depending on the company, online textbook subscriptions may be cheaper than books, and some students may even get discounts through their PharmD program. Moreover, powerpoint presentations could be viewed on laptops rather than having them printed, thus saving paper (and trees!). It may even relieve the burden of having to carry heavy textbooks in their backpack every day. If online subscriptions are not an option, looking to used textbooks are a great way to save a ton of money. This requires knowing what books will be needed (and the correct editions) before purchasing. 120x90- Get Your Books, but Keep Some Cash!

5. Interest rates. Finally, obtaining a loan with a low interest rate greatly effects the burden of debt that will be due upon graduation for the student that will be seeking a job. Even more if the newly licensed pharmacist is having difficulty finding a job. Therefore, looking towards subsidized loans is a wise choice as interest may not begin to compound until after the student has graduated. Grants and Scholarships are a welcome addition, usually contingent on economic status or academic progress.