Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians: Facts and Figures

Fact Sheet 2014

For a PDF version of this fact sheet, click here.

The Center for Disease Control estimates that close to half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug and as much as one in five take at least three.[1] As the primary dispensers of these medications, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians serve a growing role in our health care system. Generally, pharmacists dispense medication, counsel patients on the use of prescription and over-the-counter medication, advise patients about general health topics, and often complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork, serving as an important liaison between the patient and a complex insurance regulatory system. Pharmacy technicians assist in this important process. Under the direct supervision of a registered pharmacist, they compound medical prescriptions, perform clerical duties, verify stock, and enter data to maintain inventory records.

This fact sheet outlines: general workforce information, prevailing wages and wage differences, women and minorities in pharmacy work, the current labor market, the implications of an aging population, government programs, online pharmacies, and union benefits for pharmacists.

Trends in Training and Employment

  • In 2013, there were 287,420 pharmacists[2] and 362,690 pharmacy technicians[3] in the United States.
  • Since 2003, the number of pharmacists in the U.S. has fluctuated year to year, but overall has increased approximately 19 percent in the last decade.[4] The number of pharmacy technicians steadily increased in the same period, adding over 151,000 workers from 2003-2013.[5]
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment of pharmacists to grow 14 percent and employment of pharmacy technicians to grow 20 percent from 2012-2022,[6] however changes to the industry or economic events could temper or hasten this growth.
  • In August 2014, the Aggregate Demand Index (ADI) calculated by the Pharmacy Manpower Project (PMP) was 3.48; indicating a roughly balanced supply and demand of pharmacists across the country.[7] Also in August 2014, 35 states reported a balanced market, while 13 reported moderate demand for pharmacists, and three reported a moderate surplus.[8] While it is possible that the supply and demand of pharmacists within some of these states with balanced markets is actually unbalanced, the available research does not provide this level of analysis.
  • While reports once suggested demand for pharmacists would outpace supply in the coming decade[9], trend data show that this has not been the case over the past 10 years.[10]
  • While each state has nuance in their laws regarding licensing of pharmacists, all states require, at minimum, both graduation from an accredited first professional degree program from a pharmacy college and passing the North American Pharmacy Licensing Examination.[11]
  • As of 2013, there were 62,743 students enrolled in a first professional degree program.[12] Cohorts typically experience an average attrition rate of 10 percent between enrollment and graduation.[13]
  • While there are no national training standards for pharmacy technicians, many of the 133 pharmacy colleges and schools and 354 pharmacy continuing education programs offer pharmacy technician programs, with some level of accreditation status.[14]
  • Laws regarding training, licensing, and staffing of pharmacy technicians vary dramatically by state. In 2012, 16 states and the territory of Guam had no legal limit on the number of technicians a pharmacist may supervise at one time. The remaining states had ratios of technicians to pharmacists ranging from 2:1 to 6:1.[15] Thirty-five states, Guam, and the District of Columbia require neither licensing nor certification of pharmacy technicians, however, of these, 27 did require registration of technicians.[16]
  • Proponents of stricter regulations on ratios cite concerns over increased workloads for pharmacists, deskilling of the industry, and risks to patient safety.[17]

Employment Overview

  • In 2012, about 61 percent of pharmacists worked in retail pharmacies that were either independently owned or part of a larger chain, store, or merchandiser. The majority of these pharmacists were salaried, though some were self-employed owners. About 23 percent worked in hospitals, while others worked in clinics, mail-order pharmacies, wholesalers, home health care agencies, or the Federal government.[18]
  • In 2012, about 72 percent of pharmacy technician and aide jobs were in retail pharmacies, either independently owned or part of a drugstore chain, grocery store, department store, or mass retailer. About 17 percent were in hospitals. A small proportion of pharmacy technicians and aides worked in mail order and Internet pharmacies, clinics, pharmaceutical wholesalers, and the Federal government.[19]
  • About one in five pharmacists worked part-time in 2012 according to the BLS. Because many pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, some pharmacists work nights and weekends.[20] Technicians work similar hours, though as their seniority increases, technicians often acquire increased control over the hours they work. In both retail and hospital settings many technicians work part-time.[21]
  • In 2013, Gallup Poll measured public perceptions of professional ethics and honesty and respondents placed pharmacists second only to nurses, with 70 percent of participants responding that pharmacists have “very high” professional ethical standards.[22]

Wages

  • In May 2013, the estimated median annual earnings for pharmacists were $119,280. The lowest 10 percent earned an average of $89,000 while the highest 10 percent earned more than $147,350.[23]
  • While pharmacists experienced a 17 percent increase in real wages since 2003, median annual earnings for pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides did not fare as well.[24] Median annual earnings for pharmacy technicians were $29,650 in 2013, representing just a 2.8 percent increase in real wages since 2003.[25] Pharmacy aides reported median annual earnings of $22,580, which represents a three percent decrease in real wages over the last decade. [26] As pharmacy chains and pharmaceutical companies report record profits, not all workers share in this windfall. [27]
  • Reported earnings vary by industry, type of employment, and region. Health and personal care stores report the highest concentration of pharmacist employment and those working in other retail stores have the highest annual mean wage.[28]

Women and Underrepresented minorities

  • In 2013, 56 percent of pharmacists were women.[29]
  • The pharmacist workforce was 5.4 percent Black or African American, 22 percent Asian, and 4.4 percent Hispanic or Latino in 2013.[30]
  • The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) reported that 61.2 percent of enrollees in first professional degree programs in 2013 were women and 11.9 percent were underrepresented minorities.[31] However, of PhD’s awarded in 2012-2013, 49.7 percent went to men.[32]
  • In 2013, the gap between median weekly earnings for men and women employed as full-time pharmacists was 13.9 percent, with male median weekly earnings at $2,092 and female median weekly earnings at $1,802.[33]

Challenges of an Aging Population

Pharmacists continue to play an integral role in health care as the U.S. population ages and increasingly relies on prescribed medication.

  • The population of middle aged and elderly people, the largest consumers of prescription drugs, is increasing.[34]
  • Over the next 20 years, about 10,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age every day.[35]
  • In September 2014, more than 22.5 percent of pharmacists were 55 years or over in age. The average age for pharmacists was 42.7. [36]

Public Policy

The goal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010 is to improve health care quality, reduce health care costs, and expand health insurance coverage. The resulting expansion of health care access due to the PPACA will likely increase demand for pharmaceutical services in the coming years. [37] Pharmacists, as medication-use experts, are key stakeholders in improving patient care, quality, and outcomes.

  • Currently, federal law and national health policy do not recognize pharmacists as health care providers or practitioners, despite their extensive education in the use of medications and their administration of patient care services. Unions are working with their pharmacist members to advocate for the reclassification of pharmacists as health care providers and the expansion of access to patient electronic health records to ensure quality patient care and outcomes.
    • On March 11, 2014, H.R. 4190 was introduced in the House of Representatives. H.R. 4190 would amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to expand coverage to medically necessary and preventative health care services provided by pharmacists under Medicare Part B. Passage of the bill would recognize pharmacists as health care providers. The bill currently has 123 co-sponsors.[38]
  • Medicare Part B reimburses physician and specific non-physician health care professionals for medically necessary and preventative health care services, but rarely reimburses pharmacists for health care services.[39] Unions are advocating for expansion of Medicare Part B to cover medically necessary and preventative health care services provided by pharmacists.

Online Pharmacies and Counterfeit Medication

According to the AARP, the cost of brand name prescription drugs increased by 13 percent in 2013.[40] The increasing cost of prescription drugs and the rise in popularity of online shopping have resulted in more Americans purchasing medication from online sources. While many internet pharmacy sites comply with state and federal laws, some unregulated online pharmacies based abroad sell illegal and potentially dangerous counterfeit drugs to U.S. consumers.

  • The global market value for counterfeit or fake drugs is estimated at $75 billion annually.[41]
  • In a recent Food and Drug Administration survey of more than 6,000 adults making online purchases, more than 23 percent of respondents reported using the Internet to buy prescription medicines. Twenty-one percent of those respondents reported buying from an online pharmacy based outside the United States.[42]
  • In 2013, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy reviewed 10,275 websites selling prescription drugs and found that 96.7 percent did not comply with federal or state laws and/or other pharmaceutical industry standards.[43] Consumers purchasing prescription drugs through illegitimate websites risk buying counterfeit medication.[44]
  • The National Association Boards of Pharmacy runs the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) accreditation program, which certifies that online pharmacy retailers comply with state and federal laws.[45]
  • A recent study conducted at Washington University in St. Louis showed that purchasers of prescription drugs from online pharmacies suffer higher rates of adverse effects. The researchers surmised that one possible explanation for the high rates of adverse effects was lack of physician oversight.[46]

Unionization

  • In 2013, an estimated seven percent of pharmacists were union members, up from 5.9 percent in 2012. [47]
  • In 2013, unionized pharmacists reported mean weekly earnings that were 37 percent higher than those for non-union pharmacists ($2,805 compared to $2,041).[48]
  • A number of unions represent pharmacists across the country including the United Steelworkers; Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union; Office and Professional Employees Union; the American Federation of Teachers; and the American Federation of Government Employees.
  • Collective bargaining agreements negotiated by these unions protect professional integrity, provide for reimbursement for continuing education and professional development, establish procedures and compensation for overtime, and require advanced posting of schedules.

 

[1] Qiuping Gu, Charles F. Dillon, and Vicki L. Burt. “Prescription drug use continues to increase: U.S. prescription drug data for 2007-2008.” NCHS Data Brief, Publications and Information Products, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db42.htm
[2] “29-1051 Pharmacists.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291051.htm
[3] “29-2052 Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm
[4] “Table 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2003. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/aa2003/cpsaat11.pdf; “11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf
[5] “29-2052 Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, May 7, 2004. Retrieved from http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/print.pl/oes/2003/may/oes292052.htm; “29-2052 Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm
[6] “Pharmacists.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm; “Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm
[7] “National Pharmacist Demand.” Aggregate Demand Index, Pharmacy Manpower Project, August 2014. Retrieved from http://www.pharmacymanpower.com/index.jsp
[8] “National Pharmacist Demand by State – August 2014.” Aggregate Demand Index, Pharmacy Manpower Project. Retrieved from http://www.pharmacymanpower.com/usstatemap.jsp
[9] Knapp, David A. “Professionally Determined Need for Pharmacy Services in 2020,” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Winter 2002. Retrieved from http://www.aacp.org/resources/research/pharmacymanpower/Documents/2020NeedForServices.pdf
[10] “Time based trends in Aggregate Demand Index, September 2004 – August 2014.” Aggregate Demand Index, Pharmacy Manpower Project. Retrieved from http://www.pharmacymanpower.com/trends.jsp
[11] “Pharmacists; How to Become a Pharmacist.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm#tab-4
[12] “Academic Pharmacy’s Vital Statistics.” American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.aacp.org/about/Pages/Vitalstats.aspx
[13] Ibid.
[14] “Frequently Asked Questions.” Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Retrieved from https://www.acpe-accredit.org/students/faqs.asp
[15] “Survey of Pharmacy Law.” National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 2012. Retrieved from https://pharmacy.uc.edu/admin/documents/2012%20Survey%20of%20Pharmacy%20Law.pdf
[16] Ibid.
[17] Palombo, Jessica. “House Approves Letting Pharmacists Oversee Six Times As Many Technicians.” WFSU. April 17, 2013. Retrieved from http://news.wfsu.org/post/house-approves-letting-pharmacists-oversee-six-times-many-technicians
[18] “Pharmacists.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm#tab-1
[19] “Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-3
[20] “Pharmacists.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm#tab-1
[21] “Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-3
[22] “Honesty/Ethics in Professions.” Gallup, December 5-8, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx
[23] “29-1051 Pharmacists.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291051.htm
[24] “29-1051 Pharmacists.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 7, 2004. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/2003/may/oes291051.htm; “29-1051 Pharmacists.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291051.htm
[25] “29-2052 Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 7, 2004. Retrieved from http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/print.pl/oes/2003/may/oes292052.htm; “29-2052 Pharmacy Technicians.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/OES/current/oes292052.htm
[26] “31-9095 Pharmacy Aides.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 7, 2004. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/2003/may/oes319095.htm; “31-9095 Pharmacy Aides.” Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, April 1, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319095.htm
[27] “Investor Relations: Quarterly Results.” Walgreen, Co., 2014. Retrieved from http://investor.walgreens.com/results.cfm?PageName=Earnings; “2014 Media Kit.” Independent Community Pharmacy Marketplace, National Community Pharmacists Association, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.americaspharmacist.net/ncpa_media_kit.pdf
[28] “Pharmacists.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, January 8, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm#tab-1
[29] “Table 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, February 26, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm
[30] Ibid.
[31] “Academic Pharmacy’s Vital Statistics.” About AACP, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.aacp.org/about/Pages/Vitalstats.aspx
[32] Ibid.
[33] “Table 39. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex.” Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.pdf
[34] Qiuping Gu, Charles F. Dillon, and Vicki L. Burt. “Prescription drug use continues to increase: U.S. prescription drug data for 2007-2008.” NCHS Data Brief, Publications and Information Products, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db42.htm; Linda A. Jacobsen, Mary Kent, Marlene Lee, and Mark Mather. “America’s Aging Population.” Population Reference Bureau, February 2011. Retrieved from http://www.prb.org/pdf11/aging-in-america.pdf
[35] Cohn, D’Vera and Taylor, Paul. “10,000 – Baby Boomers Retire.” Pew Research Center, December 20, 2010. Retrieved from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1834/baby-boomers-old-age-downbeat-pessimism
[36] U.S. Census Bureau, DataFerrett, Current Population Survey, Basic Monthly Microdata, September 2014.
[37] Qiuping Gu, Charles F. Dillon, and Vicki L. Burt. “Prescription drug use continues to increase: U.S. prescription drug data for 2007-2008.” NCHS Data Brief, Publications and Information Products, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 2, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db42.htm
[38] Library of Congress, Congress.gov. Retrieved on December 16, 2014 from: https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4190/cosponsors
[39] “What does Medicare Part B cover?” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Medicare.gov. Retrieved from http://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers/part-b/what-medicare-part-b-covers.html;
[40] Schondelmeyer, Stephen W. “Rx Price Watch Report: Brand Name Prescription Drug Prices Continue to Increase.” Public Policy Institute, AARP, November 2014. Retrieved from http://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-08-2010/rx_price_watch.html
[41] “The Difficult Fight Against Counterfeit Drugs.” 60 Minutes, March 14, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-difficult-fight-against-counterfeit-drugs/
[42] “Buying Medicines Online? Be Wary, FDA Says.” FDA Consumer Health Information, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, September 2012. Retrieved from http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM321495.pdf
[43] “Internet Drug Outlet Identification Program; Progress Report for State and Federal Regulators: January 2013.” National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, January 2013. Retrieved from http://www.nabp.net/system/redactor_assets/documents/161/NABP_Internet_Drug_Outlet_Report_Jan2013.pdf
[44] “Counterfeit medicines.” Essential Medicines and Health Products, World Health Organization, November 14, 2006. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/medicines/services/counterfeit/impact/ImpactF_S/en/
[45] “VIPPS.” National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Retrieved from http://www.nabp.net/programs/accreditation/vipps/
[46] Cicero, Theodore J. and Ellis, Matthew Stephen. “Health Outcomes in Patients Using No-Prescription Online Pharmacies to Purchase Prescription Drugs.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.jmir.org/2012/6/e174/
[47] Hirsch, Barry T. and Macpherson, David A. “2014 Union Membership and Earnings Data Book.” Bloomberg, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.
[48] Ibid.

 

For more information about professional and technical workers, check DPE’s website: www.dpeaflcio.org.

 

The Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) comprises 22 AFL-CIO unions representing over four million people working in professional and technical occupations. DPE-affiliated unions represent: teachers, college professors and school administrators; library workers; nurses, doctors and other health care professionals; engineers, scientists and IT workers; journalists and writers, broadcast technicians and communications specialists; performing and visual artists; professional athletes; professional firefighters; psychologists, social workers and many others. DPE was chartered by the AFL-CIO in 1977 in recognition of the rapidly-growing professional and technical occupations.

 

Source: 
DPE Research Department
815 16th Street, N.W., 7th Floor
Washington, DC   20006

 

Contact:  
Jennifer Dorning                                                                                                                                                                              December 2014
(202) 638-0320 extension 114
jdorning@dpeaflcio.org

 For a PDF version of this fact sheet, click here.

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