Retail pharmacists have had their share of difficulties recently, as they’ve faced burnout and staffing shortages throughout the pandemic – and increasingly taken on more roles previously held by primary care physicians.

However, data recently compiled by the Drug Channels Institute has some good news for them: retail pharmacist employment has rebounded to a pre-pandemic level and average base salaries have also seen an uptick.

Overall, retail pharmacists saw their salaries increase by about 3% in 2022, Drug Channels Institute found, from $125,690 in 2021 to $129,410. Salary growth among home healthcare pharmacists increased the most at 11%.

“These figures reflect the post-pandemic environment in retail pharmacy,” the report notes. “During 2022, some chain pharmacies offered signing bonuses up to $75,000 to pharmacists amid a chronic shortage of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.”

The report examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that about 182,000 pharmacists were employed at retail outpatient settings – meaning anything from independent pharmacies to supermarkets – in 2022.

That number was up from 175,000 in 2021, suggesting that the burnout and burdens of COVID-19 appear to be subsiding a bit. Still, the number of employed retail pharmacists in 2022 is much lower than the peak of 189,000 in 2017.

While retail pharmacist employment has overall experienced a downward trend since 2017, pharmacist employment in non-retail settings – like hospitals, physician offices and at-home care – has experienced long-term growth over the last decade. In 2022, 325,000 pharmacists were employed in non-retail settings, compared to 286,000 in 2013.

This is perhaps an unsurprising finding, given that scores of retail pharmacies have cut hours or shuttered in recent years, while pharmacists’ roles have expanded beyond the pharmacy. 

One 2022 study conducted by Columbia University and Express Scripts Pharmacy found that healthcare consumers were increasingly relying on pharmacists to fill the roles of primary care physicians and other providers.

Despite the end of the emergency phase of the pandemic, retail pharmacists still continue to face burnout. 

“Workplace conditions have pushed many pharmacists and pharmacy teams to the brink of despair,” the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) board of trustees wrote in a statement in December 2021. “Pharmacy burnout is a significant patient safety issue. It is impacting patients today with delayed prescription fulfillment, unacceptable waits for vaccines and testing, and potential errors due to high volume, long hours and pressure to meet performance metrics.”