How Much Should You Pay Your Pharmacy Technicians and Employees?

Wages in the pharmacy are trending upward. According to the 2019 NCPA Digest, the average pharmacy technician made $15.56 an hour in 2018, while a clerk on the front end made $11.37 an hour.

These averages are a good place to start if you’re not sure what you should be paying your pharmacy technicians and front-end retail employees, but there are other things you should take into consideration.

Your pharmacy’s location plays a big part in what you should pay to stay appealing to workers. In urban areas with a high cost of living, you’ll probably have to offer higher hourly rates than a rural pharmacy with lower living costs. In some places, the minimum wage is as high as $14 an hour, so you’ll have to adjust accordingly to those laws as well.

Although offering pay along the average will make you competitive and help keep overhead costs down, it pays your business in the end to give your employees more.

Learn how generous employee compensation can lead to more productivity and profit for your pharmacy.

The Business Benefits of Paying Pharmacy Employees More

Offering better-than-average pay is an excellent way to show employees that you appreciate them. But it also has other concrete perks that improve the profitability of your pharmacy.

You can expect these benefits when you pay your employees well.

Reduced employee turnover

Offering competitive pay is one of the best tools you have for reducing employee turnover. Paying to replace employees when they leave because of poor compensation may end up being more expensive than paying them well in the first place.

According to a study by the Center for American Progress, the cost to replace a mid-range employee like a pharmacy technician is about 20 percent of their pay. That means if you are paying your techs $15.56/hour, it will cost $6,224 to hire a new tech if one leaves.

For lower-paid positions like retail clerks, the turnover cost isn’t quite as high—around 16 percent of their pay—but it can add up. Replacing an $11.37/hour front-end clerk will end up costing you around $3,638.

The reasons why replacing an employee can be so costly include:

  • Hiring costs, like posting jobs, expensive background checks, and time spent interviewing
  • The time cost of training a new employee
  • Lost productivity while new employees get up to speed, which can sometimes take months
  • Poor morale, because other employees tend to be less productive in high turnover environments

If you’d like to avoid incurring these costs in your pharmacy, consider paying your employees above the market rate to encourage them to stick around.

Attract better people

You won’t get the best staff members if you’re offering bargain-barrel wages. Higher wages attract a larger, more qualified pool of applicants, according to a study published in Oxford University’s Quarterly Journal of Economics. 

This means you can be choosier about who you hire and only bring people who are a great fit for the job onto your team.

It also gives you a competitive advantage against other pharmacies in the area. If you offer higher compensation than the chain across the street, you’ll have a superior staff that makes visiting the pharmacy more pleasant for patients.

Run more efficiently

A study of New Jersey police officers found that after their wages were raised, they became 12 percent more productive.

Well-paid employees don’t spend time worrying about how they will make ends meet, which means they have more energy and attention to devote to their duties. With high-quality workers in your pharmacy, you won’t need to spend as much money on supervision.

Higher wages are also associated with fewer behavior problems and lower absentee rates. This, combined with the higher productivity of well-paid workers, means that you can create a leaner schedule, reducing your overall staffing costs.

More Than a Paycheck

Your employee compensation shouldn’t stop at their hourly rate. In a competitive job market, most employers are offering other benefits. Even though they may increase your staffing costs, theses perks are important to keeping your employees on board for the long term.

Benefits you should consider extending to your employees include:

Health insurance

The average independent pharmacy has 9.3 full-time employees, according to the Digest. That means they fall under the Affordable Care Act’s threshold of 50 employees, which requires employers to provide health insurance benefits.

Although you might not be required to provide benefits, you should still consider this perk. A Glassdoor survey found that employees consider health insurance the most important benefit they receive. Your large chain competitors will definitely offer health insurance benefits, and you risk losing your best employees if you can’t match that.

With fewer than 25 employees, your pharmacy might be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, which can help reduce the cost.


Giving long-term employees the option of a retirement plan shows them that you are invested in them—literally. You will have to contribute a little, and your employees can elect to contribute their own money.

Employee contributions to retirement plans are also tax-deductible, which means by extending this benefit you’ll be able to trim your tax bill.

There are several types of retirement accounts that are tailor-made for small businesses. You might consider a SEP-IRA, a SIMPLE IRA, or a SIMPLE 401(k).

Paid time off and sick time

By offering your employees paid time off and paid sick time, what you’re really offering them is flexibility. It sends a message that you care about their personal well-being in addition to their work performance.

Data shows that workers who take vacations are actually more productive than those who don’t, so by offering PTO, you’re encouraging productivity.

If you don’t offer paid sick days, your employees are more likely to come in while they’re not feeling well, which brings risk to both the staff and to vulnerable patients.


5 Ways to Keep Costs Low Without Reducing Salaries and Wages

There are better ways to reduce overhead than cutting employee salaries. By utilizing well-paid employees to increase efficiency and productivity, you earn more revenue overall for your business, which in turn reduces your ratio of staffing costs to sales.

1. Schedule smart

You want to have enough people working to serve your patients’ needs without overstaffing, which can prove costly over time.

Identify the hours that your pharmacy is busiest and make sure you have enough staff, then wind down for the hours there tend to be fewer patients visiting.

Publish your schedule at least two weeks in advance. That way, if an employee has a conflict, you can find out early and make adjustments instead of scrambling to fill a gap.

2. Utilize temporary employees

If you find that your current pool of employees isn’t enough to meet the pharmacy’s needs during certain seasons, don’t immediately start hiring.

Instead, consider using temporary employees to fill the gaps. Temps are perfect for the holiday season when you have increased traffic, or if you have an employee out for a longer period of time like parental leave.

Temps are more cost-efficient than permanent employees because the agency bears all the costs for recruiting, payroll, and employee benefits. Staffing agencies can help fill gaps in your front end, but they can also find specialized employees to cover positions like pharmacy technicians.

3. Cut low-performing employees

Underperforming employees cost you in lost productivity, and if other employees have to pick up their slack, they will also damage morale. Instead, you should let them go and replace them with someone with more compatible skills.

Use these tips to soften the blow for the employee being let go.

4. Hire right the first time

Because high turnover can be so costly, one of the best ways to keep staffing expenses low is to hire the right person for the job the first time.

A well-written, detailed job description will help you get the most qualified candidates. Involving your current employees in the interview process can help you get a sense of who is going to be the right fit for the company culture.

After you’ve decided to extend an offer, do your research. Conduct a background check, review social media profiles, and contact their references and previous employers to make sure you didn’t miss any red flags during your interview.

Hopefully, after such a thorough vetting, your chosen candidate will stick around the pharmacy for a long time.

5. Focus on productivity

To get the most value out of your staff, make improvements around the pharmacy to amp up productivity.

Here are some quick tips to make your pharmacy more productive:

  • Limit disruptions so staff members don’t lose focus on their work
  • Invest in technology, such as robotics and pill counters
  • Make your operations more efficient
  • Evaluate and improve your workflow

Since your high wages have enabled you to hire the most capable employees in town, using them to their fullest potential can help you drive pharmacy profits upward.



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