Unit Group 3131

Skill Type: Health Occupations

Type of work

Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists compound and dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals and provide consultative services to both clients and health care providers.

For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.

Examples of Occupational Titles

  • clinical pharmacist
  • community pharmacist
  • druggist
  • hospital pharmacist
  • industrial pharmacist
  • pharmacist
  • retail pharmacist


Job prospects in this occupation are good.

(Update: May 2014)

A) Overview

In the last few years, the number of pharmacists has grown sharply. Employment growth in this occupation depends primarily on the degree of prescription drug use, developments in the field of practice of pharmacists and the number of pharmacy graduates. The sharp increase should continue over the next few years.

Sources of employment

Job openings will arise primarily from employment increase, but also through positions being vacated by pharmacists who are retiring. There is very little turnover in this occupation. Some pharmacists are turning to university teaching positions (see 4121), pharmaceutical research (see 2121), and sales (see 6221). Others are moving into management positions, such as in retails sales (see 0621). Most university graduates usually find work soon after completing their studies and remain employed throughout their career.

Labour pool

Because there is almost no unemployment in this occupation, almost all openings will be filled by pharmacy graduates and, to a lesser degree, immigrants who meet the requirements of theOrdre des pharmaciens du Québec. The percentage of immigrants in this occupation in 2006 (13% compared with 12% for all occupations, according to census data) shows that positions are accessible to newcomers. The number of immigrants working in this occupation is expected to increase over the coming years, since theOrdre des pharmaciens du Québec has taken a number of steps to help people who graduated outside Quebec to meet the Ordre's requirements. Also, in 2011, the new refresher program for foreign pharmacists developed by the University of Montreal in conjunction with the Ordre welcomed its first 30 students from around the world. After only 16 months of training and work placements, as compared to four or five years previously, candidates can take positions in this occupation, as did the thirty graduates of this cohort in 2013.

The occupation attracts quite a few applicants, but the number of spaces in pharmacy programs is limited. Until recently, there were not enough graduates to meet the demand, either in health care facilities or in community pharmacies. The placement rate for pharmacy graduates is excellent, and the unemployment rate is very low according to the data from the Quebec Department of Education, Recreation and Sport's Relance survey.

Faced with the lack of graduates, universities increased sharply the number of annual admissions since 2000. According to the data from the Quebec Department of Education, Recreation and Sport, the number of pharmacy graduates increased by 65% between 2001 and 2009, from approximately 215 to 370. Some employers are reorganizing work division, assigning to pharmacy assistants (see 3414) some of the tasks formally performed by pharmacists.


According to census data, in 2006 about 82% of pharmacists worked in pharmacies and 17% worked in hospitals.


Employment growth in this occupation depends primarily on the degree of prescription drug use, developments in the field of practice of pharmacists and the labour supply.

A) Degree of prescription drug use

  • Factors affecting variations in consumption of prescription drugs

According to the study "Health Care Cost Drivers: The Facts", published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in 2011, consumption of prescription drugs between 1998 and 2007 varied with four main factors:

  • volume increases alone accounted for 60% of consumption growth
  • development of new drugs explained 20%
  • population aging 10%
  • population growth 10%

Drug insurance plans

Greater use of prescription drugs also leads to a sharp increase in the related purchase costs. Households that must allocate very high sums to pay for prescriptions or those with low incomes could be forced to forego purchasing the drugs. Nevertheless, a good part of the potential drop in use is offset by the fact that private and public drug insurance plans are becoming more common, and private plans are now often part of employment benefit packages.

In 1997, Quebec's introduction of a drug insurance plan for people who did not have such coverage also helped to increase accessibility to prescription drugs. On average, the number of prescriptions per participant more than tripled between 1998 and 2012.

Findings on prescription drug consumption levels

As a result of these factors, prescription drugs accounted for 13.9% of health care costs in Canada in 2013, rising from 6.3% in 1975, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Quebec's drug insurance plan exacerbates this trend, making the cost of increased prescription drug consumption affordable. Although health care costs related to drug consumption (prescribed and non-prescribed drugs) were lower than the Canadian average in Quebec in 1985, (8.3% compared with 9.5%), they were clearly higher in 2012 (19.3% compared with 16.3%). At 19.3%, Quebec had the highest health care costs related to drug consumption in the country in 2010. Considering all these factors, drug consumption should continue to increase rapidly in the coming years, which will naturally foster growth in this occupation.

B) Developments in the field of practice of pharmacists

Subsequent to the entry into force of the Act to Amend the Professional Code (Bill 90) in 2003, the field of practice of pharmacists expanded significantly. In addition to preparing and selling drugs, and giving opinions and advice on their use, pharmacists were allowed to provide some additional professional services that had previously been reserved to physicians. This expanded practice had a positive impact on the demand for pharmacists.

The adoption in 2011 of an amended Pharmacy Act will also make it possible, probably in 2014, to add further professional services that are currently reserved to physicians. This will again tend to increase demand for this occupation.

The Ordre des pharmaciens has approuved a standard for delegation to pharmacy technical assistants of certain tasks, such as container/content checking. Negotiations are under way on the devolution of certain tasks reserved until now for pharmacists with theOrdre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (3152). These changes, in contrast, will restrict somewhat the growth in demand in this occupation.

C) Labour supply

In recent years, strong demand for pharmacists has not been entirely met as a result of a shortage of B.Pharm. graduates. The shortfall is especially notable in the case of pharmacists who work in healthcare facilities. This specialty requires two additional years of training but salaries are lower than in private practice. These factors may in good measure explain the shortfall, which is getting worse according to the Association de pharmaciens des établissements de santé du Québec.

However, the general outlook has recently improved thanks to an increase of over 70% in the number of graduates. However, it is still too early to determine whether or not this increase will be enough to eliminate the current shortage and meet the increased demand.

Because of all these factors, the number of pharmacists should increase sharply over the next few years.

Employment characteristics

According to census data, women held about 64% of the jobs in this occupation in 2006, a percentage that has been rising sharply since 1991 (55%). This proportion should continue to increase over the next few years because they represent between 70% and 80% of new pharmacy graduates. This phenomenon can also be seen in data from theOrdre des pharmaciens du Québec (OPQ). In March 2013, women comprised approximately 65% of members, while they represented only 41% in 1988.

According to OPQ data, the percentage of employees has significantly increased in recent years, reflecting both the concentration in the pharmacy business and the feminization of the occupation. In 2012, far fewer women owned a pharmacy than men (17% compared to 35%). Reflecting the high demand in this occupation, the average employment income for pharmacists working full time, full year increased nearly twice as fast as in all occupations from 1995 to 2000 (23% compared with 12%) and five times between 2000 and 2005 (80% compared with 15%).

B) Trends by speciality

Institutional pharmacy practitioners

According to census data and the data of theOrdre des pharmaciens du Québec, it is estimated that institutional pharmacy practitioners represent slightly less than 20% of the members of this occupational group.

Despite government cutbacks in health care and a drop in the number of patients in hospitals subsequent to the introduction of out-patient care, the number of institutional pharmacy practitioners has increased at the same rate as other pharmacists in this occupation over the last few years. This rise can be explained by an increase in the number of cases, the constant appearance of new drugs, and the growing importance put on the effective use of medication, both with respect to the quality of care and budget management. These pharmacists work primarily in hospitals.

In recent years, health care institutions have been having a lot of trouble filling their pharmacist positions. Many institutional pharmacy practitioners are moving into the private sector, which offers better working conditions, even though the institutional pharmacy practitioner position usually requires a higher education (Master's degree).

Given this situation, the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services introduced various measures to try to resolve the shortage:

in 2004 it introduced a program in health care establishments to draw new workers into practice. This program offers bursaries and summer jobs to pharmacy students who agree to work in health care establishments when they finish school. The bursaries range from $5,000 per year for undergraduates to $40,000 for hospital pharmacy Master's students. As this measure was not sufficient:
  • it decided in 2009 to pay a premium to pharmacists who agreed to a 40-hour work week rather than 36.25 hours.

  • in 2011, institutional pharmacists received a 12.5% pay equity adjustment
  • the same year, the number of pay steps declined, bringing the entry-level salary up 14%

Despite all these measures, these pharmacists still earn much less than community pharmacists, although the specialty requires a Master's degree rather than a Bachelor's degree. Thus, the Association des pharmaciens des établissements de santé du Québec (APES) still estimated the shortage of personnel in this occupation at between 20% and 28% in 2012.

Education and Training

Membership in theOrdre des pharmaciens du Québec is mandatory for this occupation. Ordre admission requirements are described on its website:

Useful References

Important Considerations

Because of the greater use of prescription medication and the increase expected in the number of pharmacy graduates, the number of pharmacists should increase sharply over the next few years.

The placement rate for pharmacy graduates is excellent and their unemployment rate is very low.

Because health care institutions are having so much trouble filling their pharmacist positions, the Quebec Department of Health and Social Services is offering bursaries and summer jobs to pharmacy students who agree to work in health care institutions once they have completed their studies.

Statistics 3131 - Pharmacists

Main Labour Market Indicators

In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.

  Unit Group 3131 All occupations
Employment, average 2010-2012 6,650 3,951,050
Employment Insurance claimants in 2012 5 87,600
Average Annual Growth Rate 2013-2017 2.7% 0.8%
Annual Employment Variation 2013-2017 200 33,400
Annual Attrition 2013-2017 100 73,500
Total Annual Needs 2013-2017 300 106,900

Employment Distribution

The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

  Unit Group 3131 All occupations
Employment by Gender
Males 31.8% 51.9%
Females 68.2% 48.1%
Employment by Age
15 - 24 years 3.6% 13.3%
25 - 44 years 57.9% 42.7%
45 - 64 years 33.5% 41.1%
65 years and over 5.0% 2.8%
Employment by Status
Full-time 82.4% 81.2%
Part-time 17.6% 18.8%
Employment by Annual Income
Full-time, full-year 61.5% 54.8%
Annual Average Income $109,300 $50,300
$0 - $19,999 4.2% 13.3%
$20,000 - $49,999 9.1% 48.0%
$50,000 and over 86.7% 38.8%
Employment by Highest Level of Schooling
Less than high-school 0.0% 12.1%
High-school 0.4% 20.3%
Post-secondary 2.5% 44.2%
Bachelors 97.1% 23.4%
Others Employment Distribution
Self-employment 18.7% 10.7%
Immigration 13.2% 13.7%
Employment by Region
RegionUnit Group 3131 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 1.4% 1.8%
Bas-Saint-Laurent 2.3% 2.3%
Capitale-Nationale 13.3% 9.4%
Centre-du-Québec 2.3% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 5.3% 5.5%
Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec 1.0% 1.6%
Estrie 3.7% 3.8%
Gaspésie-îles-de-la-Madeleine 0.8% 0.9%
Lanaudière 5.5% 6.1%
Laurentides 6.9% 7.3%
Laval 5.9% 5.2%
Mauricie 2.7% 3.0%
Montérégie 17.3% 19.2%
Montréal 24.1% 22.9%
Outaouais 3.7% 4.9%
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean 3.9% 3.3%

Main Sectors of Employment

The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

SectorUnit Group 3131
Health and Personal Care Stores (Pharmacies and Drug Stores included) 73.6%
Hospitals 19.7%