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Community Pharmacy


This page provides information and data on the Community Pharmacy sector, which is one component of the Retail and Wholesale industry.

The Community Pharmacy sector plays an important role in the Health Care sector through the supply to the general public of prescription-based medicine, non-prescription-based medicine when permitted, and a range of information and health care services.

With the average Australian visiting a community pharmacy 18 times a year the sector is required to provide fast, accessible and in some cases, life-saving support to the public. Some of the services that can be provided at a community pharmacy include medication management services, aged care-related services, chronic disease management support, health checks to support early detection, immunisation and general health screening, minor ailment services, health promotion and transitional care services. As a result, the community pharmacy sector is pivotal in reducing the demand and burden on primary health care facilities. 

Community pharmacies can occupy a key role in regional and remote communities by optimising access to health and pharmacy services which can otherwise be limited due to distance and location.

The Community Pharmacy sector includes a workforce of 41,400 pharmacy sales assistants and generated $18.4 billion in revenue in the 2018-19 period, up from $16.3 billion in 2016-17.

Nationally recognised training for the Community Pharmacy sector is delivered under the SIR – Retail Services Training Package.

For information on other health related workers, see the Health page.

Information sourced from the Wholesale and Retail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecast

Wholesale and Retail IRC (this industry was formally under the jurisdiction of the Wholesale, Retail and Personal Services IRC)

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

As no detailed employment data is available for the Community Pharmacy sector specifically, the occupation ‘Pharmacy Sales Assistants’ has been used as a proxy for the employment trends of the sector as they make up 41% of the Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing workforce. The employment level for Pharmacy Sales Assistants was highly variable between 2012 and 2019, though an overall increase was seen between 2000 and 2019. The employment level for Pharmacy Sales Assistants is predicted to increase from around 36,600 in 2019 to approximately 40,100 by 2024, suggesting a similar trend for the Community Pharmacy sector overall. Employment growth of almost 6% between 2019 and 2024 is predicted for Pharmacists, who currently represent approximately 22% of the workforce.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments and completions for Community Pharmacy-related qualifications have gradually increased from 2015 to 2018; in 2018 6,070 program enrolments and close to 2,080 program completions in Community Pharmacy-related qualifications were recorded. Approximately two thirds (65%) of training took place in the Certificate III in Community Pharmacy. The majority of enrolments in this sector are for the intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. In 2018, training in the sector was provided largely by private training providers (91%). Overall, funding for Community Pharmacy-related qualifications was evenly split between domestic fee for services arrangements and Commonwealth and state funded, at 50% each. Students from New South Wales had the most Community Pharmacy-related enrolments in 2018 (42%), with Victoria recording the next largest proportion of enrolments (24%), followed by Queensland (18%). Approximately 43% of training was delivered in New South Wales (43%), followed by Victoria (26%) and Queensland (19%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements declined overall in this sector between 2010 and 2018, recording the lowest level since 2010, with just over 660 commencements in 2018. Apprentice and trainee completions was also at its lowest level since 2010 with around 700 completions in 2018. The majority of apprentices and trainees in this sector have an intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. In 2018, around a third (34%) of apprentices and trainees were reported by New South Wales, followed by Queensland (19%), Victoria (16%), South Australia (12%) and Tasmania (10%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

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Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

As identified in the Wholesale and Retail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast the top generic skills for the Retail and Wholesale industry, inclusive of the Community Pharmacy sector, are:

  • Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self-management
  • Language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)
  • Customer service/Marketing
  • Design mindset/Thinking critically/System thinking/Solving problems
  • Communication/Collaboration/Social intelligence.

In addition, the top priority skills for the Retail and Wholesale industry, inclusive of the Community Pharmacy sector, are emotional intelligence, problem solving, critical thinking and resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers in the Community Pharmacy sector were communication skills and being detail-oriented. The most advertised occupations were Pharmacy Sales Assistant followed by Sales Representative, while the top employers were Estee Lauder Incorporated and Mecca.

In addition, the Industry Developments and Workforce Challenges: Community Pharmacy report highlights a need in the Community Pharmacy sector for more qualified and skilled dispensary technicians and pharmacy assistants. These shortages are reportedly a result of continued staff turnover and the expansion of services by pharmacists. It’s believed long working hours and low pay contribute to staff turnover in the sector.

According to the Wholesale and Retail IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast, the Community Pharmacy sector has undergone significant shifts over the past decade in order to continue operating in the new and evolving Pharmacies' industry landscape. Large-scale mergers (e.g. Terry White and Chemmart) and increasing competition from retail pharmacies, as well as supermarket and grocery stores, have meant that pharmacies overall have been reviewing business models to stay competitive. Broadening lines of business and offering a diverse range of products and services is one way traditional pharmacies have been adapting to meet consumer demand and behavioural shifts regarding convenience and accessibility.

In the Australian Government Response to the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation, the Government recognises the pivotal role of the Community Pharmacy sector in delivering medicines to Australian patients. The Government states that it is committed to working closely with community pharmacies and other stakeholders to address the significant pressures being placed on the health system, including a growing burden of chronic disease, an ageing population, and growing demand for high-cost, high-tech services and breakthrough medicines. According to a report put out by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, 250,000 people are admitted to hospital each year as a result of medication-related problems, coming at a cost to the system of more than $1.4 billion. And as highlighted in the Bankwest Future of Business: Focus on Pharmacy report, the Community Pharmacy sector is well positioned to meet Australian expectations of a more sophisticated and involved healthcare sector. The sector is poised expand the level of services available to the public by undertaking more formal roles as healthcare providers and establish themselves as local healthcare centres, further reducing the demand on hospitals and other public healthcare services.

Although intense competition exists in the sector from both supermarkets and discount pharmacies, the Community Pharmacy sector is expected to continue growing, driven by innovation, evolving consumer preferences, changing demographics, and as outlined above, diversification into formal healthcare roles.

Links and sources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023
    • 1421 Retail Managers
    • 3112 Medical Technicians
    • 2515 Pharmacists
    • 6211 Sales Assistants (General)
    • 6214 Pharmacy Sales Assistants.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ08, viewed 1 November 2018

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit ‘6214 – Pharmacy Sales Assistants’, 2000 to 2018, May Quarter.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 4 digit Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant Training Package related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce (excluding inadequately described, not stated and not applicable).

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • SIR Retail Services Training Package
    • SIR20107 - Certificate II in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR20112 - Certificate II in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR20116 - Certificate II in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR30107 - Certificate III in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR30112 - Certificate III in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR30116 - Certificate III in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR40107 - Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR40112 - Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR40116 - Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy
    • SIR40216 - Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy Dispensary.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

SIR Retail Services Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2000 to 2018 commencements
  • 2000 to 2018 completions
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Wholesale and Retail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2019, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2019,

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills/Occupations
    • ANZSCO major groups excluding Professionals
    • 4271 Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing.
  • Employers
    • 621411 Pharmacy Sales Assistant
    • 611399 Sales Representatives nec
    • 621111 Sales Assistant (General)
    • 142111 Retail Manager (General)
    • 621511 Retail Supervisor
    • 4271 Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing.
Updated: 02 Apr 2020
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