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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.

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 most recently available Skills Forecast, the Wholesale and Retail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

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

IRC and skills forecast

The Wholesale and Retail IRC was not required to submit an annual update to their 2019 Skills Forecast during 2020. As such, the version published in 2019 remains the most recently published skills forecast for this industry.

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

Employment trends

Please note: any employment projections outlined below were calculated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics prior to COVID-19.

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 and they make up 41% of the Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing workforce.

Although there were a few dips, the overall employment level for Pharmacy Sales Assistants trended up from 28,000 in 2000 to a peak of 44,300 in 2014. Employments levels have declined since 2014, and in 2020 levels were at the lowest figure recorded in the past twenty years, at 27,600. The employment level for Pharmacy Sales Assistants is, however, predicted to recover over the next four years with projections suggesting an increase to 40,100 by 2024. 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 for Community Pharmacy-related qualifications have decreased by almost half in 2019 after four years of steady growth, with enrolments declining from 6,070 in 2018 to approximately 3,330 in 2019. Similarly, program completions have also seen a significant decrease after four years of growth, declining from close to 2,100 in 2018 to less than 860 in 2019.

In 2019 almost two thirds (62%) of training took place in the Certificate III in Community Pharmacy which had the sole intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. Training in the sector was provided largely (86%) by private training providers, and the majority (86%) of Community Pharmacy-related qualifications were Commonwealth and state funded.

Students from New South Wales accounted for more than one third (35%) of Community Pharmacy-related enrolments in 2019, followed by Queensland (28%) and Victoria (15%). Similarly, around 39% of training was delivered in New South Wales, with 27% in Queensland and 15% in Victoria.

Apprentice and trainee commencements have increased significantly from 660 in 2018 to approximately 1,100 in 2019, yet 2019 figures are still well below those recorded between 2010 and 2017. Completions have fallen by more than half from roughly 700 in 2018 to 260 in 2019, representing the lowest level of completions in this reporting period. The majority of apprentices and trainees in this sector have the intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. In 2019, more than one quarter (29%) of apprentices and trainees were reported by New South Wales, followed by Victoria (23%), Queensland (17%), 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.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

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 Assistant (General) and Sales Representative nec, while the top employers were Estee Lauder Incorporated and National Hearing Care.

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.

A review of current literature relating to the Community Pharmacy sector highlights the benefits of providing additional training opportunities to pharmacists, including vaccination training for graduates, and mental health training for community pharmacy staff in rural and remote areas. An evaluation of a vaccination training program administered by the University of Sydney for provisionally registered pharmacy graduates was noted as significantly improving graduates confidence, skill, and knowledge of the influenza vaccine. Positive outcomes were also noted in the evaluation of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training sessions, these were collaborative sessions attended by pharmacy staff and community members in four rural Queensland towns. This type of training helps community pharmacy staff in rural and remote areas equip themselves with the necessary skills to recognise mental health signs and symptoms, provide support and appropriate advice.

Pharmacies based in rural and remote areas of Australia have traditionally faced many challenges, including high staff turnover rates, reduced pharmacist numbers, and a reliance of temporary staff, however, a study by James Cook University sought to understand recent changes to the demographic profile of the rural pharmacist. These changes include a lower average age and increased time spent in rural practice, changes which can translate into better health outcomes for rural communities.

Digital transformation and advances in technology continue to provide pharmacists and other health professionals with new and efficient ways to connect to health information. A report by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia states that digital transformation will improve patient care by piecing together a currently fragmented health system, particularly with regards to medicine safety. According to a separate 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, again highlighting the importance of connecting health information to the benefit of improved medicine safety.

Links and sources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.


Relevant research

Connecting the Dots: Digitally Empowered Pharmacists – Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

Evaluation of a Vaccination Training Program for Pharmacy Graduands in Australia – Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, Volume 12, Issue 7, July 2020, pages 850-857

Evaluation of Mental Health Training for Community Pharmacy Staff Members and Consumers – Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research, Volume 50, Issue 2, April 2020, pages 160-165

Industry Developments and Workforce Challenges: Community Pharmacy – Retail & Personal Skills Advisory Council (RAPS)

Pharmacists in 2023: For Patients, for our Profession, for Australia’s Health System – Pharmaceutical Society of Australia

The Rural Pharmacy Practice Landscape: Challenges and Motivators – Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Volume 13, 2020, pages 227-234


Industry associations and advisory bodies

6th Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA)

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA)

Retail and Personal Services Skills Advisory Council

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia


Employee associations

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • 1421 Retail Managers
    • 3112 Medical Technicians
    • 2515 Pharmacists
    • 6211 Sales Assistants (General)
    • 6214 Pharmacy Sales Assistants.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020, Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 August 2020

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit ‘6214 – Pharmacy Sales Assistants’, 2000 to 2020, 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 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 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 2019 commencements
  • 2000 to 2019 completions
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 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 2020, Labour Insight Real-time Labour Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2020,

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2017 and June 2020 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)
    • 541211 Information Officer
    • 4271 Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing, excluding professionals.
Updated: 23 Nov 2020
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