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Community Pharmacy

Overview

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.

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

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 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 28,600 in 2001 to a peak of 44,300 in 2014. Employments levels have declined since 2014, recording the lowest figure in the past twenty years in 2020 at 27,400 but increasing in 2021 to 35,500. 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 2025. Employment growth is predicted to remain steady for Pharmacists, who currently represent approximately 22% of the workforce, with the strongest employment growth to 2025 predicted for Sales Assistants (General) at 25%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments for Community Pharmacy-related qualifications decreased by almost half in 2019 after three years of steady growth, with enrolments declining from 6,070 in 2018 to approximately 3,330 in 2019. This has recovered in 2020, with levels increasing 50% to 4,990. Similarly, program completions also saw a significant decrease after three years of growth, declining from close to 2,100 in 2018 to 890 in 2019 before increasing by 104% in 2020 to approximately 1,820.

In 2020 almost half (48%) of training took place in the Certificate III in Community Pharmacy which had the sole intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. A further 44% of training took place in the Certificate II in Community Pharmacy, which also had the sole intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. Training in the sector was provided largely (91%) by private training providers, and the majority (72%) of Community Pharmacy-related qualifications were Commonwealth and state funded with the remainder funded by domestic fee for service.

Students from New South Wales accounted for more than half (53%) of Community Pharmacy-related enrolments in 2020, followed by Queensland (18%) and Victoria (11%). Similarly, around 59% of training was delivered in New South Wales, with 16% in Queensland and 9% in Victoria.

Apprentice and trainee commencements have increased from a low of 660 in 2018 to approximately 950 in 2020, yet 2020 figures are still well below those recorded between 2011 and 2017. Completions have risen slightly from a low of 270 in 2019 to 390 in 2020, again still well below the reported completion figures in the earlier reporting period. The majority of apprentices and trainees in this sector have the intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. In 2020, more than one third (37%) of apprentices and trainees were reported by New South Wales, followed by Queensland (19%), and Victoria (19%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

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, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility, and soft skills.

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 Representatives, 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.

COVID-19 impact

As work continues to protect more people from the pandemic, community pharmacies have joined the nation-wide effort to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to millions of Australians. According to the media release Community pharmacy to join COVID-19 vaccine workforce, many of Australia’s community pharmacies are already critical in the delivery of the seasonal influenza vaccines across the entire population, and their efforts in stepping up to support the COVID‑19 vaccine program will be important in ensuring wide accessibility and take up.

The report Pharmacy Barometer 2020 reveals pharmacists have played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic in providing counselling, education and support to patients whilst facing increasing challenges such as PPE, medication shortages, new technology, mental health strain and workflow changes.

When asked about changes they implemented as a result of the pandemic, the report shows that many pharmacists highlighted safety changes such as the provision of physical barriers, hand sanitiser, wearing of face masks and increased cleaning protocols, as well as changes made to workflow processes, changing roles, physical distancing, and electronic and faxed prescriptions.

As a result of the pandemic and increased role of pharmacies, the Victorian government announced a grant to help to train pharmacy assistants, with an emphasis on people working in isolated regional and rural pharmacies. The funds are available for people undertaking the Certificate III and Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy and the Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy Dispensary.

Links and sources

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

IRC and skills forecast

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

 

Relevant research

Community pharmacy to join COVID-19 vaccine workforce - Greg Hunt

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

Pharmacy Barometer 2020 - UTS Pharmacy, IQVIA and Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Skills Boost for Pharmacy Workers - Gayle Tierney

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)

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia

 

Employee associations

Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 1421 Retail Managers
    • 3112 Medical Technicians
    • 2515 Pharmacists
    • 6211 Sales Assistants (General)
    • 6214 Pharmacy Sales Assistants.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSCO 4 digit ‘6214 – Pharmacy Sales Assistants’, 2001 to 2021, 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions 
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

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, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 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
    • 621111 Sales Assistant (General)
    • 611399 Sales Representatives nec
    • 142111 Retail Manager (General)
    • 541211 Information Officer
    • 4271 Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing.
Updated: 24 Jan 2022
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