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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. Community pharmacies can play 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.

Pharmacies mainly represent a combination of small to medium-sized businesses. However, there are some large operators, such as My Chemist, Terry White, Chemist Warehouse and Priceline, which are gaining market share in the industry. To stay competitive, many community pharmacies are increasingly relying on strategies such as providing multi-disciplinary services and products (i.e. retail) and price discounting, as well as staying open after normal weekday and weekend business hours, as well as on public holidays.

The annual revenue of the Community Pharmacy industry is approximately $16.3 billion (2016–17), and it is expected to experience small levels of growth during the next five years, equivalent to 1.3% per annum.

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 2018 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 more than 40% of the Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing workforce. The employment level for Pharmacy Sales Assistants was highly variable between 2012 and 2018, though an overall increase was seen between 2000 and 2018. The employment level for Pharmacy Sales Assistants is predicted to increase from 38,500 in 2018 to approximately 42,400 by 2023, suggesting a similar trend for the Community Pharmacy sector overall. Employment growth of 7.5% between 2018 and 2023 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 been relatively stable since 2014, with a slight decline in 2015 but an increase to its highest levels in 2017 with over 5,600 program enrolments in Community Pharmacy-related qualifications. Similarly, after a decline in completions since 2014, completions increased again to 1,901 in 2017. The vast majority of training took place in the Certificate III in Community Pharmacy. The majority of students in this sector have an intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. In 2017, training in the sector was provided largely by private training providers (90%). Funding for Community Pharmacy-related qualifications was generally split between domestic fee for services arrangements and Commonwealth and state funded, with approximately 56% and 44% of total programs funded respectively. Students from Victoria had the most Community Pharmacy-related enrolments in 2017 (32%), with Queensland students recording the next largest proportion of enrolments (28%), followed by New South Wales (24%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements declined overall in this sector between 2010 and 2017, with just under 1,500 commencements in 2017. Apprentice and trainee completions slightly increased since their lowest level in 2015 to just over 1,200 in 2017. The majority of apprentices and trainees in this sector have an intended occupation of Pharmacy Sales Assistant. In 2017, Victoria and New South Wales reported the greatest number of apprentices and trainees with about a third each, followed by Queensland (19%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of total VET. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

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

According to the Wholesale and Retail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast the top generic skills for the Community Pharmacy industry are:

  • customer service/marketing
  • communication/collaboration/social intelligence
  • learning agility/information literacy/intellectual autonomy/self-management
  • managerial/leadership
  • language, literacy and numeracy (LLN).

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. The top employers were Estee Lauder Incorporated and Priceline.

According to the 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.

Some examples of new areas of focus for community pharmacies include: the provision of community health services, such as drug information, clinical interventions and preventative care for patients with chronic conditions; pharmacy-delivered vaccinations (permitted in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory); and the provision of new product lines. The diversification of business models is driving demand for diversified skills for the workforce. While skills and knowledge of primary health care services and prescription medication will continue to be fundamental elements of the various roles in Community Pharmacy, it is clear that employer skills needs will be broader.

In July 2017 a media release from the Australian Digital Health Agency announced that the Agency was joining forces with the Pharmacy Guild to help build the digital health capabilities of community pharmacies and advance the efficiency, quality and delivery of healthcare to improve health outcomes for all Australians. The Agency and the Guild, both strong advocates for the widespread adoption and use of the My Health Record system by Community Pharmacists to better the health of the public, entered into a collaborative partnership aimed at driving adoption and use of the My Health Record system by community pharmacies (supported by education and training) and maximising the medicines safety benefits. The My Health Record system has the potential to empower community pharmacies in delivering safer and more efficient care by providing real-time access to usable, useful, reliable, and up-to-date medicine information and broader health information.

The role of Community Pharmacists in delivering quality use of medicine outcomes is more important than ever, with an ageing population and the growing prevalence of complex, chronic disease. All medicines have the potential for side effects and can interact with other medicines. Each year 230,000 people are admitted to hospital, and many more people experience reduced quality of life, as a result of unintended side effects of their medicines. This comes at a cost to the system of more than $1.2 billion.

The interim report of the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation states that technological disruption in the Pharmacy sector has presented a number of challenges and opportunities. The use of robotic dispensing systems has increased in recent times as pharmacies search for greater dispensing efficiencies amid diminishing profit margins. This includes the introduction of medication dispensing systems, packaging and labelling systems, storage and retrieval systems, compounding systems and tabletop counters. These systems have the potential to improve patient outcomes by shifting resources to consumer interaction and advice.

These technological advances have affected the pharmacy workforce. Robotic dispensing systems challenge the traditional role of Pharmacy Technicians, as they can arguably dispense medications in a more timely, accurate and cost-effective manner, also performing other functions such as sorting and managing stock.

The emergence of online pharmacies increases competition, putting pressure on traditional brick and mortar operators. Many retail groups and individual pharmacies have compensated for this by developing their own websites and e-commerce platforms. A growing number of pharmacies are also filling prescriptions online and implementing electronic prescription reminder systems (e.g. to order repeat prescriptions for patients).

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.

The Response outlines the financial investment by the Government to support Community Pharmacy. The 6TH Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA) between the Government and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia provides approximately $18.9 billion to more than 5,700 community pharmacies for dispensing PBS medicines, providing pharmacy programs and services and for the Community Service Obligation (CSO) arrangements with pharmaceutical wholesalers. As part of the 2017–18 Budget measure, the Government provided $600 million in funding to Community Pharmacy for new and expanded community pharmacy programs delivered under the 6CPA. This funding aimed to enable pharmacies to offer new or expanded services to consumers, including home visits by Pharmacists, helping patients with their medication, and supporting Health Care Homes (HCH) with medicine management.

Links and sources

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

Industry associations and advisory bodies

6th Community Pharmacy Agreement (6CPA)

National Pharmacies

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA)

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia


Relevant research

Australian Government response to the Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation – Australian Government

Media release: The Australian Digital Health Agency and Pharmacy Guild join forces to help community pharmacies become leaders in digital health – Australian Digital Health Agency

Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation: interim report – The Independent Expert Panel

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:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 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.

Nationally recognised training for the Community Pharmacy sector is delivered under the 

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

  • 2000 to 2017 commencements
  • 2000 to 2017 completions
  • 2017 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2017 collection, by qualification and state and territory.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Wholesale and Retail IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2018, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2018, <>.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2015 and June 2018 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
    • 142111 Retail Manager (General)
    • 621111 Sales Assistant (General)
    • 621511 Retail Supervisor
    • 4271 Pharmaceutical, Cosmetic and Toiletry Goods Retailing.
Updated: 21 Dec 2018
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