How Much Vacation Do Pharmacists Get? (Retail vs Hospital)

Pharmacist Vacation On Beach

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who supervise the medicines supply chain and also ensure pharmacy premises. Pharmacists are involved in various pharmacy tasks, from medicine delivery to the patients, preparing & packaging the medication prescribed by the doctor, to sell the medication over the counter.

When you are planning to become a pharmacist, it is best to understand the complete life of a pharmacist. Understanding the daily routine and day to day life of a pharmacist will give you an idea of whether this career is right for you or not.

So, how much vacation do pharmacists get?

Pharmacists on average start out with 2 weeks vacation time a year. How much vacation time a pharmacist can get is based on different factors. It includes factors like the type of pharmacy specialty, your employer, for how much time you are working, etc. The type of pharmacy specialty consists of a retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, etc.

Your job will be stressful in a retail pharmacy, and the vacation time you will receive will also be less. On the flip side, under hospital pharmacy, the vacation time will be comparatively more than the retail pharmacy. As a retail pharmacist, you may get two weeks of vacation a year; however, if you stay with the same employer for several years, you may reach three weeks of vacation time. Talking about hospital pharmacy, the vacation time could be around three weeks a year.

How many vacation days for CVS pharmacists?

CVS Pharmacy is an American retail corporation. It is also known as Consumer Value Store Pharmacy. The company is owned by CVS Health, which is headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. At present, the company is continuing its operations in approximately 10,000 different locations.

Coming to the main question. How many vacation days do CVS pharmacists get?

Pharmacists working at CVS Pharmacy get around 20 to 30 days off a year.

Just like vacation days, the criteria for paid vacation and sick days will also differ from one organization to another. Talking about CVS’s criteria for paid vacation and sick days, around 54% pharmacists with a tenure of less than one year said that their PTO policy includes 0-10 days of paid vacation and sick time. About 75% of pharmacists with more than ten years of tenure said they get 20-30 days of paid leave and sick time.

For example where I work currently we accrue hours every month and it seems like a lot, but we don’t get holiday pay or sick days so all our PTO is used for that.

Walgreens Pharmacist Vacation Time

Walgreens is also an American company engaged in pharmaceutical activities. This is the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the United States behind CVS Health. The company specializes in filling prescriptions, health & wellness products, health information, and photo services.

The vacation time given by Walgreens is relatively lower as compared to CVS. At Walgreens, you will get around 7 to 10 days off a year for vacation, which may differ based on how long you are working there and the company’s latest vacation policy.

How much paid vacation you can buy at Walgreens also differs on how long you are working there. At Walgreens, 44% of employees with tenure of less than one year say that their PTO policy includes 7 to 10 days of paid vacation and sick time. Around 38% of employees with over ten years of tenure say that they get 20 to 30 days of paid leave and sick time.

Pharmacist Medical Benefits

Before working in any career field, it is good to check out what benefits you can expect. Depending on the job, you may get a variety of benefits. After becoming a pharmacist and working in a good pharmacy, you can expect various medical benefits. Here are some medical benefits you may get as a pharmacist:

  • Health Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
  • Vision Insurance
  • Health Savings Account (HSA)
  • Life Insurance
  • Supplemental Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Occupational Accident Insurance
  • Health Care On-Site
  • Mental Health Care
  • Retiree Health & Medical
  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance

What Benefits Do Pharmacists Get?

Except for medical benefits, pharmacists also get various other benefits. Here are some of them:

Student loan repayment

One of the significant benefits you can get as a pharmacist is student loan repayment. Pharmacy employers are using student loan repayment benefits for hiring new graduates. As the cost of pharmacy education is relatively high, students who have an interest in the field, prefer getting a loan. For attaining the student loan repayment benefit, you may have to remain at your employer for a specific time period. If you can find a student loan repayment program go for it they are much harder to find. Now you can get continuing education money for going for something like your MBA.

Relocation benefits

A pharmacist can also get benefits when he is hired for a new job or transferred by the existing employer. The employer provides reimbursement for moving expenses and relocation bonuses. This was a blessing when we moved out of state to Virginia, but we did not get this moving back which was okay.

Vacation time

Pharmacists also get vacation time. This differs based on various factors, such as how long you are working, the company policy, etc. Some companies like CVS Health provide pretty good vacation time to their employees, while companies like Walgreens provide minimal vacation time period.

Employer matched 401(k)

When you are already paying the student loan or any other loan, it can be quite challenging to save for your future. This is when the employer matched 401(k) comes in. Many employers offer 401(k) matching. If you contribute a certain percent of your pay, the employer will also contribute a matching amount. This is the best way to save for your future and plan for retirement. Whatever the match is this should be your minimum amount you put it in. The goal should also be to eventually start maxing this out every year.

Sign-on bonuses

You can attain a sign-on bonus as a pharmacist by agreeing to work at the company for a specific time period. For this, the employer pays a lump-sum at the onset of employment. These aren’t as plentiful as they used to be, but you can still find them even in Retail. I would be aware that if retail is offering a sign on for a bigger branch it may be because that location is having issues so check into that first.

Family and parenting

Depending on the company, you can also get family and parenting benefits as a pharmacist. It includes maternity & paternity leave, fertility assistance, adoption assistance, childcare, reduced/flexible hours, family medical leave, etc.

Pharmacist Vacation Days According To Actual Pharmacist

So we didn’t want you to only take our word for it on Vacation time in the Pharmacy Industry so we have gone out to forums and collected some data. We curated this information from several sites and only changed the spelling and grammar where needed.

Real Pharmacist Opinions

1. Akcom “2 weeks” – Retail you can typically expect 2 weeks PTO if you haven’t worked for that company previously. You’ll also typically get a reasonable 401k match (5% of 50%, vested at 4 years). I can’t really speak to the hospital side of things but I do know some major hospitals still offer pensions which is absurd.

2. Jackruby83 “3 weeks” – I started with 3 weeks vacation, 6 paid holidays and 4 personal days at my hospital. I will get a pension, but it isn’t much. Unfortunately, get zero match on my 403b, and of course have no potential for stock purchase options you would get at retail.

3. LucoBuck “Netherlands Pharmacist Have it made” –

Retail: 40 hours a week. My employer pays for my tuitions (two year programme in the Netherlands) and gives me a day off each month for this. Besides that, I get 27 days of payed leave. I can also expect an increase in salary of 5% each year for the coming 10 years.

Mind you, this is the Netherlands!

4. Garrixj “Hospital 7-8 hours a paycheck” – My hospital’s PTO accrues (7.38 hours/paycheck) but first 5 years is 24 days then goes up 5 more days after 5 years then another 5 at 15 years. This does include sick leave and holiday pay, though we work four 10 hour shifts so we finagle the schedule to fit in 40 hours in a holiday week if we want.

5. Dude333 “8 hours PTO per pay period” –

At my hospital you accrue ~8 hrs of PTO per pay period and can hold 280 hours max on your balance. You also accrue separate sick time that kicks in after 3 days of PTO for medical leaves. Accrual does increase at certain intervals and no holidays after x years but I can’t remember what that exact number is. 3% match on 403b.

6. Throw_pharm “Retail 2 weeks 1st 4 years” –

Retail: 2 weeks PTO for the first four years, 3 weeks PTO after five years, and 4 weeks after 14 years.

Trend seems to be hiring floaters at 32-36 hours instead of 40 but that might just be in my area.

7. DrZaius69 “Walmart very specific detailed answer breakdown” –

I got hired at Walmart in Ohio 2 months ago, and I guess since this is my throwaway and I’m sloshed as hell, I’ll just tell you exactly what my package is. Graduated May 2016, hired July 2016. No previous retail experience besides IPPE/APPE. I do speak Spanish (medical and pharmacy terms at least) fairly well, so maybe that enticed them somewhat.


72 hours per biweekly pay period salaried (26 checks a year)

Pay: $60/hour + $3/hr extra for any hours worked over 72 (picking up shifts from other pharmacists in your store or other stores)

Bonuses: Awarded at the end of the fiscal year (January 31) — I’ve heard they range from $1-3k based on meeting certain fairly reasonable metrics (which my store has apparently met for the last 3 years and is on track to meet again this year! woo)

Travel: For any shift you pick up not at your home store, you get paid in CASH upon arrival by this formula: ([miles round-trip from residence to floating store] – [miles round-trip from residence to home store]) * ($0.54). Basically 54 cents per mile you travel OVER your “normal” round-trip commute.


Insurance: Health, dental, vision, short-term, long-term disability insurance. HRA/HSA as well. Still on my parents’ insurance (because it’s really, really good), so I can’t speak to the quality of these.

401(k) Match: Decent. No matching for first year with the company, then 100% up to 6% of your yearly salary after that. However, you ARE 100% vested as of that first day of being eligible for matching (1 year + 1 day). (IIRC, CVS is 100% up to ~~10%~~5% and starts immediately; not sure about vesting though)

ESPP (Employee Stock Purchase Program) Match: Pretty meh, but better than nothing. Lets you purchase Walmart stock (NYSE:WMT) at a 15% discount up to $1,800 spent (~$69.23/paycheck). Since there’s no holding period, you can just sell it all at 15% ROI (minus commissions) and re-invest it into some broadly diversified security like an index fund (VFIAX/VTSAX are my personal favorites). I’ve heard from classmates at CVS that their ESPP is way better.

PTO (Paid Time Off): varies by salary level (48-90 hours per pay period); with < 1 year total tenure (basically any new hire that wasn’t a Walmart tech or intern previously), you get from 100-190 hours immediately available on February 1 (new fiscal year), but it would be prorated if you were hired after February. From the papers I got from HR, it looks like it maxes out at [20+ years worked/325 hours]. It’s nice because you don’t have to “earn” the PTO throughout the year. You just get it all at once on February 1.

Employee Discount: On my 91st day of employment, I get a discount card that gives me 10% off produce and regularly priced merchandise. Pretty standard.

Work-Life Balance/Quality of Life Stuff

NO 24-HOUR LOCATIONS. My store is 9-9 M-F, 9-7 Sat, 10-6 Sun. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you do have to take PTO if the store’s reduced hours puts you significantly under your salaried hours for the pay period.

Pharmacist Overlap: About 2-4 hours on weekdays depending on schedules, but you’re by yourself on Sat/Sun. At least they give you some tech overlap, but we don’t really need it on the weekends to be honest.

Tech Hours: Less stingy (than CVS at least) about tech hours. I remember talking to a fraternity brother of mine who is a CVS district manager about their goal “tech hours : script” ratio. I forget what the numbers were, but I know CVS’s was like 30-40% lower.

Pharmacy System: We use a system called “Connexus” — which I like because it’s owned, managed, and updated by Walmart and not a third party (which I believe CVS and Walgreens systems are). I’ve met some of the developers who work on it, and there are pharmacists present at every level of the development (it might be a career path for me honestly — I can program in Python and some C++) and the pharmacists I’ve worked with think their feedback about the system gets heard pretty well by management. I’m told the workflow it produces is all-around “slower” than CVS/Walgreens, but my class of ’12 friend who worked at CVS for a year and is now a PIC at Walmart says it’s because there are more check-steps built into the Walmart system. He calls it “idiot-proof.”

PAID Lunch Break: That’s right–that’s not a typo. I take a 30-minute PAID lunch break every day unless it’s ridiculously busy (has happened a few times but is the exception). And if I’m the only one there, I’m fully within my right to lock up the pharmacy for 30 minutes and take a lunch break. It’s even listed in our official store hours as “Lunch: 1:30-2:00 pm. Pharmacy will close if there is only one pharmacist on duty.” I’ve never done it before because the only time you’re by yourself from 1:30-2 is on the weekends, and it’s slow enough that I can just eat while working intermittently.

And, lastly…

Volume: We do 150-200 Rx on weekdays, 50-100 on weekends. No joke. That’s laughable at most CVS/Walgreens stores. Super manageable right now (knock on wood) and it actually (not bullshitting, I swear) allows me to get to know patients and talk with them for a few minutes if I want to without the fear of the pharmacy melting down in those few minutes. It gets a tad crazy on the 1st/2nd of the months (decent percentage of our patients on EBT/TANF/SSI/”welfare,” etc.) because people get their checks and bumrush the pharmacy.

My “Market Health & Wellness Director” (aka District Manager) is really chill and truly has an open-door policy. She’s been with the company since she was an intern in college and is on her 24th year (post-grad), having been a staff pharmacist, PIC, and now DM with 3 new store openings under her belt. I’m not sure about when the doors for advancement opened for her, but I’ll ask her on Tuesday and get back to you. She seems pretty happy.

Well, that’s all I got for now!


Final Thoughts

The number of vacation days differs mainly based on the company. As we have seen, pharmacists get different benefits. It includes benefits like family & parenting, student loan repayment, vacation time, employer-matched 401(k), sign-on, relocation benefits, etc.

The biggest thing is ask before you get hired. If you get offered the job you can ask then as well as you will be dealing most likely directly with the H.R. department. If you want 3 weeks and they only offer 2 guess what ask for 3 weeks. Especially if you are coming with experience and already having 3-4 weeks vacation it doesn’t hurt to ask. Odds are they will probably give it too you because they have already decided you are the one they want to hire.

Danielle Winner

Hello my name is Danielle Winner. Welcome to my site on Pharmacy School and tips and tricks to hopefully help you get in. It's not easy but hopefully you can learn to not make mistakes that students (myself included) make. Good luck on your journey. I graduated from Albany School of Pharmacy in May 2010 and have had a few different jobs across the east coast of the U.S.

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