A litmus test for career success

We’re not sure of the science behind it, but if you’re like us, your best thinking is done in the shower. You’ll be struck by the bright idea halfway through washing your hair. Typical! Right when there’s not a pen in sight to write it down.

Here’s an idea though: the next time you’re lathering up while humming the latest Top 40, have a read of the ingredients list on your shampoo. Then, when you’re towelling off, really look inside your medicine cabinet. What you see is taken for granted by many. The fact that you can safely use products to smell good, look great and stay healthy, is thanks to the hard work of pharmaceutical lab technicians. It’s a growing industry in need of new talent.

What is a pharmaceutical laboratory technician?

It’s a chemistry lab technician role that has a real impact on society. Also known as a Quality Control Chemist (or QC chemist), you could be responsible for testing substances to ensure the safety of people and the environment, or work alongside a research chemist to deliver the next health breakthrough.

With some additional study, an entry level position as a lab technician in the pharmaceutical industry could evolve into a chemist position. If the desire to move into R&D burns in you like a Bunsen, career progression might include becoming a product developer, researcher or compliance officer.

What a typical day might involve

As with most professions, the day-to-day tasks of a Quality Control Chemist can vary. A typical day (after you’ve showered and arrived in the lab) might involve:

Calibrating instruments

You know that an imprecise measurement means an imperfect result. The day’s testing and data entry could all be for naught without this important step. You’ll need to follow exact steps to ensure all instruments are as perfectly tuned as the Berlin Philharmonic. By the way, listening to music during this process is optional, providing it doesn’t affect the calibration. As with any lab technician position, attention to detail is imperative during this step. The process will become a part of your morning ritual and be repeated throughout the day. It’s the first step in quality assurance.

Working to guidelines while carrying out testing

This is where your strong organisational skills will come into play. Knowing the correct procedures and workflows means nothing without an organised workspace to put them into practice. You may be testing potentially harmful chemicals, and in many cases micrograms will matter to the result. Knowing and following GMP (goods manufacturing practices) specifications in all cases will make your role easier and keep end users safe.

Diligent data entry

One of the many things you’ll learn early on in a Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques is that ‘data is king.’ Keeping track of results within industry-specific software is a core part of the role. After all, without the data to review, any process you’ve carried out has a net value of zero.

For lab technicians who thrive on processes and organisation, this can be an enjoyable, almost meditative process. Throughout your laboratory course, you’ll develop a strong familiarity with LIMS (laboratory information management system) software, and how to utilise it to determine results based on your testing.

Why becoming a pharmaceutical lab tech is a smart choice

If you’ve heard some jaded specialist sigh that careers in science are drying up, tell them about the options afforded to graduates of pharmaceutical laboratory operations. It’s known for job security because there’s a constant demand for new pharmaceutical products which need to be tested.

With an ageing population in Australia, there’s growth in the both the R&D and manufacturing sectors to treat chronic diseases. That’s not even counting the positions you’ll find in third-party validation organisations.

One benefit of becoming a Pharmaceutical Lab Tech is your skills are transferable worldwide, due to strict international standards in the pharmaceutical industry.

All of the above means that you could really clean up, income-wise. So do your hair, get dressed, and find out more about studying with LTT.