What is Pharmacy

Pharmacy revolves around people and medicines with special emphasis on the manufacture of medicines, their supply, appropriate use and effects. The ultimate concern of pharmacy is to ensure that the patient receives the appropriate medicines and benefits from their proper use.

Pharmacy is an essential part of the healthcare system. Over 50 million prescriptions for medicines are dispensed each year in New Zealand. In addition, many medicines for minor ailments are sold over-the-counter.

Pharmacy is an ever-developing profession that offers excellent career prospects. The work is interesting and varied and offers the opportunity to join the healthcare team in safeguarding the nation’s health. There is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and a choice of working environments and geographical locations.

What careers are available in pharmacy?

Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants all have specialised roles in pharmacy. Pharmacists require a university degree and practical training whereas pharmacy technicians and assistants can either train on the job and earn while gaining their qualifications, or gain a qualification through full time study in a variety of settings. Pharmacists must be registered with the Pharmacy Council and hold an annual practising certificate.  Pharmacy technicians dispense medicines and work under the supervision of a pharmacist and pharmacy assistants do not work in the dispensary.   These two occupations are not regulated.

Community pharmacy

Situated in the cities, shopping malls and rural towns the community pharmacy is familiar to everyone. There are over 900 pharmacies in New Zealand, which are visited every day by thousands of people to have their prescriptions dispensed or to buy pharmacy-related products. The community pharmacy also provides advice and counselling on the maintenance of good health.  Working in community pharmacy would interest anyone who likes the challenges of providing professional service in a retail environment.

Hospital pharmacy

All the major hospitals and some of the smaller hospitals in New Zealand have a pharmacy department which looks after the pharmaceutical needs of patients in the care of the hospital. The pharmacy also provides information on medicines to doctors and nurses, and prepares special medicines for particular patients. Hospital pharmacy offers an interesting and challenging career to pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and assistants.


The pharmaceutical industry is responsible for the synthesis and research of new medicines, and the production and marketing of proven medicines to the public. Pharmacists are involved in every step of the process. Opportunities in research and development are limited in New Zealand as most of this is carried out overseas however there are opportunities for pharmacists working in formulation, product information and marketing. Pharmacy technicians are also employed in the marketing of new medicines. Pharmacists are also employed in publishing, the Ministry of Health and other Government agencies.

Which Career For You?

Before you decide on a career in pharmacy and whether you want to be a pharmacist, a pharmacy technician or a pharmacy assistant, it is very important that you know something about the work involved. Look in the Yellow Pages under pharmacies for addresses of your local pharmacies. Call in and see the pharmacist-in-charge and ask if you can spend some time there to get an idea of what working in a pharmacy is like. There may even be a part time job available.

This experience will help you decide if pharmacy is the career for you and will show the different jobs available. It will help you also to have an understanding of what is a complex, responsible and very rewarding job.

For more information:

Degree courses for pharmacist qualifications are available at the Universities of Auckland and Otago.
The Pharmaceutical Society is responsible for training and qualifications for Pharmacy Technicians and Assistants – please visit their website for contact details – http://www.psnz.org.nz/Category?Action=View&Category_id=148