What qualifications are required?
The job you see yourself working in will determine the level of qualifications you need.
National Certificates will in most cases qualify the graduate to work as a Technician, preparing chemicals and helping the scientists in their day to day duties.
Ordinary degrees will allow you to work in quality control, ensuring the drug products produced are of a sufficiently high standard.
Honours degrees allow you to work in various roles throughout the plant from quality control to process development to research and development.
Masters and Doctorates will help a graduate rise quickly in the organisation. The graduate often comes into the organisation at the same level as an honours degree graduate but tends to get promotion easier, and often ends up as team leaders etc.
What are the typical routes into this sector?
The main route into the science sector is through third level courses. Every Institute of Technology and University has courses available in science so there is normally no problem getting into study a course to suit you.
Institutes of Technology offer the ladder system, where students can study for a four year degree in broken steps, giving them the option of taking years out rather than doing 4 years straight. University degrees are generally 3 or 4 year courses depending on the college your in. These courses are a straight run through these years, the ladder system does not apply.
Often there are options to transfer from course to course. If you don't get the points to get into a Institutes of Technology course, you could consider a PLC course. Many will allow entry to Institutes of Technology upon successful completion of the PLC course. Likewise, if it is unlikely that you will get the points to get into a university course, most Institutes of Technology national certificates will allow entry to a university course provided the courses are similar and the standard of grades are met.
Remember do not let the point system fool you. Science is science wherever you choose to study it. Points are not an indication in the slightest of how hard or easy a course is. In fact, many people who enter a course with low points find themselves dropping out when they discover that it wasn't as easy as they thought. You need to work hard no matter what course you are studying.