What is Pharmacy?

Pharmacy is a very diverse field, which goes well beyond just dispensing pills at the local pharmacy. Pharmacists provide expertise on the composition, use, and manufacture of drugs, including their physiological and chemical interactions. Pharmacists also work in hospitals with doctors, as consultants, within the pharmaceutical industry, for government agencies, as instructors in colleges and universities, practitioners of nuclear pharmacy, and even law.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), “There has never been a better time for students to consider a rewarding career in pharmacy. The demand for trained pharmacy professionals has dramatically increased in recent years due to the rapid growth of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, especially for the growing elderly population.”

Students who wish to work in the field of pharmacy pursue the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree.

Choosing a Major

Pharmacy pre-requisites at Wheaton

Grade point average and standardized test

Advanced Placement (AP)

Summer courses

Pass/Grade/Fail option

Study abroad

Choosing a Major: Though many students interested in pharmacy major in chemistry, there is no preferred or required pre-pharmacy major. Pharmacy colleges are interested in students from different educational backgrounds. Universally, pharmacy colleges know the importance of a broad liberal arts education that includes a solid foundation in the sciences (biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics) as well as coursework in the social sciences and humanities. Students interested in the health professions should choose a major based on their academic interests and abilities. High grades in a well-rounded curriculum are more important than a student’s major.


Pre-requisites at Wheaton: All courses should be completed by the end of the junior year for students planning to apply to any of the 130 American colleges of pharmacy in the senior year. Students need to complete these pre-requisites before taking the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).

Pharmacy pre-requisite worksheet

Check the websites of individual colleges for other requirements.

Advanced Placement (AP): AP credit may on some occasions be used to satisfy the English writing (Eng 101) and/or mathematics requirements. It is highly recommended that AP science courses not be used to satisfy any of the science pre-requisites since health professions schools expect you to have the classroom experience of taking science lab classes at the college level. If you do accept credit for an AP class in a required science course, the expectation is that you will take an upper-level science courses/labs in the science department to satisfy the health school requirement. AP credit equivalent to Wheaton’s English 101 will waive writing requirement, but students still have to take a 200-level English course.

Summer courses: Though there is nothing that says a student cannot take pre-requisite science courses in summer school, students should remember that many of the health professions schools prefer that science classes be done during the semester to demonstrate the ability to take laboratory courses while registered for a full course load. Students considering taking a pre-requisite science course over the summer should consult with Dean Trayford.

Pass/Grade/Fail option: Required pre-medical courses can never be taken pass/fail. Students should also think carefully when considering taking any other classes under this option. Health profession schools want to see if you are successful in many different areas of study, not just in the pre-requisite courses. Therefore, students are discouraged from taking any classes under the pass/grade/fail option. If there is a good reason for using this option, consult with Dean Trayford. Remember, take all science courses for a grade.

Study Abroad: Health professions schools consider a student who studied abroad in a very positive light, particularly if the experience can be combined with health-care-related experiences. Students interested in studying abroad should definitely do so. It is important to plan ahead when thinking about studying abroad. Discuss your plans with Dean Trayford. Keep in mind though that pre-requisite courses should not be taken during study abroad. Most schools will not accept pre-requisite requirements taken at a for­eign institution.

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