Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be a pre-med major to get into medical school. According to data from the Association of American of Medical Colleges (AAMC), about 60 percent of medical school applicants majored in biological sciences as undergraduates, meaning you have some flexibility choosing your major.
As it turns out, becoming a doctor is more about challenging yourself as an undergrad, making sure you take all of your prerequisites for medical school, and scoring well on your MCAT® (the Medical College Admission Test).
As long as you complete the requirements for medical school, which typically include chemistry—including inorganic, organic and biochemistry—biology, physics, English, calculus and/or statistics, you'll generally be set. Be sure to work with your adviser to help you map out a plan. That said, here are six college undergraduate pre-med majors to consider that can prepare you for success as a future medical student and doctor.
As far as college majors for doctors go, this one is a no-brainer, and there's a reason why it's a popular choice. Choosing a pre-med track means that all of the guesswork as to which classes are best to prep for medical school and the MCAT is done. Expect a heavy dose of life science and math courses.
Since you have to take a number of science-related courses to qualify for medical school anyway, if you love spending time in the chem lab or discussing dark matter, you can focus your undergraduate studies in the field you like best. All the while, you'll be flexing your analytical and problem-solving muscles in medical field majors such as biology, chemistry, and physics.
If the idea of studying linear algebra, set theory, and fractal geometry gets your heart racing—in a good way—then majoring in math is a great pathway into medical school. It should definitely help you on the MCAT. But, if multivariable calculus makes you cringe, just take the minimum number of math courses required.
You might not equate Shakespeare with brain surgery. But the critical thinking and analytical skills developed in liberal arts tracks, as well as the attention to detail, observational skills and the ability to understand dense texts required for these majors, are key for physicians, too. Writing and honing your communication skills as an undergrad will not only help power you through medical school paper-writing, but will also serve you well when interacting with patients from diverse backgrounds. It may be surprising, but the humanities can be great medical field majors.
Getting inside people's heads (minus the scalpel), is a great skill to have in a career in which you'll have to talk with patients and their families to solve medical mysteries and determine the most appropriate treatment plans. Developing strong, trusting doctor-patient relationships are also key to successful outcomes.
You might not think a future doctor needs to understand accounting, marketing, and management. Think again. A business degree can be among the best majors for pre-med, especially if you end up running a medical facility or your own practice someday. You'll be glad then you have those business fundamentals.
- Choose an undergraduate program that you enjoy and in which you will excel. Medical schools expect high GPAs from applicants, so toughing it out in majors that are beyond your abilities won't help you.
- Leave room for medical school requirements. If you choose to major in history, that's fine. Just be sure to save up your elective credits to complete those prerequisite science and math courses as well.
- If you hit bumps along the way, don't panic. Do your best to regroup and get the help necessary to improve your academic performance before too much GPA damage is done.
*MCAT® is a registered trademark of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which is not affiliated with and does not endorse this site.