Updated: May 04, 2023
Considering becoming a doctor and wondering what college major will set you up for medical school? Contrary to popular belief, there is more flexibility than you might realize when it comes to choosing a major to become a doctor.
Pre-med is less a major and more a track that ensures you’re taking the right programs to get into medical school and pass the MCAT® (Medical College Admission Test®). You can choose your major within a pre-med program.
The requirements for medical school typically include chemistry—including inorganic, organic, and biochemistry—biology, physics, English, calculus, and statistics. Whether or not you register as part of a pre-med program, as long as you take that coursework, you should be set. Be sure to work with your advisor to help you map out a plan.
Ultimately, you should pick a major that aligns with your interests and goals, while also ensuring you meet the requirements for applying to medical school. If you enjoy your coursework, you’re more likely to do well, and a high GPA is one of the most important qualifications for getting into medical school.
That said, here are nine college majors to consider that can help prepare you to be a future doctor.
Biology is the study of life and all living organisms, so it makes sense that this would be one of the strongest majors if you’re considering a career in health. Not only will knowing the chemical makeup of humans, animals, and plants ease your coursework at medical school, it will help prepare you for the MCAT.
Do you get excited by the periodic table? Consider majoring in chemistry, where you’ll study the elements that make up the world, and how matter changes. Chemistry is a great pre-med major—especially as medical school requires completion of several chemistry courses to apply.
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 can also help you on the MCAT. But, if multivariable calculus makes you uneasy, you may want to consider only taking the minimum number of math courses required.
Public health can be a fascinating field, especially if you’re interested in topics like controlling disease outbreaks and public health policy. Public health majors also involve the study of biology and statistics—all classes you’ll need to complete as a prospective medical school student.
Engineering may not seem the most obvious choice for a major for aspiring doctors. And while engineering majors will still need to take those medical school prerequisites outside their major, the skills that engineers develop can be useful in medical school. Like doctors, engineers are taught to analyze complex systems (and what system is more complex than the human body?)
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 can not only help power you through medical school paper-writing, but it can also serve you well when interacting with patients from diverse backgrounds.
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.
Similar to a biology major, physiology students learn about the human body, and take a mix of classes that ease the transition to medical school, including biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. In fact, physiology is a subdivision of biology, delving deeper into the inner workings of living organisms. Much of the knowledge you’ll develop as a physiology major will also help you prepare for the MCAT.
You might not think a future doctor needs to understand accounting, marketing, and management. Think again. A business degree can be a great major for future doctors, especially if you end up running a medical facility or your own practice someday.
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