Choosing Your Major as a Pre-Medical Student

You’ve decidchoosing_majored you want to become a doctor, and you’ve completed the first step of gaining admission into or starting your first year of college. Congrats!!!! Now the biggest thing to decide is which major to choose.

Most colleges and universities do not have a specific “pre-medicine” major, and this can come as a shock to some students who are then faced with the decision of having to choose among a variety of many different majors. Most students feel that a science background will be best suited for entrance into medical school, and according to AAMC1 data, the majority of students applying to medical school pursue a biological sciences major. This does not mean that you should pursue this degree, but choosing this as your major will generally help you take all the coursework required to gain admission into medical school.

Medical schools have set pre-requisite requirements that generally include a set amount of hours of biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, humanities, and other courses intended to make students well-rounded and better prepared for the medical school setting. It really does not matter what you major in as long as you complete the specific prerequisite requirements for the schools that you are interested, and lists of individual medical school requirements can be found in the AAMC Medical School admissions Requirements2 guide and AACOM’s Osteopathic Medical College Information Book3. Also, most students entering into college will have to take general coursework such as English, humanities, math, etc., so the best thing to do is to choose a major that best suits you.

The following are three questions to ask yourself before choosing a major that will hopefully help make the decision a bit easier:

  1. What am I passionate about (ie, what do I like to do)?

College is the time to explore your passions and find out who you really are as an individual. Whether you enjoy constructing things, writing, drawing, or doing chemical equations, there’s pretty much a degree for anything you can think of. The key is to make sure you complete the prerequisite requirements for medical school. This means if you choose English as a major, you’re going to have to add in science coursework to your degree program, and since you won’t be taking a lot of science coursework, you will have to do really well in these courses to make sure your science GPA stays high. A lot of pre-medical students start college thinking that medicine is for them then decide down the road that they are miserable with the coursework, which leads to changed majors and money lost. If you choose a major that suits your interests, then it can help maintain the stamina and enthusiasm needed to make it through college.

  1. Will this make me money if I don’t get accepted into medical school?

Let’s face it, not everyone gets accepted into medical school on the first try and your degree can determine the job opportunities you are offered fresh out of college. No one wants to work hard to obtain a college degree and then be stuck working a minimal wage job that really didn’t even require a degree to begin with. Most premedical students obtain a degree in biological sciences only to find out after graduation that there aren’t many job opportunities available for the degree. The same can be said for individuals majoring in degrees like theatre, pottery, music, etc. It is important to look to the future when you choose your degree and see what opportunities will be available to you if your medical school dreams take a little longer than expected.

  1. Will this challenge me and help me grow as an individual?

Don’t choose an easy college major thinking that receiving a super high GPA will help you in the medical school admissions process. Medical school committees will review every class on your transcript and they generally know which classes were BS classes and which were challenging. Also, make sure that whatever you choose will give you a fairly heavy course load. Medical school semesters can equal the equivalent of 27 or more credit hours, and if you only took a few credit hours at a time as an undergraduate, then it will be a very rude awakening. Try to always maintain a full-time student status with difficult coursework. Not only will it be a good challenge, but it will help you grow and see how much you are truly capable of accomplishing.

The sky is the limit when choosing a major as a pre-medical student, so don’t let anyone tell you what degree you should earn. As long as you make sure that whatever you choose makes you happy and covers all the basics for entrance into medical school, then you will be good to go!

– Danielle M. Ward, MS

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