Premed Requirements: Prerequisites and Other Beneficial Courses

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You know you want to be a doctor. But before you can be accepted to medical school, you must earn a college degree. While medical schools do not require applicants to have a specific major, there are a number of premed requirements that you must fulfill during your college career in order to even be considered by admissions committees. These med school requirements, also known as medical school prerequisites, will vary from school to school, but generally, there are several courses you will definitely need to take in order to apply to medical school.

In this post, we’ll break down the premed requirements for medical school, including required classes, courses that are sometimes needed, and additional classes that may be beneficial to premeds.

 

What Are the Premed Requirements for Medical School?

While the exact premed requirements and prerequisites vary from medical school to medical school, most require two semesters of biology with lab, two semesters of general chemistry with lab, two semesters of organic chemistry with lab, and two semesters of physics with lab. Most also include a year of English and at least a semester of math, though it could be either calculus or statistics.

Shared core requirements for medical school:

  • 1 year of Biology with lab
  • 1 year of General Chemistry with lab
  • 1 year of Organic Chemistry with lab
  • 1 year of Physics with lab
  • 1 year of English
  • At least 1 semester of Mathematics (Ex. Calculus or Statistics)

These requirements are hardly arbitrary. An extensive background in science is essential to a future doctor’s success. Biology, such as genetics and cells, is the foundation of medical knowledge. You really can’t be an effective doctor without a strong interest in and aptitude for biology. Chemistry is also imperative, as it’s the foundation of biochemistry, which is a major part of the MCAT. It will help you understand acid-base imbalances and how different medications affect the body. Physics will help you to understand the laws of volume and pressure as well as the different forces at work in the body.

Taking English is also essential, as reading and writing skills and critical thinking play a vital role in a doctor’s career, to say nothing of the CARS section of the MCAT. CARS (Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills) tests your ability to comprehend and analyze information in the moment. Many test takers see this section as the most challenging part of the MCAT, which is why taking a writing-intensive course like English will be a big help to you. Plus, taking an English class will also help you write a more effective personal statement.

Math also plays a key role in the daily life of a doctor. You’ll need a strong understanding of basic math to read lab results, determine correct dosages, and much more.

Premed Requirements graphic

You must check the specific requirements of each school you are applying to. While there will certainly be lots of overlap, requirements do vary from school to school. This is why it’s so beneficial to begin crafting your school list early on, as it will take plenty of time and consideration.

Don’t know which medical schools you want to apply to? Read our guide: How to Decide Which Medical Schools to Apply to (12 Important Factors).

 

Other Recommended Premed Courses

In addition to the required courses, most medical schools will also include recommended courses, such as psychology or sociology, biochemistry, and physiology or anatomy. Some medical schools outright require these courses, as they are extremely beneficial to your overall medical knowledge. Not only will these courses bolster your foundational medical knowledge, but you may be tested on these subjects on the MCAT.

Sometimes required or recommended courses:

  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Physiology or Anatomy
  • Behavioral Science, such as Psychology or Sociology
  • Humanities, such as Ethics, Foreign Languages, Speech Communication, Philosophy, or Literature
  • Computer Science

Recommend courses are not required, but they are recommended for a reason. For example, taking a foreign language course can benefit your medical career. Depending on where you will practice in the US, you will likely be dealing with patients from a range of different backgrounds. For instance, 13% of the population of the US speaks Spanish at home, making it the second most spoken language in the US. Being able to clearly communicate with your patients is essential, which is why learning another language will be a major benefit to your career.

 

What Does it Mean to Be Premed?

Student thinking on pile of books - Is Premed a Major

Are you wondering what the need is for all of these prerequisites when you’re planning on majoring in premed anyway? You may be surprised—and disappointed—to learn that premed is not a major. A premed is a student who plans on attending medical school after college. In order to apply to medical school, you need to have a college degree. The major you choose in college is your premed major, whether that’s cell biology, math, film studies, or economics.

Note that some medical schools offer early admission pathways through combined bachelor and medicine degree programs, called a BS/MD. Learn more: Are BS/MD Programs Worth It? Pros and Cons.

 

Choosing the Premed Major for You

Not all premed majors are created equal. In order to be successful, it’s important to choose a major you are genuinely interested in. So, what’s the easiest premed major? The answer to that question varies from one student to the next.

If you plan on majoring in the biological sciences, many of the medical school prerequisites will be included in your curriculum. If you’re planning on a non-science major, you will need to make room for these courses in your class schedule. Note that this will mean more work; however, a non-science major will also help you stand out from the crowd, making you a more intriguing candidate to admissions committees who are more than used to reviewing the applications of science majors. 58.5% of all applicants in 2021 were biological science majors.

That said, do not choose a non-science major for the sole purpose of appearing unique. Majoring in art history when you’re actually more interested in neuroscience won’t do you any favors. If you’re not passionate about your major, there’s a good chance it will show in your grades. Plus, if you choose a non-traditional path, admissions committees want to see your enthusiasm. If you’re bored with or disinterested in your major, it will show—and apathy is not an attractive quality in a future doctor.

There is not necessarily one ideal premed major, as the choice is a very personal one. If your top priority is getting into medical school, a major in the biological sciences makes a great deal of sense, as the requirements will overlap quite well with your medical school prerequisites. Plus, you’ll be studying something that interests you, as your future career will be studying the human body.

If you’re not interested in any of the biological sciences, such as cell biology, neuroscience, or molecular biology, then you should think long and hard about why you want to be a doctor. That said, you do have your entire life to study biology and the human body. If you’re extremely passionate about literature, political science, or economics in addition to biology, now may be your chance to pursue it. Just understand your college journey will be a more challenging one.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Medical school is the toughest schooling in the world. Choosing the more challenging path could potentially help sharpen your work ethic and prepare you for the immense rigors of medical school.

Whatever premed major you choose, make sure it’s something you’re enthusiastic and passionate about, as this will help carry you through even the most difficult of majors.

How to Choose a Premed Major

Still not sure what the best path is for you? Learn how to choose a premed major with our comprehensive guides: The Best Premed Major Backed By Acceptance Data and How to Choose a Premed Major in 5 Steps.

 

Succeed as a Premed and Beyond

Being a premed and successfully making your way through college is only the very beginning of your journey. From choosing an ideal premed major to building essential habits to achieving success on the MCAT, Med School Insiders can help you wherever you need to improve most. We offer one-on-one advising that pairs you with a doctor advisor who best fits your needs because it’s our goal to help you create a future that aligns with your vision.

Follow the Med School Insiders blog throughout your premed and medical school journey for the latest strategies and industry news. We add and update our content weekly to ensure you get the most accurate and up-to-date information. To receive updates first, sign up for our newsletter, which is sent out once a week with videos, guides, student stories, important dates to remember, and more.

As you prepare to apply to medical school, read our guide on Understanding the Medical School Application Process and save our Medical School Application Timeline and Monthly Schedule and Medical School Application Checklist to ensure you stay on track with every element of your application.

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