As an undergraduate student, one of your big decisions is choosing your major. And as someone interested in a career in medicine, you may feel even more pressure to pick the right area of study to help you prepare you for medical school. It’s best to work with your prehealth and academic advisors at your school to help you make this decision and schedule your classes. However, to help you reflect and prepare to discuss with your advisors, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we receive from students.
Is biology the best undergraduate major for premeds?
There’s a misconception that students should major in biology or another science if they want to get into medical school. In fact, there’s no required or even preferred majors that medical schools are looking for. Consider majoring in whatever interests you and will keep you engaged and motivated during undergrad. Medical schools want students who are authentic with genuine interests, so it’s best to major in what you want, not what you think they want. Just make sure you fulfill the prerequisite coursework for the schools you want to apply to. You can find a breakdown of each medical school’s requirements and recommendations on the school’s website and in the Medical School Admission Requirements™ (MSAR®).
Will a nursing degree be an advantage when applying to medical school?
It’s best not to choose nursing (or another health profession) if you don’t intend to practice that profession. Nursing requires rigorous coursework, but it differs from that of premed prerequisites and will not necessarily help you best prepare for medical school. While there is overlap between the two fields of study, the courses and skills taught are not the same. However, if you start out genuinely wanting to be a nurse and change your mind after having some experiences, you can certainly explain that and be accepted to medical school. You can read about Rose or Courtney’s path from nursing to medical school in Anatomy of an Applicant.
Is there a major that will best prepare me for the MCAT® exam?
The purpose of the MCAT® exam is to assess your problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and knowledge of the natural, behavioral, and social sciences concepts and principles that are necessary for the study of medicine. The concepts you will encounter on the exam are taught at most undergraduate institutions in introductory biology, physics, psychology, sociology, and first-semester biochemistry as well as general and organic chemistry. There isn’t one major that will prepare you better. So, regardless of what major you choose, you will need to be familiar with and have a high level of comfort with the content tested. Learn more about what subjects are tested on the MCAT exam.
Can I major in the humanities?
Absolutely! According to data collected by the AAMC, more than half of all applicants reported undergraduate biological science majors over the past five years, while the rest reported a variety of majors including in mathematics, statistics, social sciences, health sciences, and the humanities. Humanities classes can teach students how to develop their communication skills, critical thinking, and cultural competences — all skills that are essential to becoming an effective physician.
As you’re choosing your major, try not to make your decision based only on what you think medical school admissions teams are expecting to see. Every year, students with different majors and backgrounds are accepted to medical school, so think about the coursework that appeals to you and what subjects will keep you motivated throughout your academic career.