Courses You Need to Get into Med School

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Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Courses You Need to Get into Med School." ThoughtCo, Nov. 29, 2015, thoughtco.com/courses-you-need-to-get-into-med-school-1686304. Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. (2015, November 29). Courses You Need to Get into Med School. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/courses-you-need-to-get-into-med-school-1686304 Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. "Courses You Need to Get into Med School." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/courses-you-need-to-get-into-med-school-1686304 (accessed September 21, 2017).
You don't have to be a premed major to apply to med school
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Perhaps it goes without saying that gaining admission to medical school is challenging.  Nearly 50,000 students submit applications each year and about 20,000 matriculate into medical school programs the following Fall semester. How do you ensure entry? While you can't ensure that you'll be accepted, you ca increase your odds.

The successful medical student most commonly holds a premed major. But a premed major is not the only way to prepare for medical school admissions  Some applicants decide against premed majors.

  They earn biology or chemistry degrees, either because their universities don’t offer premed majors or because of their own personal interests.  Science degrees are common because although it’s possible to gain admission to medical school without a premed degree, all med schools require that applicants take at minimum eight science classes. These requirements are outlined by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which accredits medical schools. That means that completing these courses is a non-negotiable part of your med school application.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, you must take, at minimum:  

  • One year of biology
  • One year of physics 
  • One year of English
  • Two years of chemistry (organic and inorganic chemistry)

Why is so much science required?

Medicine is an interdisciplinary field in that medical research incorporates skills, concepts, and findings from the many subfields within biology, chemistry, and other sciences.

  Successful medical students have a background in these fields that serves as a baseline for their education in medicine. 

Medical schools are not just interested in science.

Classes in mathematics are also important, though not required by the AAMC. Good grades in math indicate that you are able to reason and think like a scientist.

The following courses are recommended but not required. Note the integration of liberal arts skills.

Additional Recommendations

  • Genetics (often required)
  • Calculus (required by many)
  • Molecular biology
  • Statistics or epidemiology
  • Psychology (upper level course)
  • Neuroscience
  • Ethics
  • Writing

These recommended courses illustrate the basic educational themes that med schools look for in applicants:  the capacity for science, logical thinking, good communication skills, and high ethical standards.

It’s not just about the classes.

Getting into medical school does not simply require completing a set of classes.  Your performance in science classes (and all classes) matters. Specifically, you must earn high grades.  Your overall grade point average (GPA) must be no lower than 3.5 on the US 4.0 scale. Non-science and science GPAs are calculated separately but you should earn at least a 3.5 in each. Ultimately, you don’t need to be a premed major to complete these courses and meet the prerequisites for medical school, but a premed major makes it easier for you to fulfill all of the prerequisites within 4 years of college. A premed major is helpful but not necessary.