Do You Need to Be a Premed Major to Apply to Medical School?

The Short Answer: It Helps but Is Not Required

Many would-be medical school applicants don't apply because they are unsure if they meet the qualifications. Among the top misconceptions about medical school is whether or not you need to be a premed major to apply. The short answer is that you don't need to be a premed major to get into medical school, but it will significantly increase your odds of admission into the graduate program. 

The fact is that many universities don’t have premed majors.

In those cases students usually major in biology or chemistry or social science and humanities, all of which can be admitted into medical school provided they have completed all course requirements. For example, I’ve seen psychology majors at my university get accepted to medical school. While some applicants are successful in gaining admission to medical school without a science degree, make no mistake, it is challenging. All successful applicants, regardless of major, have at least one thing in common: Lots of science courses.

What do Medical Schools Look for in Applicants?

Med school admissions committees look for applicants who have the potential to successfully complete the program. Applicants must demonstrate the capacity to do the academic work entailed in earning a medical degree, meaning that you must show that you can understand all the math and science required to get through med school.

Since your undergraduate coursework is the only indicator of your preparation and your potential for academic success, schools will look at your transcript and make sure that you have at least the prerequisite courses. 

Two semesters each of biology, physics, English, organic chemistry and inorganic chemistry are required by the Association of American Medical Colleges in order for a hopeful student to apply to med school.

However, many other courses are recommended. For example, math, although not listed as an essential by the AAMC, is an important indicator of your ability to reason and think like a scientist. 

The more science, the better. Students who choose majors outside the sciences will likely use all of their electives on science or may find themselves delaying graduation in order to complete the science requirements. Therefore a premed or science major is not necessary to apply to medical school, but it makes it easier to complete the science courses required by all medical schools. 

It’s not just a matter of taking the required science classes. You must earn high grades in these classes.  Your overall grade point average (GPA) must be no lower than 3.5 on the U.S. 4.0 scale. Non-science and science GPAs are calculated separately but you should earn at least a 3.5 in each.