As a pre-medical student in college, you will have many responsibilities to fulfill to become a strong candidate for medical school. This blog post will address your required science courses, which play an extremely significant role in the evaluation of med school admissions committees.

Students who plan to apply to medical school must take a prescribed set of pre-med courses. Each medical school determines its own requirements for pre-med courses, although there is significant overlap. In addition, each college defines its recommendations or requirements for pre-med coursework. Once you have matriculated at a particular college, carefully check the pre-health policies of your college as well.

Pre-Med Requirements of Medical Schools

Typical Requirements. Generally, medical schools require that applicants take the following courses. Medical schools vary in terms of whether AP credits will be accepted to meet the pre-medical course requirements.

  • 1 year of biology, with labs
  • 1 year of physics, with labs
  • 1 year of general or inorganic chemistry, with labs
  • 1 year of organic chemistry, with labs
  • 1 year of English

Additional Requirements. Some medical schools have additional pre-med course requirements, both within and outside the natural sciences.

Courses in STEM

Many medical schools require biochemistry as well as specific kinds of math courses. For example:

  • Harvard Medical School requires that the chemistry courses include inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry; and that the math includes one semester of calculus and one semester of statistics, preferably biostatistics.
  • Yale School of Medicine accepts two semesters of either general biology or zoology; in addition to the typical requirement of one year of general chemistry, requires one semester of organic chemistry and one semester of biochemistry.
  • Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons highly recommends biochemistry, statistics, and biostatistics in addition to the above courses.

Courses outside STEM

Other medical schools require or recommend that students take courses outside STEM.

  • Stanford Medical School recommends that students supplement required STEM courses with courses in the behavioral and social sciences.
  • Emory School of Medicine requires that applicants take six courses in the humanities or social sciences.
  • The requirements for the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences are “competency-based.” For the social and behavioral sciences, the “emphasis is on understanding social, historical, cultural, behavioral issues’ influence on individuals and communities,” which can be met by courses in psychology, sociology, history, anthropology, ethics or related subjects.

This recent movement of medical educators towards encouraging courses in the social sciences may reflect the acknowledgment that exceptional patient care requires a psychological understanding of individuals and the social determinants of health.

Pre-Med Requirements of Colleges

Colleges may also have their own specific requirements or recommendations for pre-medical students in addition to the typical required courses in biology, chemistry, and physics. For example:

  • Yale University requires that students take biochemistry, calculus, statistics, intro psychology, and research for credit.
  • Princeton University advises that students take one semester each of calculus, statistics, and biochemistry, as well as psychology classes.
  • Georgetown University advises that pre-med students take a variety of upper-level science courses such as Pathogenic Bacteriology and Immunology, Vertebrate Anatomy, and Medicinal Chemistry.

In addition to required pre-med coursework, students need to meet requirements for general education courses as well as for your major(s) and minor(s). See our blog post on How to Plan Your Curriculum as a Pre-Med. If you would like assistance in identifying the best majors or minors for you or the best curriculum plan, or in guiding you with any other aspect of your pre-med preparation, contact Collegiate Gateway. As always, we’re happy to help!