While there are certain course requirements you must take to be considered for medical school, you have a lot of flexibility in choosing your undergraduate major. The best premed majors to increase your chances of eventual acceptance to medical school will depend on your personal strengths, preferences, and med school timeline.
Explore the considerations below when deciding on your best majors for medical school.
How Do I Major in Pre-Med?
If you have plans to go to medical school, you might expect the best start is by majoring “pre-med” for your undergraduate program. As it turns out, pre-med isn’t a major; it’s a pathway – a group of courses that must be completed in order for you to be considered by most reputable medical schools.
Your major is the designation that appears on your diploma when you complete an undergraduate program. Fortunately, this means you can major in just about anything you want during your undergraduate years and still be eligible for medical school as long as you also complete the required courses for a pre-med track.
Required Prerequisite Courses for Medical School
Although specific prerequisites can vary slightly from med school to med school, most schools agree on a set of core requirements that set a good foundation for aspiring medical students. At a minimum, most medical schools require you to complete the following courses during your undergrad program to be considered for acceptance:
- Biology – This is a foundational science in medicine, so most medical schools will expect you to have two courses (one year) of Biology plus the associated labs.
- Chemistry – This makes up the core of most prerequisites for medical school; you’ll typically need four courses (two years) of chemistry with labs from a variety of areas, including inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.
- Physics – Certain medical disciplines, such as cardiology or nuclear medicine, rely heavily on this science behind the forces that operate within the human body. Even if you don’t plan to specialize in these areas, many medical schools will require two courses (one year) of physics for admittance.
- English – While you might think medical school admissions officers are only concerned about science courses, most med schools require at least two courses (one year) of English for admission. As a doctor, you’ll be writing research papers, detailing patient charts, and communicating with other medical specialists, all of which require a healthy background in English.
- Math – Miscalculating dosages or improperly converting medications can have disastrous consequences for patients, so medical schools typical require at least two courses (one year) of math. Some schools specify which math course you should complete (such as calculus or statistics), so be sure to check with your target schools on any specific requirements.
In addition to the common pre-med track courses, some medical schools have additional prerequisite requirements before you can be accepted. These can include writing courses, anatomy, ethics, or other electives, so be sure to check with your target schools so you aren’t surprised by additional undergraduate requirements before you can apply.
Pre-Med Major Options: Pros and Cons
As you enter college, you have several options for selecting an undergraduate major that will improve your chances for eventual acceptance to medical school. Each major has pros and cons, and some majors can help you better position yourself as a quality med school candidate than others.
Majors in Biological Sciences can include Biology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cell Biology, Anatomy and Physiology, or the general major often labeled “Biological Sciences”. Medical school applicants who come from a biological science undergrad program have GPAs and MCAT scores that are right in line with the averages across all med school applicants. Acceptance rates are consistent, too – 41.54% of biological science majors who applied to medical school were accepted, as compared to 41.94% of acceptances for applicants across all majors.
- Pros: As a major, biological sciences will provide solid foundational coursework that will prepare you for medical school.
- Cons: Biological sciences is one of the most common majors for med school applicants, making it more difficult for you to set yourself apart during the application process.
Majors in Humanities can include Ethnic studies, English, foreign languages, or gender studies. Humanities majors have average GPAs, but higher MCAT scores and higher med school acceptance rates when compared to applicants across all majors. In fact, humanities majors had the highest acceptance rates of all majors for the 2020/2021 cycle, according to statistics provided by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). However, jumping on the humanities bandwagon isn’t ideal for every candidate; since there isn’t much overlap between medical school prerequisites and most humanities program tracks, you may end up taking more classes overall.
- Pros: Graduates in these majors tend to have higher MCAT scores; humanities coursework can provide good differentiating factors during the application process.
- Cons: May require more courses to complete both humanities and pre-med requirements, which can also increase the cost of undergraduate education.
Math and Statistics
Majors in Math and Statistics can include Applied Mathematics, General Mathematics, or Statistics. Math and Statistics majors have the highest average GPA and the highest MCAT scores across all majors. However, they only have the third-highest acceptance rates, behind Humanities and Physical Sciences. Math is one of the STEM disciplines and math majors tend to be higher academic achievers overall. But a good head for numbers will not guarantee success in medical school alone, so be prepared to demonstrate knowledge and experience in science disciplines as well.
- Pros: Graduates in these majors statistically have the highest GPAs and MCAT scores of any other major group, leading to above-average acceptance rates
- Cons: Coursework is extremely rigorous and may require more total classes to complete both pre-med track courses and course requirements for the major
Majors in Physical Sciences are often similar to those of Biological Sciences and can include biology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology, genetics, or physics. Physical sciences differ from biological sciences in that the course work generally focuses on the non-living, physical aspects of a discipline, rather than the life sciences. Physical science majors have above average GPAs and MCAT scores, leading to the second highest acceptance rates of any major – second only to humanities by just a fraction of a percent.
- Pros: Major course work generally aligns well with most medical school prerequisites, minimizing the number of classes required; Has one of the highest acceptance rates of any major
- Cons: The physical focus of these majors may not be as relevant to your medical school curriculum as more life-based biological sciences
Majors in Social Sciences can include psychology, sociology, anthropology, or political science. While social science majors can learn a lot about the human interaction aspect of the medical field in this major, there is a trade-off. Social Science majors have the lowest GPAs of any major, and the second lowest MCAT scores, only slightly higher than those in specialized health sciences.
- Pros: Can easily lead to other careers in the health field, such as social work, counseling services, or psychiatric services if your long-term plans for medical school don’t work out
- Cons: Below average GPAs and MCAT scores lead to below-average acceptance rates compared to other majors
Specialized Health Sciences
Specialized Health Science majors have a direct pathway to careers in the medical field. These majors may go on to become lab technicians, physical or occupational therapists, healthcare admins, or future medical school matriculants. Unfortunately, students who major in this field also statistically have the lowest MCAT scores and acceptance rates of any major – nearly 3% below average. However, students who are highly motivated to perform well in this field may have an easier time standing out among their peers.
- Pros: Numerous career pathways and opportunities for entering the healthcare field, many of which still offer excellent income potential even without medical school
- Cons: Lowest acceptance rates of all majors
Any medical school applicants with a major that doesn’t fall into one of the above categories are categorized as “Other”. This can include majors such as computer science, engineering, or business. Even with these undergraduate majors, you are still eligible for acceptance to medical school as long as you complete the pre-med prerequisites. This can be a good pathway for students who decide halfway through an undergraduate degree that they’d like to go to medical school, or for students who want to stand out during the med school application process by highlighting skills in another area. Applicants with other majors have average GPAs and slightly below-average MCAT scores, leading to below-average acceptance rates.
- Pros: Gain diverse experiences by combining pre-med coursework with a major in another area
- Cons: Majors in other areas statistically have below-average MCAT scores and acceptance rates
Best PreMed Majors: By the Numbers
After weighing the pros and cons for each major, you can further analyzing the average MCAT scores and average GPA by discipline area to determine the best majors for medical school during your undergraduate program. These numbers are based on applicants and matriculants for the 2020/2021 cycle as provided by AAMC.
|Major||MCAT Scores||GPA||Acceptance Rates|
|Math and Statistics||510.5||3.63||45.61%|
|Specialized Health Sciences||503.5||3.58||38.93%|
What’s More Important: GPA or MCAT?
In determining your options for the best premed majors, you should consider which majors will help you achieve your best MCAT scores and GPA during undergrad. Although Math and Statistics majors have the highest GPA and MCAT scores on average, that may not be the best major for you if you’ve never had a head for numbers, for example.
Overall, the best major for med school will be one where you can demonstrate your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. The two biggest admissions decision factors at many medical schools are GPA and MCAT scores, so you’ll want to choose a major that can allow you to excel in both areas. Most medical schools will not specifically say which metric is mort important to their decision, and many schools weight them approximately equally. Still other schools, like American University of Antigua (AUA), will take a holistic view of your application that evaluates you as more than just these two numbers. Ideally, you should choose the best premed major that allows you to explore coursework that you enjoy and will help you prepare for your road ahead in medical school.