Many people assume that to get into medical school, they’ll need to apply with a particular degree. Specifically, they assume that they’ll need to apply with an undergraduate science degree. A Bachelor of Science will certainly help you build skills that will come in handy in medical school, but a Bachelor of Arts will help you build other skills that might surprise you in terms of how useful they can be.
Bachelor of Arts
It isn’t immediately obvious how a Bachelor of Arts could help someone later become a doctor. A Bachelor of Arts encourages students to take a wide variety of other subjects while working on a major in a subject like psychology or philosophy. During a B.A., you can work toward a second major in another field or take a smattering of electives to broaden your understanding of the arts. You could study a second language; some schools even require this. That breadth of knowledge and variety in your interests may translate into good bedside manners and could impress a medical school admissions committee. Be warned that med schools look for biology, physics and chemistry, however, which your B.A. won't address automatically.
Bachelor of Science
A Bachelor of Science is a world apart from a Bachelor of Arts. In a Bachelor of Science, students typically study what are often known as the “hard sciences.” They may specialize in a subject such as biology or chemistry. These subjects relate to a career in medicine in terms of their content, but the study of them prior to entry into medical school is also beneficial because students gain experience in lab work and group projects. While many science majors also have B.A. programs in some schools, the B.S. focuses in depth on the science of the field. B.S. programs have more required courses in science and fewer electives, so all of your study will focus on your field.
Medical School Courses
You don't need to have a medically focused undergraduate major to get into medical school -- teaching you about medicine is what medical school is all about, after all. A pre-med degree will prepare you directly for medical school, but isn't required. Medical programs look for a background of two years of university study in chemistry and one year in biology, English and physics. A B.S. may prepare you better to meet these requirements. When you are in medical school, you will take introductory courses in medically related sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, histology, embryology and neuroscience, so don't worry if you haven't mastered these before. You may begin at different places, but by the end of the year, all med school students should be on the same page.
Medical School Experience
Going to medical school has some similarities with undergraduate programs, whether arts programs or science programs. But the level of hard work and dedication that are required set medical school apart from the undergraduate experience. To get into medical school, you have to be a hard worker, but to stay in medical school, you have to work even harder. So whether you do a B.A. or a B.S., make sure that you build good study habits early on -- you’ll need them later.
Living in Canada, Andrew Aarons has been writing professionally since 2003. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Ottawa, where he served as a writer and editor for the university newspaper. Aarons is also a certified computer-support technician.