If you are planning to pursue a career in medicine, you will take a number of courses across several subjects to fulfill your premedical requirements. Many students consider biology to be the most important of these subjects as they select their courses or potential major field of study. While most medical schools require only a year of introductory biology with a laboratory component, many colleges recommend taking additional biology courses.
The vast majority of medical schools require one year of introductory-level biology with a laboratory component. Introductory biology courses can vary widely between different undergraduate institutions. Some are very similar to Advanced Placement biology courses offered in high school, while others focus much more on cellular biology, molecular biology and genetics. If you have specific medical schools that you are planning on applying to in the future, research their specific requirements to ensure that you have included all of their coursework in your undergraduate biology course selections.
Since many students elect to pursue a biology major in conjunction with their premedical studies, many more biology courses are offered than you can take that will prepare you for medical school. If you have selected a course of study in biology, chances are your department has a specific set of required courses that you must complete to attain your degree. Some of those courses may actually be required -- or strongly suggested -- by medical schools. Examples include Biochemistry, cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology. Many of these courses will also have a laboratory component to give you hands-on, practical experience.
Anatomy and Physiology
A large portion of the Medical College Admission Test covers topics pertaining to human anatomy and physiology. By default, many premedical students take an anatomy and physiology course because they are naturally interested in the subject matter. Not all schools offer courses with a laboratory component, and some schools only offer comparative anatomy and physiology, which involves the study of animals other than humans. Many medical schools recommend that you take an anatomy and physiology course, even if you must do so at a different institution than the one you are attending if your department does not such a course.
Research for Credit
Many medical schools look for students who have practical experience in a biology research laboratory. Rather than looking for a specific type of laboratory, schools look for students who have a lot of experience working in a laboratory, with a record of producing data that add to their field of study. Many colleges and universities offer opportunities for students to join a research lab and receive course credit toward their major or degree for the work they perform in a laboratory. Many times, you may be able to participate in a poster presentation or even have your name on a scientific article. Let the principal investigator, who is the director of the laboratory, know that you are serious about research by asking if opportunities to share your work will be made available to you.
If you've decided the pursue medical school after you have graduated from college, or if you were unable to take additional biology courses while obtaining your undergraduate degree, programs are available that can help you complete your requirements or additional coursework. These are known as post-baccalaureate programs. Most post-bac programs for premedical studies cover the entire premed curriculum -- including chemistry and physics -- not just biology courses. If you need only one or two courses before applying to medical school, register to take individual courses and send your transcript to medical schools in addition to your regular undergraduate record.
Dr. Holzman earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Emory University, and taught introductory biology there for 10 years. She also holds a teaching license in high school biology, and has extensive experience with curriculum development and implementation in both college and high school classes.