Students who are interested in becoming doctors have to complete a number of pre-med requirements while they are in college. These requirements are often taken in addition to the student's chosen major because pre-med is not an official undergraduate degree. Many students who pursue a pre-med course of study in college typically major in biology, chemistry or biochemistry, but some students major in an unrelated field like art, drama, English, philosophy, history or anthropology.
Pre-med requirements are established by medical schools and vary across programs, but most programs require students to complete a year of biology, physics, general chemistry and organic chemistry. Many programs also require students to take one or two courses in calculus and introductory course in statistics. Some medical schools also require students to have a course of microbiology and/or biochemistry. Students who are interested in applying and going to medical school after completing their bachelor's degrees can start preparing for this rigorous program in high school. In particular, students who are going to announce on their college applications that they are interested in pre-med should take as many science courses in high school as possible.
Biology is one of the most fundamental courses to the study of medicine. This course introduces students to taxonomy, plants, animals and other kingdoms as well as cells and their functions. An introductory course in biology and an advanced placement course in biology give students a strong foundation in the field and allow them to succeed in the two-semester biology course required by all pre-med programs. In addition to the lecture course, colleges that accept applicants as potential pre-med students also look for laboratory experience. Most undergraduate courses in biology require a laboratory class so that students gain hands-on experience in handling biological organisms. Students who have a choice between a high school biology course with and without laboratory should take a course that has a laboratory component.
Colleges who evaluate prospective pre-med applicants also want to see that students have experience in chemistry. Chemistry is the study of the building blocks that make up our world, and focuses on concepts such as elements, items, molecules and compounds. Chemistry is a very important requirement in all pre-med programs and most programs require two semesters of general chemistry and two semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory sections. High school students can prepare for these courses by taking general chemistry with laboratory sections and an advanced placement course in chemistry.
Another important preparatory course for perspective pre-med students is physics. Physics is the study of physical phenomena such as gravity, velocity and acceleration. Pre-med programs require students to take one year of general physics with a laboratory section and colleges that evaluate pre-med applications want to see that students have high school experience in this subject. In particular, high school students should take physics 1 with laboratory and an advanced placement course in physics, if it is available.
Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.