The road to becoming a doctor is a fairly challenging one. The process generally involves four years of medical schooling, three years of residency at a hospital and possibly a fellowship. Good planning is essential to completing such an endeavor and a common concern that students have is about the math requirements for admission. This requirement is not insurmountable. Even if you did not take a lot of math in high school, it is possible to make this up during your undergrad years.
Most medical schools in the U.S. require one year of calculus; a semester of statistics is also suggested. The calculus series generally breaks down into three semesters. If you took AP Calculus in high school and received the appropriate score, you can use it as credit for the first part of the series. Colleges and universities also have assessment tests that determine whether a student has the skills to take a college level math class, like calculus. These test look for proficiency in algebra, trigonometry and topics in analysis (i.e. functions and analytic geometry).
The main areas of study that are focused upon before medical school are biology and chemistry. You should focus on math as a means to help you do well in these other science classes. Calculus can be used in related problems, like modeling the presence of a drug in the human body.
Two semesters of calculus are required for medical school. More time will have to be devoted to math classes if you need to take prerequisite courses or an optional semester of statistics. You will take math classes from one to two and a half years, assuming that you are taking one math class per semester. Remember, if math is not your specialty, consider carrying a lighter course load in those semesters.
Most people assume that you must be in a pre-med major in order to go to medical school. While there are benefits to these types of course tracks, this is not the case. Any major is eligible for medical school. While some students are pre-med, most are in the physical sciences, and some are even in the social sciences and humanities. The deciding factors are academic performance and volunteer and medical-related extracurricular activities.
Just as important as choosing the right courses is a demonstration of your commitment to pursuing the medical profession. Search for volunteer opportunities and internships in health fields. The Websites for pre-med and medical school programs often have links to such opportunities.
Assessments are useful in determining class placement, but you know your abilities best. You might have tested into the highest level math class, but you might truly benefit from taking trigonometry again. Also, no matter which class you take, try to do a very thorough review before class starts. Math skills are like muscles; if you don't you don't use them, you lose them.
Liz Frazier has been producing Web content, instructional articles and trivia for websites such as TopTenz.net and RealDealTechnologies.com since 2008. Her writing interests lie primarily in the areas of politics (specifically public administration and elections), the military, education and forced migration. Frazier has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from California State University, Northridge.