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Pre-Health Studies Overview

The majority of health professions programs practice holistic review of applications. Several factors contribute to success in their program. The Association of American Medical Colleges outlines the Anatomy of an Applicant and Core Competencies relevant to healthcare professions. Pre-health students major in any discipline without adversely affecting their admission into a health professions school. Completion of prerequisite courses are required prior to matriculation and for admissions exams. Each program has its own set of pre-requisite requirements, and school websites have the most current information.

Note: Advanced Placement courses and/or Acceleration Credits often do not satisfy premedical requirements for admission to medical or other health professions schools. In some cases they may be used to elect advanced courses in those disciplines. Speak with a health professions advisor about how these credits pertain to your own individual plan.

To complement challenging coursework, look for opportunities to develop a range of competencies. Consider volunteering in a direct patient contact setting, shadowing practitioners in their chosen profession, and research. Involvement in community service, extracurricular activities or work experiences, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant's knowledge and development. Get Involved.

TOC:

Medicine (MD/DO/MD-PhD)

Medicine is an inclusive profession that offers varied opportunities. Ideally, all physicians aspire to be:

  • Altruistic, compassionate, trustworthy, and truthful in their relationships with patients, patients’ family members, and professional colleagues.
  • Knowledgeable about the scientific basis of medicine and the normal and abnormal functioning of the body.
  • Skillful in communicating with and providing care to their patients.
  • Dutiful in working with other physicians and health care professionals to promote the health of individual patients and community members.

(source: Medical School Admissions Requirements publication)

Osteopathic physicians receive the same medical training as their allopathic (M.D.) counterparts, plus an additional 200 hours of osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM) – a hands-on therapy that is used to diagnose and treat illness and injury.

(source: Osteopathic Medical College Information Book)

MD-PhD programs provide training in both medicine and research. MD-PhD trainees prepare for careers in which they will spend most of their time doing research, not only taking care of patients - "bench to bedside."  MD-PhD graduates often become faculty members at medical schools, universities, and research institutes.

  • MD-PhD training efficiently integrates the scientific and medical education of the physician-scientist.
  • Most MD-PhD programs provide trainees a stipend and tuition scholarships. The extent of financial support varies among programs and may only support U.S. citizens and permanent residents. 

(source: AAMC MD-PhD website)

There are some basic requirements for admission to most U.S. & Canadian Allopathic (MD), Osteopathic (DO) and MD-PhD programs. It is important you investigate the individual prerequisites for each school to which you plan to apply.

At a minimum, students will likely complete the following types of courses:

• One year of biology with lab
• One year of physics with lab
• English and/or Writing (amount varies by program)
• Two years of chemistry (some combination of general, organic and biochemistry) with labs

Some schools may have additional course requirements such as advanced level biology or statistics. Refer to each school's website for specific requirements.

All U.S. and Canadian medical schools require applicants to take an entrance exam. The test assesses your problem solving, critical thinking, and knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.

Dental (DDS/DMD)

According to the ADA, “The D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) and D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine) are the same degrees. The difference is a matter of semantics. The majority of dental schools award the DDS degree; however, some award a DMD degree. For further information, visit ADEA GoDental and the American Student Dental Association.

The dental profession offers a wide range of clinical practice; private, hospital, research, public and international health, and academic opportunities.

  •   The entire dental profession is at the head of important new research substantiating the relationship between oral and systemic health.
  •   Dentists are generally able to enter practice upon completion of the four years of dental school.
  •   Dentistry is not generally subject to the effects of managed care and reductions in federal funding that have affected other health care professions.

(source: ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools)

There are some basic requirements for admission to most U.S. & Canadian dental schools and it is important you investigate the individual prerequisites for each school to which you apply.

All U.S. and Canadian dental schools require applicants to take the Dental Admissions Test (DAT). This computerized test measures general academic ability, comprehension of scientific information and perceptual ability. Completion of at least one year of college level courses in biology and general and organic chemistry is recommended before taking the DAT.

Veterinary (DVM)

The majority of students who enter a college of veterinary medicine have a bachelor’s degree and some have completed graduate study. Check the specific veterinary admissions requirements for your schools of interest. For information about general admissions and entrance exam requirements, visit the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

What does a D.V.M. do?

  • Diagnose and control animal diseases
  • Prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people
  • Ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of food animals
  • Involved in wildlife preservation and conservation and public health of the human population

In addition to the many geographic choices available to the veterinary physician (D.V.M.’s are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico), there are a variety of settings or types of practices, such as: private practice; teaching and research; public health; U.S. Army Veterinary Corps; and private industry.

Public Health

What is Public Health?

  • The science and art of protecting and improving community health through health education, promotion, research and disease prevention strategies.
  • Knowledge and application of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary population-based methods of research, teaching and practice involving various academic disciplines.

Distinctions Between Public Health and Clinical Health Professions:

Public Health Clinical Health
Population Individual
Health Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion Diagnosis and Treatment

(source: American Public Health Association)

There are many core areas of study in public health. For more information, visit the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health.

Each program or track within a given department may set additional requirements for admission; therefore, applicants should refer to the individual programs for details. Find an academic program.

Post-Baccalaureate Programs

Students who choose not to complete their science pre-requisite courses during their undergraduate years can complete the requirements in a Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program before applying to a health professions school. Learn more about Post-Baccalaureate options and how to find a post-bacc program.

Gain Experience

Preparing for a career in the health professions involves more than strong academics. Consider your interests and explore activities that will develop your core competencies through long-term commitment. See our Get Involved page and look for opportunities that fit your interests.

Financial Aid and Resources

Specialized Resources

Military Scholarship Programs

Medical (M.D.)

Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)

Dental Medicine (D.V.M./D.D.S)

Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)