How To Choose the Best Pre-Med Major for You

Updated June 24, 2022

Pre-med students are those on an academic track preparing for medical school. They must complete several prerequisite courses to qualify for acceptance into a medical program, but they can otherwise select any major they want. If you're interested in the pre-med track, it's important to consider certain factors before deciding on your major. In this article, we examine what a pre-med major is, look at some of the prerequisites for medical school, discuss possible pre-med majors, explain how to choose a pre-med major and provide tips to help you decide.

What is a pre-med major?

A pre-med major is an academic area of study you focus on during your undergraduate education with the aim of entering medical school. Pre-med itself is not a major, but rather a set of prerequisite courses you take on the track to becoming a medical student. Therefore, an appropriate pre-med major would be any that leads you to complete your prerequisites, or else one that medical programs would prefer their applicants to have.

Often, pre-med students major in a discipline where the course requirements overlap with medical school prerequisites in order to streamline their undergraduate education. Others choose to major in unrelated areas of study but fulfill their prerequisites as well, though this is less common.

Related: 10 Undergraduate Majors To Prepare for Medical School

What are the medical school prerequisites?

Medical school prerequisites are the undergraduate courses you need to take to apply to medical school. Specific requirements may vary depending on the medical program, so it's a good idea to research the prerequisites of the programs you're considering. However, many medical school prerequisites include the following:

  • Two semesters of biology with lab

  • Two semesters each of general and organic chemistry with lab

  • Two semesters of physics with lab

  • Two semesters of mathematics

  • Two semesters of English

  • One semester of biochemistry

Types of pre-med majors

Because pre-med is such a broad category, there are many different subjects you can select as your pre-med major. That being said, there are certain categories of disciplines in which medical students often major. Many pre-med students choose majors in the scientific disciplines, but majors in other academic disciplines are not uncommon. When deciding on your pre-med major, consider the following types:

Biological sciences

The biological sciences study living things, their adaptations and life cycles and how they interact with their environments. Depending on your undergraduate program, there may be several biological science majors to choose from, including:

  • Anatomy

  • Animal behavior and ethology

  • Biochemistry

  • Biology

  • Biotechnology

  • Botany

  • Cell biology

  • Ecology

  • Entomology

  • Epidemiology

  • Genetics

  • Marine biology

  • Medical science

  • Microbiology

  • Molecular biology

  • Neuroscience

  • Pharmacology

  • Physiology

  • Toxicology

  • Zoology

The biological sciences are among the most popular majors for pre-med students because of the opportunity for overlap between course requirements and medical school prerequisites. The focus on living things also overlaps with the professional interests of doctors, a role that many pre-med students hope to fill.

Related: Top 21 Biology Degree Jobs

Physical sciences

The physical sciences study nonliving natural objects and systems. There are several branches of physical science, each of which may have its own sub-branches. The main branches of physical science are:

  • Astronomy

  • Chemistry

  • Earth science

  • Physics

Because they, too, include coursework that overlaps with medical school prerequisites, the physical sciences are also popular among pre-med students. A major in physics or chemistry especially can provide you with coursework and training that are applicable to medical school.

Social sciences

The social sciences refer to the study of societies and people's relationships to them. Social sciences majors include:

  • Anthropology

  • Archeology

  • Criminology

  • Economics

  • Geography

  • Government

  • International relations

  • Political science

  • Sociology

  • Urban studies

There may be limited overlap between social sciences coursework and pre-med coursework. Therefore, if you elect for a social sciences major, you're likely to need to take additional courses to meet your medical school prerequisites. However, a social sciences education is important for gaining a deeper understanding of people and person-based systems, which can complement coursework in other sciences.

Related: 17 Social Science Jobs

Mathematics and statistics

Mathematics and statistics are among the less popular majors for pre-med students, but these subjects can be useful for anyone who wishes to enter medical school. They can train you in a mode of thinking that emphasizes analytical skills, which are essential not only for a career in medicine but also for passing the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. However, if you do elect for a mathematics major, keep in mind there is very limited overlap between coursework and medical school prerequisites.

Related: 20 Jobs for Mathematics Degree Holders


The humanities refer to academic disciplines that study human culture and its composite aspects or elements. Humanities subjects include:

  • Classics

  • Drama

  • History

  • English or literature

  • Foreign languages

  • Philosophy

  • Theology

  • Performing arts

  • Visual arts

As with mathematics and statistics, humanities coursework has little intersection with pre-med coursework. As a humanities major, you should use your electives to cover the prerequisite courses for medical school.

A pre-med track with a humanities major may be challenging, but medical schools often value their humanities applicants. This may be due to the fact that humanities students are often skilled in critical thinking, empathy, analysis, deduction based on evidence and examining all facets of an issue before acting on it. These are important skills in both medical school and medical practice. Additionally, the relative rarity of humanities majors applying for medical school can help you stand out among the applicants.

Related: 13 Jobs for Humanities Majors

How to choose a pre-med major

Choosing your pre-med major requires careful consideration of several factors, including your ambitions, interests and where you want to attend medical school. To help you reach your decision, consider these steps:

1. Know your prerequisites

As mentioned, specific prerequisites vary by institution, so it's a good idea to compile a list of the courses required for your preferred medical schools. First, decide where geographically you'd like to attend school. Knowing that, you can search for medical programs in those regions that align with your goals. For a list of prerequisites for each medical school in the United States, you can consult the Association of American Medical Colleges.

2. Consider your interests

When choosing a major for any career track, it's important to factor in your interests, as this can lead to a more rewarding and enjoyable academic experience. For example, if you want to pursue a pre-med track but your primary interests are literature and languages, you may feel most fulfilled with a major in English or a foreign language, whereas choosing a science major may lead to disinterest and burnout. Though a non-science major as a pre-med student can be more demanding, balancing prerequisites with subjects in which you're personally invested can help keep you interested in your studies.

Related: 15 Ways To Deal With Burnout

3. Consider your career goals

To determine which pre-med major is ideal for you, consider its future utility and how it can help you in your career goals after medical school. For example, a major in physiology can teach you the functions of living systems such as the human body, but the physiology you learn as an undergraduate may not necessarily be applicable to a medical school curriculum. However, majoring in a foreign language such as Spanish can set you up with the skills to interact with potential patients when you begin your medical practice.

Related: How To Include Language Skills on Your Resume (With Examples)

4. Talk to your academic adviser

Your college academic academic adviser is responsible for guiding you through your academic career so that you have all the credits you need to graduate, and they can provide you with insight to help you decide on your pre-med major. For example, your adviser can print out examples of pre-med course loads based on major, giving you an idea of what to expect. Visualizing your schedules in his way can be helpful for imagining how you can handle different course loads.

Related: How To Become an Academic Advisor

Tips for choosing a pre-med major

For further guidance on choosing a pre-med major that's right for you, consider the following tips:

Choose a subject you enjoy

The major you choose dictates the types of courses you need to complete, so you can expect to spend a lot of time within the discipline you select. That's why it's important to choose a major that you are interested in on a personal level. You're also more likely to earn higher grades if you like your classes, so it's in your academic interest to choose a major you enjoy. Try to reflect on which courses you've enjoyed the most in your academic career so far and consider those disciplines for your major.

Consider your chances of success

Before deciding on a major, consider how well you think you can perform in the required courses. You may be able to handle the biology prerequisites for medical school, but the required courses for a biology major may be more difficult. It's important to select a major you believe you can succeed in since your grades play a large role in determining whether a medical program accepts you. Admissions committees may acknowledge the difficulty of your course load, but your GPA, in addition to your MCAT score, is likely to be the primary metric for their decision.

Consider a double major

If you trust your ability to maintain high academic scores even with an increased course load, consider double majoring in a science and another discipline. An effective combination might be biological sciences and humanities, as these fields can train you in the hard and soft skills that can help you succeed as both a medical student and a medical professional. Also, excelling with a double major can show medical programs that you can handle the rigors of the medical school curriculum, which is likely to improve your candidacy for acceptance.

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