What is a Pre-Medicine Degree?

There is no distinct pre-medicine degree. ‘Pre-medicine’ or ‘pre-med’ is merely a term that students planning to go to medical school use to describe their undergraduate studies. In fact, aspiring doctors enter med school having earned many different bachelor’s degrees.

A science program such as biology or chemistry is certainly a common choice, but it is not mandatory. In other words, a pre-med student can be a psychology major, a statistics major, or a Spanish major. The key for students is to incorporate into their studies the classes needed to apply to medical school.

Program Options

Because pre-medicine studies are undergraduate studies, the only program option for pre-med students is to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree in Any Discipline – Four Year Duration
There is not a specific degree that is required for pre-med undergraduate study. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), aspiring physicians are most likely to earn a bachelor’s in a major from these areas:

• Biological Sciences
• Social Sciences
• Physical Sciences
• Humanities
• Mathematics / Statistics

Regardless of their chosen undergrad major, students planning to attend medical school must meet med school admission requirements, which typically include:

• Biology with lab
• General Chemistry with lab
• Organic Chemistry with lab
• Physics with lab
• Biochemistry
• Mathematics and/or Statistics
• English

Because pre-med students are not required to earn their bachelor’s degree in a science discipline, they can easily apply their undergraduate credits to another course of study should they change their mind and decide not to apply to medical school.

Degrees Similar to Pre-Medicine

As stated at the very beginning of this document, there is no single, specific pre-medicine degree. Therefore, it is not possible to present other ‘similar’ degrees. It is, however, possible – and worthwhile – to provide examples of undergraduate degrees that are considered to be solid foundations for taking the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), for getting accepted into medical school, and for a career as a physician.

Biochemistry
The focus of biochemistry is the chemical processes and reactions that occur in living matter. Biochemists apply principles of both biology and chemistry to issues in many different sectors, including the environment, medicine and health, industry and manufacturing, agriculture, biofuels, and marine science.

Biology
A general biology degree program may include subjects like animal biology, invertebrate biology, vertebrate biology, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, microbiology, and ecology.

Biomedical Engineering
Simply stated, biomedical engineering uses engineering to solve health and medical problems. For example, a biomedical engineer might look for chemical signals in the body that warn of a particular disease or condition.

Biophysics
Biophysics applies the theories and methods of physics to understand how biological systems like the brain, the circulatory system, and the immune system function. Coursework includes math, chemistry, physics, engineering, pharmacology, and materials science.

Chemistry
Chemistry deals with identifying the substances that make up matter. Degree programs in chemistry focus on investigating these substances: their properties; how they interact, combine, and change; and how scientists can use chemical processes to form new substances.

English
In English degree programs, students read, study, and write about the literature and culture of the English-speaking world. Coursework also includes the history, linguistic structure, and use of the English language.

Genetics
Genetics is the study of heredity. It attempts to answer questions about how inherited traits are transmitted from parents to offspring.

Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of all living organisms that are too small to see with the naked eye. These ‘microbes’ include bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa, and algae.

Molecular Biology
Degree programs in molecular biology teach the composition, structure, and interactions of cellular molecules like nucleic acids and proteins that are essential to cell function.

Physics
Physics is a field that keeps changing as discoveries are made. This means that the field asks at least as many questions as it answers. Students of physics degree programs study matter and energy. They learn about the relationships between the measurable quantities in the universe, which include velocity, electric field, and kinetic energy.

Psychology
The scientific study of the mind and behavior is the focus of psychology degree programs. In simple terms, psychology students study the way that humans and animals act, feel, think, and learn.

Sociology
Degree programs in sociology are focused on studying groups, from two people and beyond. Sociology students examine human behavior patterns and relationships at both the micro-level and the macro-level. They study interactions between individuals as well as in families, peer groups, cultural groups, gender groups, racial groups, religious groups, and social classes.

Spanish
Spanish degree programs teach students how to speak, read, and write Spanish. Some programs focus on Spanish literature and others on the study of the linguistic structure of the Spanish language. Programs that include both a literary and a linguistic component are quite common. Some schools offer specific degrees in Spanish translation and interpretation.

Statistics
The degree field of statistics is focused on the study of probability theory and sampling theory. Students use techniques like sample survey theory and variance analysis (the quantitative investigation of the difference between actual and planned behavior) to examine the relationships between groups and measurements. In simple terms, statistics is about collecting data, organizing it, analyzing it, and interpreting it in practical ways that guide decision making in both business sectors and politics.

Skills You'll Learn

The transferable or soft skills learned during the pre-med years of an aspiring doctor’s education are vital to managing the demands of both becoming and being a medical professional.

In the big picture, they fall into the six key areas of life skills identified by the World Health Organization: communication and interpersonal, decision-making and problem-solving, creative thinking and critical thinking, self-awareness and empathy, assertiveness and self-control, and resilience and the ability to cope with problems.

From a more focused perspective, below are some specific competencies associated with particular areas of study. There is, of course, some cross-over.

Science and Maths
• Analytical thinking
• Attention to detail
• Computation and data-processing
• Investigation and research
• Numeracy
• Organisation
• Problem solving
• Report writing
• Synthesising information
• Understanding statistical data

Engineering
• Analytical thinking
• Attention to detail
• Creativity
• IT competencies
• Logical thinking
• Numeracy
• Problem solving
• Project management
• Research
• Teamwork

Social Sciences
• Analysis
• Communication
• Numeracy and understanding statistical data
• Problem solving
• Project management

Arts and Humanities
• Communication
• Creativity
• Critical and evaluative thinking
• IT competencies
• Logical thinking and reasoning
• Research
• Time management
• Writing

Business and Finance
• Analysis
• Communication
• Numeracy
• Leadership
• Problem solving
• Teamwork
• Time management
• Understanding statistical data

Information Technology
• Analysis and problem solving
• Communication
• Creativity
• Interpretation and recording of data
• Logical thinking
• Numeracy
• Organization
• Project planning and management
• Research
• Teamwork

What Can You Do with a Pre-Medicine Degree?

What every pre-med student wants to do with their pre-med degree, regardless of their chosen area of undergraduate study, is pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and be accepted into medical school.

Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

It is common for undergraduates to write the MCAT and begin applying to medical schools in their junior year. Through a set of multiple-choice questions, the MCAT allows medical schools to evaluate a candidate’s training and skill set. Many schools share their incoming student MCAT score average on their website to inform undergraduates of how well they need to score to compete with other applicants.

To achieve their highest possible MCAT score, students are encouraged to take advantage of assistance available to them. This includes study materials, pre-tests, practice tests, and online and in-person tutoring. These resources are designed to ensure that students attain the best possible score, which will open doors to medical schools.

Medical school is a very challenging four years of study that is divided into two parts. The first part, comprising the first two years of the schooling, is focused on course and lab work that prepares students intellectually for patient interaction. This training is in the biological and natural sciences, physiology, chemistry, medical ethics, and the art and practice of medicine.

To test their grasp of this portion of training, in the second year of medical school students pursuing a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree must take and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) – Step 1. Those pursuing a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree must take and pass the United States Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) – Level 1. A passing score on the USMLE or COMLEX-USA indicates that students are ready to begin supervised patient visits and gain clinical experience.

The second part of medical school, the second two years, is called Rotations. During this time, students have the opportunity to experience a variety of medical specialties and a variety of medical settings under the supervision of experienced physicians. Rotations further students’ understanding of patient care, situations, scenarios, and the teams that come together to help those that are sick.

As they complete rotations, students tend to find out that they gravitate towards certain specialties or environments that fit their particular interests and skill sets. It is important that this time inform their decision of specialty or subspecialty, so that they find complete satisfaction as a physician.

After part two of medical school, students take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) – Step 2 or the United States Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA) – Level 2. The objective of these exams is to test whether or not students have developed the clinical knowledge and skills that they will need to transition into unsupervised medical practice.

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