If you’re interested in practicing medicine, you’ve probably heard of the term “pre-med” before. But what is pre-med exactly? Is it a major? And can you apply to medical school if you aren’t pre-med? In this article, we will answer all of these questions, as well as offer practical advice for pre-med students. So if you’re considering a career in medicine, you’ve come to the right place!

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How does pre-med work?

You’re probably wondering, should I do pre-med? And is pre-med hard? Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s address the question, what is a pre-med track?

To start, pre-med is not a major. It’s a career path. When people say they’re “pre-med,” what they’re really saying is that they have plans to apply to medical school. Medical schools don’t really care what your undergraduate degree is — as long as you’ve taken all of the prerequisite courses.

The advantage of declaring yourself as “pre-med” is that your academic advisor and professors can recommend which classes to take during your undergrad. While medical schools don’t have a required major, they do have lots of specific course requirements. It can be a lot to keep track of by yourself, so it’s best to share your career plans with your advisor.

If you’re still in high school, you may want to consider applying to a BS/MD program. While these programs are extremely competitive, they guarantee students a place in medical school after finishing their undergraduate degree. Applying to medical school is a difficult and time-consuming process, so if you’re certain you want to be a doctor, you may want to consider applying to some of these programs. In the meantime, refer to our article, What is a BS/MD Program and Should You Apply, for more information.

What are pre-med majors?

So, what is a pre-med major? Many students with medical aspirations tend to major in the sciences, mostly because there is a lot of overlap between these majors and medical school requirements. But you can major in anything, including popular college majors such as business or engineering. While this may seem strange initially, refer to our article Does Your Major Affect Your College Acceptance? for more information.

List of popular pre-med majors

Wondering what is a good pre-med major? Or even what is the easiest pre-med major? Consider some of the most popular pre-med majors below!

● Biology
● Chemistry
● Biochemistry
● Neuroscience
● Mathematics
● Physics

What are pre-med requirements?

What are pre-med courses? And do they differ depending on the medical schools you apply to?

While required courses will largely be the same, the number of credits may differ. This is why it’s important to research program requirements as soon as you can. Make a list of medical schools you are interested in and write down all of their respective requirements. In general, it’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. This means that if you’re unsure how many credits you should be taking, aim higher rather than lower. If you do declare yourself as “pre-med,” share these requirements with your academic advisor so they can help you stay on track.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at a few different medical schools and their list of requirements. By considering the lists below, hopefully, you can get a better idea of what to expect as you consider whether or not pre-med is right for you.

Baylor College of Medicine

  • Math (Biostatistics preferred) – 3-4 semester hours
  • Expository Writing – 3-4 semester hours
  • Humanities-Social/Behavioral Sciences – 12 semester hours
  • Organic Chemistry – 6-8 semester hours (lab not required)
  • Biochemistry – 3-4 semester hours (lab not required)
  • Advanced Biology – 3-4 semester hours (lab not required)
  • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: genetics, cell/molecular biology
  • RECOMMENDED: Spanish

Emory University School of Medicine

  • Physical Science – 8 semester hours (with lab)
  • Biology – 8 semester hours (with lab)
  • Chemistry – 8 semester hours (with lab)
  • Organic Chemistry – 8 semester hours (with lab)
  • English – 6 semester hours
  • Humanities/Social Sciences – 18 semester hours
  • Average cumulative GPA of 3.7

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

  • Biology – 8 semester hours (with lab)
  • Chemistry – 8 semester hours (with lab)
  • Organic Chemistry – 4 semester hours (with lab)
  • Biochemistry – 3 semester hours
  • Humanities/Social and Behavioral Sciences – 24 semester hours
  • Calculus and/or Statistics – 6 semester hours
  • Physics – 8 semester hours (with lab)


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For a more comprehensive list of pre-med prerequisites, visit the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) database, where you can find the prerequisites for every US medical school.

As a pre-med student, you’ll also need to prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which you will most likely take during your senior year of college or the summer after you graduate. Take a look at these MCAT study resources so you can get a better idea of what this exam entails.

How many years is pre-med?

So how long is pre-med? In most cases, “pre-med” refers to your undergraduate degree, which means it will take approximately four years. That said, people with bachelor’s degrees who don’t have all of the requirements met often attend a post-baccalaureate program. Typically, it takes one to two years to catch up on all of the necessary requirements.

For students wondering, can you do pre-med online?, taking a few online courses can be a great way to make sure you have all of your requirements met. This may be especially helpful if you decide to pursue pre-med later on in your college career.

Is pre-med worth it?

Is pre-med worth it, and how hard is pre-med? Pre-med is not for the faint of heart. It is a rigorous program that will challenge you in a variety of ways. It is, however, a great introduction to medical school, which will be even more challenging. So in many ways, yes, pre-med can be a worthwhile track. Not only will pre-med make sure you are eligible to apply to medical school, but it will also help test your resolve.

People shouldn’t go to medical school unless they are truly committed to becoming a doctor. Not only is it an incredibly difficult program (that’s difficult to get into), but it is also very expensive. This is worth mentioning because while students who go on to become doctors will be in a good position to pay back their student loans, students who do not complete their programs or otherwise change their minds about their careers may find themselves in a very tricky financial situation. So take the time to reflect critically on your career goals before you get too far into a program.

Key takeaways and moving forward

Medical schools admit students with all sorts of undergraduate majors as long as they meet the program’s overall requirements. Declaring yourself as pre-med during your undergraduate degree is one way to prepare for medical school. That said, you can still go to medical school, even if you don’t make a formal declaration during your undergrad.

Our best advice is to pursue plenty of volunteer, internship, and job shadowing opportunities to figure out whether or not medical school is right for you. Pre-med can also be a great way to test your resolve. In the meantime, if you have any questions about preparing your college applications, reach out to learn more about our services. Here at Prepory, we have the resources and expertise to help you reach all of your college-related goals.