bachelor degree requirements for medical school

Last Updated on February 25, 2022 by scaleforce

If you want to become a doctor and want to know more about undergraduate requirements for medical school, a level requirements for medicine, or get a detailed info on the topic, continue reading here on infolearners!

learn about undergraduate requirements for medical school, a level requirements for medicine, or get a detailed info on the topic

You can be a high school graduate or equivalent to enroll in bachelor degree requirements for medical school, if you want to get more info on this continue reading here on infolearners as there are plenty of information provided on this page

Bachelor Degree Requirements For Medical School

Medical school requirements: Education and Course Prerequisites

Most medical schools in the US require the completion of a bachelor’s degree before students are eligible to apply to medical school. So, what should you study? Is there a particular pre-med major that is better than the rest? What are medical schools looking for? Do Ivy League medical schools let in students from non-science backgrounds?

For starters, forget what you’ve heard about one pre-med major being better than another one. It’s simply not true, and some students get so carried away with studying a major that they think will look good that they sacrifice other areas they were more interested in, better suited for, and may have even performed better in.

To best prepare yourself for medical school, it’s important to complete your undergraduate degree in a field of study that you’re interested in. Not in a field that you think will impress others or the admissions committee. Another common misconception is that you must complete your undergraduate major in a science specialty, but that is not the case. Even though majors in the biological sciences are the most common major of medical school matriculants, there are so many other majors represented such as humanities, math and statistics and physical sciences. It’s important to choose a major that will highlight your strengths and showcase your passion and motivation for pursuing medicine. For example, if you have a passion for both medicine and business, and you choose to attend one of the best undergraduate business schools and complete the required prerequisite coursework, you will impress the admissions committee with a great academic background in your favored major, i.e., business, and with your ability to balance the rigors of business program with the necessary premed coursework.

Prerequisites

Whether you’re still deciding between DO vs MD, most medical schools require the completion of several science courses with lab work along with a few humanities, social science, and language requirements.

The following tabs show the most common prerequisites for medical school.

Mandatory courses

These are the mandatory prerequisite courses for most medical schools:

  • BIOLOGY2 semesters (with lab)
  • CHEMISTRY2 semesters (with lab)
  • PHYSICS2 semesters (with lab)
  • MATH1 semester
  • ENGLISH2 semesters

Additional/Recommended Courses

These are the courses medical schools recommend you take, though they aren’t usually mandatory:

  • BIOCHEMISTRY(in addition to Chemistry requirement) – 1 semester (with lab)
  • PSYCHOLOGY(or another social science) – 1 semester
  • PHYSIOLOGY OR ANATOMY1 semester

The specific requirements vary from school to school. For example, some schools require both Organic and Inorganic Chemistry coursework as part of the mandatory Chemistry course prerequisites. Others may allow you to substitute Biochemistry for one of the chemistry courses. Similarly, some schools may ask for specific Math courses such as Statistics or Calculus. Some schools, such as UCLA medical school do not require the completion of any specific prerequisite courses but do have recommended courses. It’s important to remember the difference between required and recommended coursework. If your application is missing the former, your file will not even be reviewed by the admissions committee, while if you do not take some recommended courses, your application will still be considered. However, we strongly encourage you take as many of recommended courses as possible. While they may not be required by your chosen school, you want to ensure that you fit the profile of a successful matriculant as much as possible. 

Those enrolled in science majors likely have many, if not all, required courses included in their curriculum. For those studying non-science majors, it’s important to elect to complete these courses as they are probably not included in the curriculum.

Another tip I can give you is that not all prerequisites for medical school are created equally, meaning that they vary greatly between medical schools. Whether you’re applying to all your local state schools and the easiest Ivy League schools to get into, or targeting only top Ivy League med schools, don’t assume that just because one medical school requires x, y, and z, that another school will also require that.

That other school may actually require a, b and c, in addition to x, y, and z, so never assume. Always check the prerequisites at each medical school you want to apply to so you can make sure you’ve completed what you need to apply. One of the biggest reasons students take a year off before applying to medical school is because they failed to complete the required coursework in their undergraduate studies. Due to this gap, these students often fall into the non-traditional medical school applicant category. While some students enroll in postbac premedical programs or special master’s programs to complete these missed courses, it’s a time-consuming and costly way to complete what could have been completed during your undergraduate studies.

Medical school requirements: Extracurriculars

Extracurriculars for medical school are one of the best ways to set yourself apart from other candidates. It shows the admissions committee who you are a person, what steps you’ve taken to become knowledgeable about the profession, what motivates you to do what you do, and of course, why you want to be a doctor. Keep in mind that everyone applying to medical school wants to be a doctor, it’s your responsibility to prove to the admissions committee why you would be a great doctor and how your experiences have solidified your decision to pursue medicine, instead of another field. In addition to writing a diversity essay for medical school as part of your medical school secondary essays,  TMDSAS personal characteristics essay, or optional essay for TMDSAS, your list of extracurriculars are also a great way to show the admissions committee what aspects of diversity you can bring to the entering class.

Remember that your medical school resume has to be more updated, in-depth, and targeted than your generic high school resume. That doesn’t mean you can’t mention significant high school experiences in your application. For example, a lot of universities and hospitals offer high-impact summer programs for high school students that might be worth highlighting. When trying to decide what to include, consider how that experience influenced your personal journey to medical school. Each experience you have has shaped you as a person, helped you grow, and develop new skills and knowledge that you can share with your peers. No two people have had the exact same experiences, and even if they had, each would take something different from it. So in this way, your experiences become unique entities that the admissions committee wants to learn about. They want to hear your own personal story that answers the tell me about yourself medical school prompt and discusses how you first became interested in medicine, how you gained experiences in the field to develop your interest, and how that interest changed from possibility to absolution. For example if you took a gap year before medical school, highlight what you gained from your premed gap year jobs throughout your application. If you ever presented research papers or leadership talks at conferences or meetings, highlight the topic, the research you put into it, and the impact you made with your presentation – for example, if others used your work to come up with new projects or research materials. Additionally, remember that persuasive speech topics can actually be great source materials for your essays.

Clinical

While many extracurriculars are important for medical school, clinical experience is one that holds a lot of value to the admissions committee. Clinical experience includes hands-on experiences in a clinical setting and one of the most valuable to add to your application is shadowing a doctor. There is no better way to test drive your career as a physician than by tagging along as a physician completes all their normal daily tasks. You’ll understand how each hour of the day is spent as you silently observe a physician interact with patients, complete reports, order tests and even perform surgeries. Once you know how to ask to shadow a doctor and how many hours of shadowing are required for medical school, you’ll find the process easy.

So, which doctors should you shadow? Well, this totally depends on which area of medicine interests you. If you’re interested in family medicine, try reaching out to your own family doctor or the doctors of members of your family, this way, you’re gaining experience that is 100% relevant to your interests. If you have a few different interests, don’t be afraid to shadow doctors in a variety of different fields. It’s perfectly acceptable to sample different areas to help you hone in on your true interests. The same applies if you have absolutely no idea which area of medicine to pursue.

Don’t worry, the admissions committee does not expect you to know exactly which area of medicine you want to study. What’s important is that you want to become a doctor and you can show them that you’ve taken the necessary steps to get there. Show them that you’ve put yourself in a physician’s shoes, and enjoyed the fast-paced environment, the stress, the long hours, the connection with patients, or whatever other aspects you may observe and experience. Many of us have had dreams of becoming different professions, but sometimes when we try them we realize they’re not for us at all. That’s why it’s so important to gain this shadowing experience, to try it, and hopefully know that it’s right for you.

Shadowing experience isn’t the only type of clinical experience you can partake in. Any other volunteer or employment opportunities that place you in a clinical setting is excellent will serve your purpose. Admissions committees want to see that you have real-life experience in the field of medicine which can be completed in a variety of facilities such as clinics, hospitals, and medical offices. Having a variety of different experiences is highly valuable, just be sure that you devote time to each experience, and don’t just try to stack up multiple experiences in an effort to impress the admissions committees. Always participate in valuable clinical experiences that align with your own interests and passions. When you select experiences that you want to put into your AMCAS Work and Activities section or highlight items in your AMCAS Work and Activities most meaningful experiences, make sure to choose quality over quantity and show what you learned from each experience.

Research

Nearly every student applying to medical school has clinical experience to add to their application, but not all of them have research experience. That’s right, another area for you to potentially stand out! Some schools, like Stanford medical school, are heavily focused on research, requiring students to possess this experience to be considered for admission. Normally, schools that are research-based have this incorporated in their mission statement and core values. To be considered competitive at these institutions, you need to demonstrate your desire and motivation for research. There are so many different ways to gain research experience, you could work as a lab assistant or technician in a clinical setting, research facility or even in the field. To help you get these positions, always accompany your job application or CV with a research assistant cover letter. Now, don’t simply apply to research-focused medical schools if you have no desire or interest in research. As always, tailor your experiences to your interests and apply to medical schools that are in line with your short and long term goals.

If you want to apply to joint MD-PhD programs, you absolutely need to add research experience to your box of requirements. These programs are specifically designed for students with a passion for medicine, but also a strong passion for research. Graduates from these programs will be trained as physician-scientists, ready to tackle the mechanisms behind disease, conduct independent or joint research, and strive towards making discoveries in the field of medicine. In reviewing your research experience, the admissions committees will be looking at your level of participation, your reasoning as to the importance of the research, and what lessons you learned from the experience. Try to gain hands-on experience conducting research by testing hypotheses, analyzing results and contributing to reports or scientific papers.

Keep in mind that if you apply to MD PhD vs MD programs, you’ll have to complete additional essays, the significant research experience essay and the MD PhD essay. These essays are solely designed to learn about your extensive research experiences, so be sure to demonstrate your commitment to research through a variety of meaningful experiences. Regardless of whether or not you apply to joint MD-PhD programs, meaningful research is a valuable experience to include in your med applications. Ensure that you understand the ins and outs of any research you participate in. Regardless of your level of contribution, if you’re invited to an interview, the interviewers will expect you to have a strong grasp on the research, its significance, and major findings.

Volunteer

What is one of the many important qualities a physician should possess? The selfless dedication for helping others which is why service orientation is one of the core competencies demonstrated by successful medical school students. Patients put a lot of trust and faith into doctors, and it’s a physician’s responsibility to provide the best quality of care while respecting patient autonomy. A physician’s day to day life requires putting their patients first, working long hours and skipping breaks, all to best meet patient’s needs. Therefore, when proving to the admissions committee that you’re suitable for a lifelong career as a medical doctor, you must be able to demonstrate your commitment to serving others and this is where your volunteer experience becomes relevant.

Unlike the aforementioned experiences, volunteer experience does not have to be completed in a specific field or setting. Rather, you can participate in any type of volunteer experience, as long as you can discuss why it’s significant, how it has or will help you in your pursuit of medicine, and what you took from the experience. Don’t think for a second that medical schools are going to take a gamble on applicants that can’t demonstrate that they really do care about their community and the public in general. Community service helps the admissions committees determine those that genuinely want to help others from those that are simply interested in the external rewards that come with being a doctor.

Try to look for volunteer activities that are well aligned with what you’re passionate about. For example, if you’re passionate about changing the lives of communities that don’t have proper access to medical care, seek out experiences that place you in that setting, where you can make a difference. If you want to improve the lives of the aging population, look for experiences in retirement and respite centers. Be sure that your experiences are true to what you’re trying to accomplish. Think about what you stand for and where you want to make a difference and go from there. How many volunteer hours for medical school you will need will differ from program to program. However, remember to make a long-term commitment and show genuine interest in whatever activity you choose to participate in. 

Medical school requirements: Letters of Recommendation

Anyone can say “I’m great at my job, I’m the top employee” but what would that individual’s supervisor say about them? Would they echo those claims or have something entirely different to say? Speaking with that individual’s supervisor is the only way to know for sure and this same principle applies to students applying to medical school. Letters of recommendation give the admissions committee insight into whether or not you’re as good or committed as you say you are. On average, schools require three medical school recommendation letters to accompany your application, however, this varies between schools so be sure you’re aware of the number of letters your school requires, who they must be from, and whether or not there is a maximum amount you can submit.

Medical school requirements: Secondary Applications

Secondary applications may or may not be required depending on the medical schools you apply to, and you may not always be given the opportunity to complete them. Some medical schools send out secondaries to every student that applies to their school, while others use primary applications as a way to screen which applicants should receive secondaries. So, what are secondary applications? They are applications that are sent to students to collect more information from them, usually information that was not already provided in the primary application. They often contain a handful of questions, known as prompts, that students must answer in essay form, and return to the admissions committees. For example, UCSD secondary applications contain two mandatory prompts whereas UCLA secondary applications have 10 different prompts that require answering.

The amount of time you’ll have to complete your secondary essays will vary between schools, but 2-4 weeks is fairly standard. As most students apply to 15-16 medical schools, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with an influx of secondaries to fill out, all at the same time, without much time to complete one, let alone a collection of them. It’s therefore important to plan in advance and begin completing your medical school secondary essays ahead of time.

Medical school requirements: GPA

There is no denying that your GPA is one of the more important aspects used to determine whether or not you’ll be invited to an interview, and in turn, offered acceptance. While it is possible to get into medical school with a low GPA, it’s a much more difficult path, requiring extremely strong performance in all other areas. Unfortunately, no matter how excellent the rest of your application is, if you don’t meet medical school GPA requirements, your application won’t receive further consideration. AMCAS calculates two different GPAs, your cumulative GPA, which is your overall GPA taking into account all courses you’ve taken, and your Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math (BCPM) GPA, also known as your science GPA.

While both GPAs are important, admissions committees are especially interested in your science GPA, and whether or not there is consistency between the two. For example, if your overall GPA is 3.8 but your science GPA is a 3.2, it will act as a red flag to the admissions committee, telling them that you may not be able to handle the difficulty of medical school science and math courses. It’s therefore important to focus intently on achieving the highest GPA possible. In addition to taking courses that meet the requirements for medical school, be sure to follow your passions and interests. Sometimes students attempt difficult courses that they are not good at and are not required, to try and impress the admissions committee. This tactic however often backfires because if you’re not good at a course, you’ll likely score poorer in it which will bring down your entire GPA.

Your GPA is an important tool you possess to help you when you’re wondering how many medical schools should I apply to, but also in determining which medical schools to target. Be sure to visit our medical school chance predictor and medical school acceptance rates blog to see how your stats compare to accepted individuals and where you have the best chances of getting accepted.

Medical school requirements: MCAT

While there are some medical schools that don’t require the MCAT, many schools do. The MCAT is one of the hardest tests you’ll complete in your lifetime, requiring seven and a half hours of focus and mental resilience. Nearly 1 in for 4 students have to re-take the MCAT, likely to try and improve their score to make them a more competitive applicant. Along with your GPA, the MCAT is an essential factor in determining your chances of acceptance.

In order to score well, you’ll have to put in some serious review and preparation time, do not underestimate the difficulty of this test. Firstly, take the MCAT diagnostic test to determine your baseline. Based on your results, you will be able to choose which disciplines you need to review. Next, you can create a thorough MCAT study schedule that will incorporate the content areas you need to cover and active study strategies. Make sure to include MCAT biology questions, MCAT physics equations, MCAT psychology questions, and MCAT chemistry questions in your review. Devise a strong MCAT CARS strategy and ensure you take a MCAT CARS practice test to help you prepare.

Want to know how you can score well on the MCAT?

It’s important to know when to start studying for the MCAT so you can create a study plan that’s best suited for you. Keep in mind that the mean MCAT score of last year’s matriculants was 511.5. The MCAT is offered at a variety of different times at different testing locations, but registration fills up quickly so ensure you’re aware of available MCAT test dates well in advance of when you plan to take it.

undergraduate requirements for medical school

Medical school degree requirement

What degree do you need to get into medical school?

Every U.S. medical school requires the completion of a four-year degree from an accredited college or university. It doesn’t matter whether your degree is a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.).

“Four-year” doesn’t mean that you have to be enrolled in school for four years. For instance, you can complete your degree sooner by taking more classes per term to graduate in three or three-and-a-half years. The degree requirement can also be satisfied through a BS/MD program.

In addition, your four-year degree must be obtained prior to matriculating into medical school. In other words, you can apply to medical school before you complete your degree. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to go straight through from undergrad.

Some students choose to pursue graduate degrees before matriculating into med school, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH) or Special Master’s program (SMP), but advanced degrees are not required.

Medical school course requirements

Medical school prerequisites are what vary most from school to school, which is why they’re so confusing. For instance, a certain set of courses might meet Harvard Medical School’s requirements but not another program’s.

The AAMC website lists the general courses you will need to complete for medical schools, as follows:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of English
  • Two years of chemistry, through organic chemistry

This list clarifies little, because it’s vague and incomplete. Most medical schools will require more than this, including more specific courses.

Given how hard it is to get into medical school, you’re strongly encouraged to aim beyond the aforementioned minimum requirements. In fact, we recommend that you take courses that will satisfy requirements for every med school, so that you’ll have the option to apply anywhere. Completing the following list of courses will help you do just that:

  • Biology: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters | Lab: One term
  • General chemistry: Lecture: One semester or two quarters | Lab: One term
  • Organic chemistry: Lecture: Two semesters or two quarters | Lab: One term
  • Biochemistry: Lecture: One term | Lab: Not required
  • Physics: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters | Lab: One term
  • Math: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters (must include calculus and statistics)
  • English: Lecture: Two semesters or three quarters (must include writing)

(Note: Certain science majors have additional course requirements.)

If you complete the courses above, you will meet every medical school’s requirements. The one other recommendation is that you take courses in arts, humanities, languages, literature, and social sciences, though there are no specific guidelines to follow. It’s not necessary that you take courses in all of these areas, but definitely aim to take courses in some.

As with your degree, you have to complete your prerequisites for medical school prior to matriculating to medical school. In other words, you can apply to medical school even if you have a few outstanding prerequisite courses to complete. So long as you get them all done before matriculation, you’ll be just fine.

Be aware that AP credits, even if accepted by your undergraduate institution, might not be permitted to satisfy certain medical schools’ requirements. Therefore, you should research the websites of schools you’re most interested in so that you’re not caught off guard by missing course work during your application cycle.

Medical school major requirements

Your premed major does not matter when it comes to medical school admissions.

As long as you complete all the prerequisites for medical school, you can major in anthropology, biology, chemistry, English, history, or physics. Most colleges and universities do not offer a separate premed major; therefore, it is not expected nor required.

Moreover, there is no such thing as a best premed major. All else being equal, an English major with a 3.8 overall GPA and 3.7 science GPA will be just as competitive of an applicant as a biochemistry major with the same stats.

Therefore, you should prioritize majoring in an area of interest, one that you feel you could do very well in. Going back to the previous example, it would be preferable to have a 3.8 overall GPA and 3.7 science GPA as an English major rather than have a 3.6 overall GPA and 3.6 science GPA as a physics major.

This might not seem fair, since certain majors are generally tougher than others. You might believe that, had you chosen an easier major, your GPA would be higher. (Some students also lament having a slightly lower GPA as a result of attending a notoriously difficult institution.) That’s where the MCAT, a standardized test, comes in. More on the MCAT in a moment.

We often get asked whether a double major or a minor boosts your odds of getting into med school. While some admissions committee members will likely admire your diverse interests and pursuits, we have not observed the presence or absence of a double major or a minor as a significant factor in medical school admissions. Therefore, you should pursue a double major or minor if you would like, but it would not likely make or break your application.

a level requirements for medicine

What A-levels do you need to become a doctor?

Are you an aspiring medic? If you’re planning to study medicine at university, make sure your A-level line-up keeps your options open when it comes to applying to medical schools

If you want to study medicine, it’s crucial that you pick the right A-levels. Entry requirements do vary, but to get a medical degree you must study chemistry at A-level. 

There are also certain other essential qualifications you should be looking at depending on the particular university you want to go to. For example, some unis require you to have a biology A-Level too.

Your grades in these subjects are usually going to have to be high as well – medicine is highly competitive. These will vary depending on the uni, but generally you need to be looking at AAA. 

A-level subjects to study medicine

What A-levels are essential to study medicine?

As mentioned, chemistry is a must-have. 

Other must-haves depend on the uni, but it makes sense to assume you’ll need to have studied another science. Here’s a good idea of what might work:

  • chemistry, biology and either maths or physics (or both) will keep all the medical schools open to you
  • if you don’t take maths or physics but do take chemistry and biology, it will keep open the vast majority
  • if you don’t take biology, but do take chemistry and one from maths or physics, fewer medical schools will accept you.

What A-levels are useful to have to study medicine?

Critical thinking will help with section three of the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), but it is better to take this as a fifth AS-level rather than as a replacement for biology, maths or physics. Read more about the BMAT and other admissions tests further ahead.

Alternative qualifications to study medicine

If you’re studying Scottish Highers or International Baccalaureate, entry requirements will be communicated slightly differently. Meanewhile, the Welsh Baccalaureate is slightly more divisive – it might be a good idea to speak to the university you want to apply to, to see what their stance is. 

Examples of university entry requirements for medicine

Below are a range of Bachelor of Medicine courses offered by different universities and the A-level requirements they ask for, for September 2022 entrants (as of November 2021).

You should always check the entry requirements of your chosen university course when you come to apply, but this gives you a good idea of what to expect. You’ll generally have to achieve the highest grades to study medicine.

University of Birmingham: A*AA at A-level, including chemistry and biology. Predicted AAA at A-level. 

University of Cambridge: A*A*A at A-level. Applicants must have A-level passes in chemistry and one of biology, physics or mathematics. Most applicants have at least three science/mathematics A-levels and some Colleges might ask for this or for particular subjects. 

Lancaster University: AAA or AAB plus EPQ. Must include two of biology, chemistry or psychology. 

A doctor’s words of wisdom for applicants

Make sure you have some work experience in the medical field to show that you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

Don’t forget extracurricular activities to show that you’re a wonderful, well-rounded human being too.

Interviews were painful, so if you’re the type of person who gets nervous for these, prep well!Jodie Nguyen | Doctor

Admissions tests for medicine

UCAT, BMAT and GAMSAT are admissions tests you might be required to take to successfully apply to a medicine course at a university. As mentioned above, medicine is a highly competitive subject so admissions teams will use these results to help distinguish between the strongest candidates.

Different universities will ask for different tests, so make sure you know which one you’ll need to take.

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