Medical School Requirements for Courses: What Do You Need?

October 13, 2023


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 6/30/23

Gearing up for applying to medical school? You’re in the right place! Follow along to learn the course requirements for med school.

All medical schools have a set of different standards and expectations about what they want when it comes to admissions cutoffs and minimum requirements. Medical schools even have minimum requirements for GPAs and MCAT scores.

Completion of medical school course requirements can single-handedly determine your eligibility for med school. Even once students meet their MCAT and GPA requirements, other factors like research and clinical experiences can come into play. This is why it is so important to think about medical school class requirements during your undergrad years.

Truthfully, it’s not easy to get a handle on what’s required to enter medical school. What are medical school prerequisite courses? What classes do you need for med school?  In this blog, you’ll find everything you need to know about med school course requirements, including tips for choosing the best undergrad courses.

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Finding Med School Course Requirements

Many schools have different course requirements, and keeping up with them can be difficult if you’re planning to apply to several med schools.

The good news? Undergraduate requirements for medical school are listed on the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) website. Medical schools often focus on chemistry, physics, biology, and mathematics. However, medical school requirements vary.

Purpose of Medical School Course Requirements

The most important requirement to meet when applying to medical school is strong academic performance. Prioritizing your studies is important, and you will need to find a balance between your extracurriculars and your studies.

The purpose of medical school course requirements is to ensure that you have a firm grasp of topics that will be presented to you when you are in med school. These courses develop your critical thinking skills, foundations of medical knowledge, and help you prep for the MCAT. So, what courses do medical schools require? 

It is important for you to aim above the needed requirements to get accepted. We recommend you take these courses to satisfy general medical school course requirements: 

  • General Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Math
  • Organic Chemistry
  • English

A good first step is to research the schools you would like to apply to and determine their minimum requirements before enrolling in courses. Once you’re in your undergrad, a great tip is to also keep in contact with your school's pre-med advisor. They will be able to point you in the right direction and ensure you’re taking the right courses.

Common Med School Course Requirements

Most schools do agree on basic elements for pre-medical education. Here are some universal pre-med requirements:


Organic chemistry provides a basis for understanding imbalances within the body. Studying chemistry is also the building block to understanding biochemistry.

Chemistry is important for medical students to learn because many contributions to health care have been made possible by the study of it. The development of new drugs involves chemical analysis of compounds, which is what you’ll be learning about in your chemistry classes.

Chemistry also studies and deals with the composition, properties, and structures of substances. By studying the transformations certain chemicals undergo, students can learn about the energy released or absorbed during these processes.


A basic understanding of biology is a necessity for medical school.

Learning about genetics and the framework for life is integral to achieving success in your desired field. Biology examines the function, structure, growth, evolution, origin, and distribution of living things. Biology also examines how species come into existence and how they exist with one another in natural environments.

Biochemistry courses are also important to take and are often required alongside bio, physics and math. As mentioned before, it’s important for you to go above and beyond these requirements. Even if biochem isn’t required by your target school, you will want to make sure that you’re over-prepared just in case.


Most schools require a semester of math, but what math classes do you need for medical school? Make sure you also have a deep understanding of statistics and basic math. As an aspiring health professional, math is important to understand in order to solve complex problems.

It is important for future physicians to study math because almost every medical school requires you to take physics and organic chemistry. Both require a fair bit of calculus-based knowledge. Taking calculus is also good for building your problem-solving skills and will strengthen your overall comprehension of physics and chemistry.‍


‍Studying physics introduces medical concepts such as laws surrounding volume and pressure. You must have a grasp of physics to understand how the body operates. Physics encompasses the study of the universe from small particles to the entirety of the universe. These courses will teach you how to understand how the universe behaves.

Minimum course requirements include at least a year of each of these courses plus additional related lab work. English courses are also less commonly required, but many medical schools want you to have decent writing skills. Therefore, consider taking an English or writing course to enhance these skills.

It is ideal if you complete these prerequisite courses for medical school while in college. If you don’t complete these courses during college, you will have to take them through a post-bac program. This route is much more time-consuming and will also cost a lot more.

Course Requirements for Top Med Schools

Here are the prerequisite course requirements for the top 5 med schools in the US. 

Top Med School Prerequisite Course Requirements Recommended Courses
Harvard University Biology
Behavioral Science
Interdisciplinary courses that complement required subject content
Johns Hopkins University Biology
Humanities, Social and Behavioral Science
Taking advanced courses in related subjects at their four year institution
UPenn Biology
Behavioral Disciplines
Columbia University Biology
Math and Behavioral Sciences
Duke University Cellular Biology
Expository Writing
Math and English

As you can see, the course requirements between each school vary. It’s important to always do your research while planning your undergrad courses. 

‍Additional Course Recommendations‍

Extracurriculars and elective courses are important to get involved with and are a great way to show that you’re different from other candidates. Showing the admissions committee that you’re a whole and complete person, on top of what you have already achieved, will be impressive.

Other courses you can take to help you in med school include:

  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology courses

But keep in mind that you need to focus most of your energy on your universal, core prerequisite requirements: 

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics 

Medical school prerequisites are selected by the program you choose, so there are classes that all schools don’t require. To find what classes you need for med school, look at the MSAR website.

Tips for Choosing Your Undergrad Coursework

Science majors are more common in the medical world. However, medical schools are interested in well-rounded students. So, if you are a science major, it will be a good idea to take some electives in the humanities. If you aren’t majoring in science, you will need to take core science subjects.

The science classes you take will be weighted with more importance since there will be less to base off of. For example, if you're choosing to major in English and not a science-based program such as biochemistry, your science courses will be weighted with more importance.

When choosing your undergraduate coursework, we recommend following these tips:

1. Take Courses You Know You Will Excel In‍

There will be a variety of pre-med majors in the applicant pool. Therefore, take courses that you are interested in. You will naturally excel in these courses because you will be more engaged.

Admissions officials see majors like business and performing arts all the time, and nothing is really off the table — as long as you do well. Make sure you’re putting more energy into your biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics courses, though. These courses will take up a significant amount of your time. 

It is also important that you choose your electives wisely. For example, if you have a stacked course load, you wouldn’t want to choose another course that would add to the stress. Instead, choose something lighter to ensure your GPA remains high. ‍

2. Choose Courses That Allow You to Get Outside of the Classroom

You will need to gain medical experience, and this experience is extremely valuable to admissions. Hospitals and clinics have volunteer positions that you can apply to that will assist you on your learning journey.

Take electives where you can be placed in labs to learn hands-on techniques and watch experts. Admissions committees want you to have research experience. It is important that you get some of this experience in your undergrad years.

Having research experience can deepen your understanding and knowledge of what you learn in school. Understanding how hypotheses are formed and challenged is an important skill to have and will enhance your medical school experience.

Research also puts you in an environment that encourages you to understand links between inconsistencies and ideas. Your ability to conduct research is something you must work on and build up over time.

3. Consider the Timing of the Classes Required for Med School

Before you sign up for any classes, consider the realities of taking the classes required for med school and their levels of difficulty. For example, U.S. News & World Report recommends avoiding two “heavy science” courses with labs in your freshman year, as it’s often overwhelming for new students. 

Some schools may encourage you to take specific courses during your freshman year, but keep a level head and think about the timing of your courses. To do this, create a chart that lists the courses required to get into medical school across all four years and the summer of your undergraduate degree. 

Creating a chart listing the classes you need to take for med school will help you stay organized and plan when you want to complete specific classes. The latter point, in particular, is useful as you can structure your schedule so you won’t have to do several challenging classes at once. 

4. Make Sure They Are the Classes You Need to Take for Medical School

While this point seems obvious, it’s an extremely important one, as the undergraduate classes required for medical school vary between programs. 

One program, for example, may ask you to complete one semester of calculus, while another may request two. So, double-check what courses are required to get into medical school and rinse and repeat the process for each program you want to attend. 

How Your Pre-Med Advisor Can Help

If you’re unsure about which classes to take, what subject to major in, or how you should structure your schedule, your pre-med advisor can help. Your pre-med advisor can help you: 

  • Change your major or minor
  • Identify medical career paths and specialties aligned with your interests
  • Prepare you for applying to medical school
  • Get ready for the MCAT exam
  • Improve your study skills 
  • Discover scholarships and internship opportunities

Pre-med advisors can also help sequence your courses so you don’t take the hardest ones simultaneously. Speaking to your advisor about the undergraduate classes required for medical school is extremely useful if you want to maintain a competitive GPA and stay on top of your schedule. 

Pre-med advisors are usually easy to contact and happy to meet you and answer your questions. For example, Stanford University’s students can book a one-on-one appointment with their pre-med advisor or attend weekly drop-in hours to discuss their queries. 

Med School Course Requirement FAQs

Below, we have listed several commonly asked questions and answers to help you understand more about the prerequisite courses for medical school. 

1. In Which Order Should I Take my Prerequisites?

Always spread out the difficulty of your courses. You don’t want to have a semester of just electives or mandatory courses. Finding the perfect balance is required to obtain good grades.

2. Why are Medical School Prerequisites Needed?

They are needed because admissions committees need to know you have a proper knowledge base before acceptance. The medical school curriculum is rigorous, and you must be well-rounded to excel.‍

3. Do Medical Schools Have an Undergrad Major Requirement?

The answer is no, and medical schools don’t care which major you choose. Students can major in non-science disciplines. Medical schools are looking for candidates who are diverse and well-rounded. Take the major that interests you the most.

4. Do You Need Calculus for Med School?

Whether or not you need to take calculus for med school depends on your individual target schools requirements. That said, taking calculus can help you prepare for med school and it may be the safest bet to take it. 

5. Is Biochemistry Required for Medical School?

Yes, many medical schools require biochemistry as a prerequisite course. That said, not all med schools have a biochem requirement, so make sure to double check the requirements of your target schools before planning your course schedule. 

6. Do the Classes Required for Med School Include Physics? 

Many med school applicants ask, “Do medical schools require physics?” and the answer is usually yes. However, several schools in the United States don’t require physics, so ensure you research what classes you need to complete for med school. 

7. What Classes Are Required for Medical School?

The classes needed for medical school vary between programs, so do your research and find your preferred institution’s specific requirements. That said, biology, chemistry, physics, math, and english are almost always required. 

Choose the Right Courses for Med School, Change Your Future

Follow your passion and choose courses that you’re most likely to succeed in. We understand that all the requirements you need to get into medical school can be daunting. The most important thing to remember is to keep your GPA as high as possible. Your main focus should be on your academics — everything else should come after.

The courses you should take throughout your undergrad are: Organic Chemistry, Chemistry, Psychology, Genetics, Calculus, Physics, Biology, and English. These are the courses that medical school admissions are looking to see if you’ve completed.

Focusing on these courses and getting good grades will boost your chance of getting into the medical school of your choice.

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