What Are the Best Pre-Med Majors?

May 6, 2024
8 min read
Contents

”Jonathan

Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 5/6/24

If you’re unsure what pre-med major to choose, read on to learn about the best pre-med majors, medical school admissions stats by major, and more! 

The term "pre-med" is thrown around so often that it's easy to believe it's a standalone degree. In reality, pre-med is a track, not a major. It's a collection of courses and extracurricular activities designed to prepare you for the rigors of medical school.

The good news is that you can choose any major and still be a competitive applicant for med school, as long as you complete the necessary prerequisites. This freedom allows you to explore your interests and passions while laying the groundwork for your future in medicine.

But with so many options available, deciding on the best pre-med major can feel like navigating a maze blindfolded. Fear not! In this article, we'll dive deep into the world of pre-med majors, exploring the various options available to you. Get ready to take the first step toward your dream of becoming a physician!  

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What Is a Pre-Med Major?

A pre-med major is a course of study that prepares undergraduate students for medical school. Students typically choose a major in the sciences, such as biology or chemistry, which helps them fulfill the prerequisite coursework for medical school

If you want to be a doctor in the United States, you’ll have to go to college and obtain a bachelor’s degree before attending medical school. Being a pre-med means following a college track to meet all the prerequisites for medical school, regardless of your chosen major. 

So, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to get a degree in biology or any natural or health science to get into medical school; you can major in humanities if that’s your genuine interest. Your major isn't that significant as long as you meet med-school prerequisites. However, according to the AAMC, some pre-med majors enjoy a higher acceptance rate than others.

The Most Popular Pre-Med Majors By Number of Applicants and Matriculants

According to the data, biological sciences is the most popular pre-med major, as 57% of MCAT test takers have a biology background. Other subjects that fall into different categories are in second place.

Pre-Med Major Total Applicants Total Matriculants
Biological Sciences 30,054 13,050
Humanities 1,661 861
Math & Statistics 344 180
Other 9,064 3,767
Physical Sciences 4,228 2,094
Social Sciences 4,844 2,065
Specialized & Health Sciences 2,382 964
All Applicants 52,577 22,981

Best Pre-Med Majors Based on the Acceptance Rate

Based on the acceptance rate, the best pre-med majors would be humanities and math, at 52%. Even though they both make up a smaller number of MCAT applicants, their acceptance rates are well above the average.

Medical school acceptance rates by major are as follows:

  • Biological Sciences - 43% 
  • Humanities - 52%
  • Math and Statistics - 52%
  • Other - 42%
  • Physical Sciences - 50%
  • Social Sciences - 43%
  • Specialized Health Sciences - 40%

According to these figures, three study areas receive higher admissions rates than other pre-med majors. These are the only three groups who are admitted to medical school at a rate greater than 44%. 

  • Math and Statistics
  • Humanities
  • Physical Science 

Does this mean these three are good majors for pre-med students or even the best pre-med degrees? While humanities and math majors may enjoy higher acceptance rates than biological sciences majors, the number of applicants in these fields is much lower than in all others. 

This might explain why more students are accepted out of the total number of applicants with a humanities or math major. Of course, admissions committees consider several factors in the decision process.

Best Pre-Med Majors Based on the Average MCAT Score

The best pre-med major based on the average MCAT score of matriculants is math and statistics at 516.1. Even though it has the lowest number of test takers, math and statistics could be your stepping stone into med school.

Your MCAT scores can make or break your medical school application. They serve as an indicator of your readiness for the rigor of medical school. The table below outlines the average MCAT score of medical school applicants and matriculants by undergraduate major:

Major Applicant MCAT score Matriculant MCAT Score
Biological Sciences 506.4 511.5
Humanities 509 513.1
Math and Statistics 511.9 516.1
Other 505.1 511.2
Physical Sciences 509.5 513.8
Social Sciences 505.8 511.6
Specialized HS 503.3 510.6
All Majors 506.3 511.7

Interestingly, students who pursue math and statistics, humanities, and physical sciences as pre-med majors tend to achieve higher scores on the MCAT than those who take other majors. While there are exceptions, these three majors are definitely good majors for pre-med students. 

GPA by Undergrad Major 

Your GPA is integral to your success; the chances of being admitted to the top medical schools decrease with a lower GPA. Your GPA is split into two categories: your non-science GPA and your BCPM GPA. 

BCPM GPA 

Your BCPM GPA is your GPA for your biology, chemistry, physics, and math (BCPM) classes. Whether you’re a business or biology major, your performance in your BCPM classes is important. 

Christina Grabowski, the Associate Dean for Admissions and Enrollment at the Heersink School of Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says, “We are going to look at how you did in science coursework specifically.”

In your AMCAS application, all courses that you classify as “Biology,” “Chemistry,” “Physics,” and “Math” will count toward your BCPM GPA. Some examples of courses that fall under these headings include:

Biology 

  • Cell Biology
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Biophysics

Chemistry 

  • Biochemistry

Physics

Mathematics 

  • Statistics

Brown University notes that “Application services will often include neuroscience courses under biology, but they do not include courses in psychology, cognitive science, geology, or computer science (engineering is usually a separate classification).” 

Ensure you know which classes contribute to your BCPM GPA. If you’re struggling to find which classes fall under which category, the AAMC provides an AMCAS course classification guide

Let’s look at the average non-science and BCPM GPA of medical school matriculants:

Major GPA Science GPA Non-Science GPA Total
Biological Sciences 3.69 3.85 3.75
Humanities 3.64 3.83 3.74
Math and Statistics 3.76 3.83 3.78
Other 3.68 3.84 3.77
Physical Sciences 3.72 3.80 3.75
Social Sciences 3.62 3.80 3.71
Specialized Health Sciences 3.64 3.84 3.74
All Majors 3.68 3.84 3.75

Medical schools often set a BCPM GPA requirement, so ensure you do your research. For example, the Heersink School of Medicine requires out-of-state applicants to achieve a BCPM GPA of 3.3 and in-state applicants to achieve a 3.0 BCPM GPA. 

Best Pre-Med Majors

The MCAT is taken by around 53,000 students every year, with many specializing in different majors such as science, writing, and mathematics. Some of these majors have a higher acceptance rate than others, which can help you secure your spot in med school.

The required coursework can appear science-loaded and a bit overwhelming. But don’t fall into the trap of believing that the best major for you is one that helps you satisfy all requirements. There are plenty of options besides science, such as: 

  • Humanities
  • Arts
  • Math and statistics
  • Physical sciences
  • Social sciences

Out of 52,577 MCAT test takers, only 22,981 matriculate into college, which puts the average acceptance rate at 44%.

The top colleges for medical majors offer many subjects. Let’s evaluate different fields and what they have to offer.

Major Avg. MCAT Score
Biological Sciences 506
Humanities 509
Math and Statistics 512
Physical Sciences 510
Social Sciences 506
Other 505

Biological Sciences

Due to the strong similarities between this area of study and the medical field, it’s no surprise that most medical school applicants major in biological sciences. This major encompasses biology, biochemistry, and neuroscience, among the most popular disciplines. 

Biological sciences majors learn about animals, the human body, the environment, and cells. Undergraduates majoring in these fields learn about the evolving areas of medicine and gain a strong foundation in science. Biological science majors represent 57% of all applicants and have an acceptance rate of 43%, falling just under the overall average.

Humanities

Humanities majors are another excellent option. Comprised of only 3.3% of applicants, humanities majors have an above-average acceptance rate of 52%.

Students majoring in music, writing, world languages, or philosophy are often excellent communicators and critical thinkers. They are likely to develop a strong bond with the human element of medicine. 

Math and Statistics

Math and statistics majors develop excellent analytical and quantitative skills critical for success as a medical student. Believe it or not, according to data from the AAMC, only 0.6% of applicants are math and statistics majors. 

With an acceptance rate of around 52%, which is above the average rate, math and statistics majors are excellent options.

Physical Sciences

Chemistry, genetics, and physics are the most common majors in the physical sciences area of study. These pre-med majors don’t have a clear advantage over others. However,  they are science-heavy and can prepare you for medical school’s rigorous curriculum. 

Applicants majoring in the physical sciences make up 8% of all candidates and enjoy a higher-than-average acceptance rate of 50%. So, if you’re interested in the physical sciences, this may be the easiest pre-med major for you. 

Social Sciences

Social science majors, such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology, offer ideas on human behavior and society. These majors can help develop critical thinking, research, and communication skills that are valuable in the medical field.

Social science majors make up just 9% of MCAT test takers, and their acceptance rate is 43%, falling just short of the overall average. While not as popular as biological sciences majors, social science majors still make up a significant portion of medical school applicants.

Others

Other areas of study include specialized health sciences and social sciences, which make up 17% of total MCAT test takers. Social science majors — in subjects like psychology, history, and sociology — have a 42% acceptance rate. Those who major in the health sciences have a 39% acceptance rate. 

Despite its perception as one of the ​​best pre-med degrees, specialized health sciences have one of the lowest acceptance rates. 

Dr. McGregor, a former Harvard Medical School admissions committee member, says that “over the last 15 years or so, there has been more emphasis on balance, meaning that premedical students now need to focus on these foundational biological courses and the humanities.” 

Now that the MCAT assesses your understanding of physical or biological sciences, critical thinking skills, and psychosocial foundations, having a broad, interdisciplinary academic background is more helpful than ever. 

Take our quiz for a simple way to figure out the best academic path for your medical school journey. It's like having a friendly chat to help you find the perfect major that matches your interests and strengths.

How to Choose the Best Pre-Med Major?

To choose the best pre-med major, you must ask yourself personal questions and not think exclusively about the coursework you must complete. Medical schools recognize the value of well-rounded candidates, so they are more frequently accepting applicants with humanities backgrounds.

Many prospective doctors have a strong interest in the sciences, but you might not be passionate about biology and chemistry. Instead, you might be drawn to philosophy, gender studies, or psychology, and that’s totally fine! They are all good majors for pre-med students. 

Being a physician involves much more than merely knowing about the human body. A remarkable doctor must also possess: 

  • Strong ethics
  • A sense of responsibility
  • Humanity
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Good interpersonal communication skills 

So, maybe studying the humanities might not be a bad idea after all. Remember that most medical school applicants are science majors, which inevitably makes a humanities major stand out.

You should also consider your strengths. This might involve more self-reflection, but being aware of your strengths can impact your decisions and confidence. Taking a look at your high school career can help you with that. Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What subject did you earn the highest grade for? 
  • What was your favorite subject? 
  • Were those two the same?
  • What subject was the least difficult to study for an exam? 

If your best class was math, for example, you might consider a major in this field since there’s a high chance your GPA will be in good standing throughout college. On the other hand, let’s say your best subject is biology. However, you’re really interested in literature, and you would like to expand your knowledge in that field. 

This is a somewhat complicated situation, but remember that medical school is your ultimate goal. You should think about the best pre-med major to get you there;  you might want to consider choosing biology. 

That way, you’ll ensure no unexpected obstacles stand in your way. You can always take literature courses to indulge your interests! To recap: you should choose a pre-med major that

  • You’re passionate about
  • You’re interested in
  • You’re confident you’ll excel and maintain a strong GPA

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Choosing the right pre-med major can be difficult, but it's important to steer clear of common mistakes. By doing so, you'll pave a smoother path toward medical school that aligns with your interests and strengths. Let’s get into them. 

  • Ignoring Your Passions: Don't brush off what truly interests you. While there are traditional pre-med paths, choosing a major you truly love can add depth and satisfaction to your journey.
  • Know Your Strengths: Take a moment to reflect on where you shine academically. Choosing a major that plays to your strengths can make the coursework feel less like a mountain to climb.
  • It's Not Just About GPA: While grades matter, don't make GPA your only focus. Balance it with what you love and where you excel.
  • Diversify Your Skill Set: Medical schools value candidates with diverse backgrounds, so don't limit yourself. Explore humanities or social sciences to enrich your profile and stand out as a well-rounded applicant.
  • Think Outside the Box: Offbeat majors like humanities or arts offer valuable skills for medicine, such as empathy and critical thinking, often overlooked but essential for success in the field.
  • Do Your Homework: Before you commit, check out what each med school prefers in terms of majors. It might prevent you from having to make a last-minute change later on.
  • Extracurriculars Matter Too: Remember, it's not just about what you study, but what you do outside the classroom. Get involved in activities that show off your passion for medicine and leadership. They can be great additions to your pre-med resume.
  • Seek Some Wisdom: Don't hesitate to tap into the wisdom of advisors or mentors. They've been around the block and can offer some solid advice for your journey.

By keeping these points in mind, you'll be better equipped to choose a pre-med major that sets you up for success while staying true to yourself.

Prerequisites for Medical School Admissions

There are no easy pre-med majors, as you will have to complete rigorous classes. 

In general, candidates for medical school need to complete the following coursework to apply:

  • Organic chemistry: two semesters with lab
  • Inorganic chemistry: two semesters with lab
  • Biology: two semesters with lab
  • Physics: two semesters with lab
  • English: two semesters
  • Math: two semesters
  • Biochemistry: one semester 

While these are the most common prerequisites, your required coursework might vary slightly from school to school. It’s essential to check the requirements for every medical school you’re applying to early on in college. That way, you’ll be on the right track to completing all courses from the start. 

Apart from required coursework, students aiming to apply to medical school need a strong GPA and good MCAT scores. Data suggests that the higher both scores are, the more likely you will be to get accepted. However, it’s possible to make it to medical school with one stronger score than the other. 

FAQs: Best Undergrad Majors to Get Into Medical School

Deciding the best majors for med school can be difficult, so we’ve put together several questions and answers to help you decide on the best pre-med degree. 

1. Should I Choose a Major Based on Med School Prerequisites?

Choosing a major solely based on medical school prerequisites is a short-term solution. While a biology major may help satisfy many requirements, a broad academic background and a strong understanding of several fields can be advantageous in the long run.

2. What Is the Most Common Pre-Med Major for Medical School?

Biology is the most common pre-med major, followed by psychology. However, the acceptance rates for these majors are slightly below average.

3. Do the Best Majors for Med School Have Higher Acceptance Rates?

Despite slight differences in acceptance rates between humanities (52%) and biological sciences (43%), the data indicates no clear advantage due to the significant difference in the number of applicants (3.3% for humanities and 57% for biological sciences out of all applicants).

4. What Pre-Med Majors Do Medical Schools Prefer?

Medical schools do not have a preference for undergraduate majors. Applicants must meet all the requirements, complete the required coursework, and possess a strong GPA and MCAT score.

5. What’s the Easiest Pre-Med Major for Medical School? 

For the most clear path, biological sciences includes several majors like neuroscience and molecular biology that will overlap with med school. Many students choose this path as it is the most straightforward.

6. What Is the Best Major for a Pre-Med Student? 

Many students choose biological sciences as it overlaps with med school. However, the best pre-med major is one that you love and can excel in while fulfilling medical school admissions requirements.

Final Thoughts

Choosing an undergraduate major as a pre-med student is an important decision. However, not everyone knows they have options besides traditional biology or biochemistry majors. 

There’s the belief that these are the most accepted majors in medical school and will best prepare you for them. However, that’s far from reality. Acceptance rates among the different study areas vary only slightly, meaning there’s no field with a clear advantage. The best pre-med major is one that provides you with a demonstrated interest, a strong GPA, and a good MCAT score.

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