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!
If you’re planning to attend medical school, you’ve probably asked: “Which major should I choose?” Other questions you may have asked could be:
Pre-med is so widely talked about that it can give the false impression that it’s a degree by itself, but it’s not.
Applying to med school with any major can be a pro. You can explore and enjoy other fields while taking medical school course requirements. Still, it can also be a disadvantage since you must determine which pre-med degree is best for you. We’ll discuss pre-med majors, different options, and how to choose which is best for you.
First of all, it is helpful to know how to get into medical school and what a pre-med major is.
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; 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 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:
There are several good majors for pre-med students. So, let’s evaluate different fields and what they have to offer.
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 59% of all applicants but have a slightly below average acceptance rate — 40.8%.
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 45%, four percentage points above the average rate, math and stats majors are excellent options.
Humanities majors are another excellent option. Because only 3.3% of applicants have an academic background in this field, humanities majors enjoy an acceptance rate of 50%, six percentage points above average.
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.
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 8.83% of all candidates and enjoy a higher-than-average acceptance rate of 45%. So, if you’re interested in the physical sciences, this may be the easiest pre-med major for you.
Other areas of study include specialized health sciences and social sciences. 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.
Medical schools don’t exclude any major, which can be advantageous. But selecting what pre-med degree is best for you can be difficult. To choose the best pre-med major, you must ask yourself personal questions and not think exclusively about the coursework you must complete.
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:
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:
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: the best pre-med majors are ones that:
These statistics suggest that there’s no clear advantage to any major over the others. But which is the most popular pre-med major? Take a look at the following grid:
Students with an undergraduate major in the biological sciences make up over half of all medical school applicants and enjoy an acceptance rate of around 59.3%. But only 381 math and statistics majors applied out of over 53,000 students, an astonishingly low 0.6%.
So, what is the best pre-med major? One way to answer this question is to look at medical school acceptance rates by major and determine if certain pre-med majors have a higher chance of getting accepted. Knowing medical school acceptance rates can also help you gauge your competitiveness for admission.
Medical school acceptance rates by major are as follows:
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 45%.
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.
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:
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.
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 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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
Deciding what the best majors for med school are is difficult, so we’ve put together several questions and answers to help you decide what pre-med degree is best.
The answer to this question isn’t black and white. While choosing a biology major might seem the easiest way to satisfy your prerequisites, it’s only a short-term solution. A broad academic background and a strong understanding of several fields can give you an advantage in the long term.
If biology truly interests you and happens to help you meet most of the medical school requirements, then go for it. However, if you’re only doing it because it’s convenient, consider your options. Also, remember that every medical school is different, and a biology major will not always be the “easiest” way to satisfy all the prerequisites.
The most common pre-med major is biology, followed by psychology.
However, the acceptance rate for these majors is slightly below-average.
Despite the slight differences in acceptance rates between humanities and biological sciences (around 48% and 42%, respectively), the data indicates no clear advantage.
This is because there’s a significant difference in the number of applicants, too (3.28% for humanities and 58% for biological sciences out of all applicants).
Medical schools don’t care what your undergraduate major is as long as you meet all the requirements; you must complete all the required coursework, and possess a strong GPA and MCAT score.
Unfortunately, there is no universal “easiest” pre-med major. We recommend choosing a major you’re passionate about and are confident you can maintain a high GPA with.
The best pre-med major is one that you love. As long as you fulfill medical school admissions requirements, the best pre-med major is subjective to each individual.
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 are the ones that will best prepare you for it. 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.
So, the question, “What is the best pre major for medical school?” doesn’t have an answer. The key is to apply to medical school with all the prerequisites satisfied, a strong GPA, and a good MCAT score.