Prepare for schools in the medical professions

As you get started, you'll want to first understand general course requirements for schools in the medical professions. Not surprisingly each medical, dental, and veterinary school has its own set of course requirements. However, in general, the table below lists minimum course requirements for most programs.

Understand general course requirements for schools in the medical professions

Typical minimum requirements
Biology One year with laboratory
Inorganic Chemistry One year with laboratory
Organic Chemistry One year with laboratory
Physics One year with laboratory
Biochemistry One semester. Check the Chemistry and Biochemistry websites to determine which biochemistry course is the best fit.
Mathematics One year. A semester of calculus and a semester of statistics are recommended.
English_____________ Two semesters: A first-year writing course counts as one semester of the requirement. You will also need a semester of literature/composition.
Psychology Material from an introductory psychology course is on the MCAT; some schools in the medical professions require one course.
Sociology Material from an introductory sociology course is on the MCAT; some schools in the medical professions require one course.
Humanities and Social Sciences An increasing number of schools require courses in these areas but the number and types of courses vary by school. The MCAT has a critical thinking section that uses passages from the humanities and social sciences.


Important information about course requirements

  • Requirements are in a time of transition. Please note that the requirements for medical schools are currently in transition as schools around the country reexamine their entrance requirements and reconsider the competencies, knowledge, and strengths medical students and physicians should possess. This process is ongoing and requirements will continue to change while you are in college. In addition, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) includes material from a number of courses outside the sciences.
  • Requirements vary; check school websites. It's important to remember that requirements vary for particular fields, schools, programs, and states. For example, a number of Texas medical schools require two years of biology; Oregon Health Sciences University requires genetics; and some California schools have unique requirements.

Dental school prerequisites are similar to those required by medical schools; however, they also vary by school. Veterinary schools each set their own requirements. Some veterinary schools require more courses for pre-vets than for students interested in the other medical professions.

If you are interested in particular schools, it's important to check their websites to review their requirements and plan your program accordingly. Begin by checking your own state schools, even if you currently think you do not want to attend them. To learn accurate and current information about schools, you should become familiar with the admissions literature in your field. It's also important that you check the relevant websites.

  • Learn about resources that list prerequisites for schools in the medical professions. We recommend that you purchase access to the online Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR), a resource available from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). In addition, the AAMC organized links to medical schools’ admission websites for each school: 
    Medical School Admission Requirements Website

    ​Similar resources are also available to students entering the other medical professions: 
    Dental Schools 
    Osteopathic Medical Schools
    Veterinary Medical Schools (updated April 2015), but be sure to check out websites of individual schools for details. See also the Science Library’s Course Reserve section and the Center for Work and Service library

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

It will be helpful for you to acquaint yourself with the subjects on the MCAT. If you are planning to enter medical school immediately after college, you will need to take the MCAT by the end of junior year. To see the material on the MCAT, go to the AAMC website and follow the appropriate links to find out everything you'll need to know.

You can take a tour of the new 2015 exam, watch video tutorials, and view sample questions and explanations. Material on the new test comes from the two semesters each of introductory biology, introductory chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. There is also a 95-minute section that includes information from psychology and sociology, including an understanding of health care disparities.  

Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students

Medical schools are looking for more than good grades and MCAT scores. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has described the personal qualities, or Core Competencies they look for in applicants to their schools. They are described as the “15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students.” The competencies fall into four categories: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Thinking and Reasoning, and Science. Although they have been grouped together by the AAMC, these competencies apply to applicants in all medical professions. Credit:  The Association of American Medical Colleges

  • Interpersonal Competencies

Service Orientation: Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress; recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society; locally, nationally, and globally.

Social Skills: Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect.

Cultural Competence: Demonstrates knowledge of socio-cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.

Teamwork: Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.

Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjusts approach or clarifies information as needed.

  • Intrapersonal Competencies

Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.

Reliability and Dependability: Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.

Resilience and Adaptability: Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.

Capacity for Improvement: Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.

  • Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

Critical Thinking: Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Quantitative Reasoning: Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.

Scientific Inquiry: Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.

Written Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.

  • Science Competencies

Living Systems: Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to solve problems related to molecular and macro systems including biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs.

Human Behavior: Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.