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- 1 What is PreMed Studies?
- 2 Your Path to a PreMed Degree
- 3 How to Become a Med School Student
- 4 Employment Information & Medical Specializations
- 5 Job Growth, Salary, and Related Medical Fields
- 6 Additional Resources for PreMed Students
What is PreMed Studies?
PreMed is the educational track for students pursue prior to becoming medical students. A common list of activities for Pre-Medicine and Pre-Medical Studies that prepare students for medical school include: volunteer experience, pre-med coursework, research, and clinical experience.
At many colleges and universities in the United States, a student on a Pre-Medicine and Pre-Medical Studies path can elect virtually any undergraduate field of study with the stipulation all core courses are met for pre-med. Core courses will likely entail introductory and intermediate level work in: biology, neuroscience, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, genetics, calculus, statistics, immunology, microbiology, and pharmacology.
Your Path to a PreMed Degree
The path to launch a career as a doctor or physician will typically start with a premed program from an accredited college or university. Med schools will often require students to take classes in physical and life sciences along with general education courses.
Liberal arts classes and general education courses such as English composition, sociology, philosophy, psychology, communications, economics, and creative writing provide a basis for developing a set of holistic thinking skills used to think critically about the world. Core classes in physical and life sciences will include an array of programs that will include variations of biology, chemistry, and physics.
According to the BLS, the path to becoming a doctor does not always start with med school. In fact, the top undergraduate degree program for premed students is biology not medicine. The chart below breaks down the number of degrees conferred by area of study prior to doctors and surgeons entering a premed or medical school program based on the most recent information available:
Major Degrees Conferred
- Biology 346,114
- Medical 102,241
- Physical Science 100,469
- Psychology 46,683
- Engineering 27,312
- Social Science 25,473
- Business 11,536
- Mathematics 11,536
- English 10,951
- Foreign Language 10,121
How to Become a Med School Student
To become a premed student, you will need to meet the requirements of a med school. Typical requirements include meeting the grade point average for the program, graduating with an approved undergraduate degree, taking sufficient science-based classes, being involved with extracurricular activities, taking the MCAT, providing school transcripts, writing a personal essay, proving letters of recommendation, completing the school’s application, and shadowing a doctor.
According to data collected by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) there were nearly 54,000 applicants to medical school programs across the country. Of those students, just over twenty-thousand were accepted and matriculated in an accredited medical school program. In other words, about 40% of applicants to a medical school program were accepted and enrolled in a medical program.
PreMed Degree Options
After acceptance into an accredited program, students will need to select a medical degree track. The two primary types of medical degrees are the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and the Medical Doctor (MD). The primary difference between the MD and DO designation is the philosophy and emphasis on how to practice medicine.
While there are many similarities between a DO and MD designation as both require a similar amount of training, schooling, and the ability to specialize in a particular field of study. However, the differences in philosophy emphasis separate them from one another. The summary below will help you understand the differences between the Medical Doctor and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degrees:
Medical Doctor (MD): Medical Doctors view a disease or virus in terms of how it affects specific parts of the body. A Medical Doctor will focus on treating a patient via a specific form of intervention with surgery and or medical therapy. An MD will typically specialize in ailments such as infections, cardiovascular health, kidneys, and GI diseases.
They tend to follow a set of evidence-based medical and surgical guidelines along with pathological reports to treat patients. Generally, MD’s believe medicine is an effective means to treat patients and help them return to normal functioning.
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO): A DO receives training in the muscular & skeletal systems and manipulation of those systems. A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine views a patient’s health as a network of interconnected complex systems. Training for a DO is rooted in a holistic view of health and preventative care. This holistic approach provides latitude for DO’s to prescribe alternative approaches to treating diseases along with the conventional approach of medical prescriptions.
Both an MD and a DO require students to successfully complete 4 years of medical school in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Students will allow surgeons and physicians to leverage similar treatment methods regardless of their philosophical differences in pedagogy.
What Classes are Taken in Med School?
Med school starts with preclinical studies that emphasizes physiology, science, anatomy, treatments, diseases, viruses, and pathologies. During preclinical studies, students can expect a combination of lectures, labs, and experiential learning. Additionally, students will often be assigned to a practicing physician to help blend academic and pragmatic theories.
Next, students will move on to an advanced medical education that involves a clerkship at clinics and hospitals. Students will perform a variety of tasks with increasing levels of responsibilities including the possibility of rotations to better understand differing areas of specialty within a clinic or hospital facility.
At this juncture, students will begin to take a series of licensing examinations that include three distinct parts to become a physician or surgeon. In most cases, students will need to pass the first two parts of the examination prior to graduating from med school.
The next phase of med school is obtaining proper licensure. Medical students will need to continue training in a residency program prior to obtaining a license to practice. Students will work under the direct supervision of a surgeon or physician in an approved clinic or hospital for three to seven years. Residents will work a variety of shifts in differing fields of specialization to gain experiential knowledge about a hospital or clinic.
After successful completion of a residency program, students can apply for an unrestricted license to practice. This license allows you to work in a hospital, clinic, or private practice. Students may elect to enter into a fellowship program to learn specific techniques or research methods within a specific area of study. Likewise, graduates may elect to earn a board certification in their area of specialty to enhance their professional portfolio.
Employment Information & Medical Specializations
For students that earn a college degree in Pre-Medicine and Pre-Medical Studies, there are several fields of specialization that one can pursue. The options range from doctor, surgeon, post-secondary teacher, researcher, genomics, immunologist, toxicologist, virologist, biologist, biological technician, biomedical engineer, microbiologist, medical scientist, epidemiologist, food scientist, physician, veterinarian, epidemiologist, biophysics, and biochemist to name a few possible career tracks.
Job Growth, Salary, and Related Medical Fields
The job growth in the greater Pre-Medicine and Pre-Medical Studies domain are well above average. For example, the rate of job growth for college professors is expected to rise 13% through 2024 and physicians a 14% growth rate is expected during the same period. Given the broad nature of the Pre-Medicine and Pre-Medical Studies degree, compensation after graduation can vary greatly from career field to career field given prior experience and geographic location. Related fields include physician, surgeon, teaching, research, genomics, immunology, radiobiology, neuroanatomy, pharmacology, medical scientist, and microbiology.
Employment and Wages for Doctors
The BLS has provided data on a range of medical professionals to help students understand the span of employment possibilities after graduation. The summary below represents a specific occupation, a projected employment growth over the coming decade, and the mean annual wages associated with that job. Regional differences, job duties, experience, and employers will determine wages for a particular city or township but the summary below is a good starting point to understand where each discipline is heading in the future.
Occupation Growth Projection Mean Annual Wage
Physician 15% $210,170
Pediatrician 18% $184,210
Anesthesiologist 18% $269,900
Psychiatrist 13% $200,220
Family Practitioner 16% $200,810
Surgeon 17% $252,910
Internist 17% $201,840
Physicians 13% $205,560
Gynecologist 18% $234,310
Additional Resources for PreMed Students
- American College of Surgeons (ACS)
- Student National Medical Association (SNMA)
- American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
- Student Doctor Association (SDA)
- American Medical Association (AMA)
- American Medical Student Association (AMSA)
- Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)
- Minority Association of PreMedical Students (MAPS)
- American Medical Women's Association (AMWA)
- American Medical Group Association (AMGA)
- National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME)