“I know I want to go to medical school, but what do I major in?” 

You know you want to go to medical school. But what to major in during undergrad? This is a question I get asked on #LifeofaMedStudent more times than I can count. It can be a tough decision too! I always planned on going to medical school but I personally didn’t “declare” a major until well into my sophomore year. Luckily I picked chemistry, which is has fairly similar requirements during the first two years as a typical “pre-Med” course list. But is that the right answer? Not even close. Because there IS no night answer.



So what do I tell people when they ask what they should major in? “Whatever you want.” Seriously? Yes. But I like music? Yup. History? Yes. (I thought about getting a history minor but got less motivated by junior/senior year). Literally you can major in anything you like. You’ll still have to complete all the classic pre-med courses required by med schools and tested on the MCAT. The basic requirements are two semesters each of basic chem, physics, and biology. Then two semesters organic chem and occasionally biochemistry depending on the med school.

“That sounds like a lot of work… Especially if you are doing a separate full time major.” – Of course it is. Being “premed” is basically a course or two away from a chemistry minor (and if you do major in something else, take that extra course and get the legit chem minor). That’s why most pre meds end up as either a chemistry or biology major.

BUT if you could never picture yourself using a chemistry or biology major, I would do the extra work and major in something else. It’s amazing how many students are “premed” as a freshman and disappear by senior year. Life happens, plans change. Pick a major you could see yourself making a career out of if med school doesn’t happen. Plus, if you have a unique major, you are unique in the eyes of the admissions committee and might be more memorable. It’s certainly not a negative in their eyes and I’ve always felt it was probably a positive to have a non-traditional major (as long as the rest of your application was strong).

For me, my “backup plan” was to use my chem degree paired with a business minor to jump into pharmaceutical sales. I never had to use my backup plan, but it was one I could have lived with.

Is there a perfect major? No. But the perfect major for you is one what you can picture yourself doing if medicine doesn’t work out, and one that you can excel in alongside the required pre-med work.

What non-traditional majors have worked for people you know? Thoughts? Chime in the comments below.


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