Medicine as a Career
Most medical schools require an undergraduate degree prior to matriculation, and then students complete a four-year M.D. (Doctor of Allopathic Medicine), D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree. This is followed by an additional three to eight years of clinical residency and specialization. Students interested in a career as a research physician pursue admission to an approximately eight-year MD/PhD Dual Degree Program.
Additional helpful resources from the Association of American Medical Schools (AAMC): Prospective Medical Students and Considering a Medical Career
- "Pre-Med" is not a major; it is a series of coursework that satisfies med school prerequisites and prepares you for success on the MCAT and as a medical student.
- The Pre-Health Advisor serves as a supplemental advisor to the students' primary (major/degree) advisor, and assists students by offering guidance in selecting appropriate courses, connecting with resources both on and off campus, ensuring that they are on track with their career goals, and addressing questions and concerns.
- Choose a major that you enjoy and that provides a good “back-up plan” and career options in case you change your mind about medicine. Common majors include biology, microbiology, chemistry, biochemistry, exercise science, psychology, nutrition, etc.
- Review medical programs of interest (Medical School Directory) and consider purchasing Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR).
- The recently revised MCAT includes a section on “psychological, social, and biochemical foundations of behavior.” Recommended coursework for the MCAT 2015 includes: Intro Sociology, Intro Psychology, General Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Biochemistry.
- Be aware that some med schools do not accept AP credit for Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English and may require college-level credits. You have the choice to retake the courses at the U of I or to take upper-level courses in those subject areas.
- As a general rule, plan to take 15-18 credits each semester.
- Take your pre-med courses early and evaluate whether medicine is right for you—test your interest and your aptitude. Be sure to learn and remember your coursework in preparation for the MCAT.
- Don’t overload during your freshman year—develop your study skills and keep your grades up!
- A typical first-year sequence for a new freshman could be:
- Fall semester: Chem 111 (Principles of Chemistry I), Math (course depends upon placement and degree requirements), English, ISEM, and courses for your major. Consider an introductory Sociology or Psychology course to meet MCAT 2015 requirements.
- Spring semester: Chem 112 (Principles of Chemistry II), Bio 115 (Cells and the Evolution of Life), and courses for your major. Consider an introductory Sociology or Psychology course.
- Maintain a high GPA. Successful applicants to MD programs have an average GPA of 3.65-3.70.
- Get significant shadowing and clinical experience. Find out firsthand what the profession is like, decide if it is right for you, explore different areas of the medical field and in different settings, and be sure to meet clinical experience requirements of your preferred schools. Maintain a formal work, volunteer, and shadowing log (Professional Development Activities Log).
- Find meaningful summer work and internships and consider the Summer Health Professions Education Program for freshman/sophomores in underrepresented groups and the Idaho WWAMI Physician Shadowing Program.
- Consider getting your CNA and/or EMT certification.
- Consider getting involved in medically-related undergraduate research and/or in a summer research experience through INBRE or a summer NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates.
- Begin to develop a unique resume that makes you competitive and unique for med school and that is both enjoyable and meaningful.
- Develop strong relationships with faculty mentors, health care professionals and others who will be writing letters of reference
- Have fun, develop strong social networks, and keep school and academics in “perspective.”
- Join the U of I Pre-Med/Pre-PA Club and get involved in extracurricular, leadership, and volunteer activities.
- The med school application process consists of extensive preparing for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), applying through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), submitting college transcripts and letters of reference, submitting secondary applications, and then participating in invited interviews. MCAT scores are good for three years. Students commonly take the MCAT in late spring of their junior or senior year and then apply in June/July, which is about 12-15 months before they intend to enroll in med school.
- FYI, it’s OK to skip a year or two between graduating and enrolling in med school. The average age of med school matriculates is 25. Consider the Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps or other experiences that will help you develop your understanding of health care in general and your motivation to be a physician.
Almost all medical schools require the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). The MCAT is comprised of four sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
You will want to be certain to prepare extensively before taking the MCAT, including completing a targeted study plan in addition to the minimum recommended preparatory coursework (e.g. general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology). Most students spend approximately 300-350 hours over four to six months preparing for the MCAT. You may choose to study independently, or complete a formal preparation course.
Here are some helpful links: