The Decision to Pursue a Career in Medicine
Having career aspirations for one of the health professions is a challenging and exciting choice. Your undergraduate pre-professional preparation will be a key element in your overall comprehensive master plan for success (i.e., ACCEPTANCE). You should be aware that competition for admission to medical schools is very intense. Currently, only about one-half of those who now apply gain admission - even though the majority of those rejected would, by common agreement, be able to successfully complete medical school, and could make competent and dedicated physicians. Each year, the number of applicants increases while the number of positions remains relatively constant. Thus, competition for admission is becoming even more intense.
Many young people enter college expecting to become doctors. But with little real knowledge of what is involved in the practice of medicine, dentistry, or other health-related professions. Often students have little real understanding of the trade-offs that are made when choosing medicine as a career goal, particularly concerning the pressure and demands made by the profession. Hopefully, the Health Professions Advisory Office can be a valuable source of information as you make your "choices and trade-offs" in preparation for a career in the health professions.
We look forward to working with you as you embark on a career pathway that will make heavy demands on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It is essential that you maximize your awareness, make informed judgments, pay attention to details, minimize errors, and excel academically. The Health Professions Advisory Office exists to help you enjoy a positive undergraduate preparation. However, YOUR academic performance, YOUR admission test scores, and YOUR overall credentials will determine YOUR success. We want to help you and we wish you all the best as you prepare to join the health care delivery team.
The following timeline lays out the steps you must take to prepare for admission:
1. Decide on medicine
2. Complete undergraduate science requirements
3. Get volunteer/work experience in health-related fields
4. Consider a broad selection
5. Develop staff/faculty advisors
6. Prepare for the MCAT
7. Take the MCAT exam
8. Submit transcripts and application materials
9. Monitor application completion/distribution
10. Interview if invited
While a Bachelor's degree is not a requirement for admission
into all medical schools, more than 99% of accepted students in 1999 had one.
Until recently, nearly all pre-med students majored in Chemistry or Biology.
Today students with all kinds of majors are being accepted. In fact, a recent
study shows, "acceptance rates range from 45 percent in biology to 48
percent in nonscience and 55 percent in physical sciences. There is an apparent
trend among admissions officers to encourage potential applicants to to
consider nonscience majors during their college years." (Fruen) The
changing face of medicine is looking for "people" people, not just
academic superstars as in years past. You are better off majoring in Philosophy
and maintaining a 3.9 GPA (grade point average) than majoring in Biology and
only getting a 3.5. So by all means study what you are interested in and what
you're good at because admissions committees are looking for well-rounded
candidates who have studied a variety of subjects while in college. However,
there are still some very specific requirements for admission into most
While these courses are pretty standard, medical schools do vary slightly in their admissions requirements. Even if you are a junior in high school, it won't hurt to take a look at the requirements for the medical school you are most interested in attending and plan your accordingly. The biggest variance seems to be math. Some schools want to see a year of calculus, while others only require one college-level statistics class and others have no math requirement at all. Many schools are beginning to expect undergraduate course work in biochemistry and/or genetics. Again, check with the admissions office of the schools you are interested in for specific requirements.
Upon completion of the mandatory course work, the next big
hurdle you will face is the MCAT. The MCAT is the first of many major
exams that you will have to pass on your way to becoming a practicing
physician. All but one major
MCAT scores are based on the four parts of the MCAT exam: Physical Sciences (PS), Verbal Reasoning (VR), Biological Sciences (BS), and the Writing Sample (WS).
Visit the AAMC Medical College Admission Test page.
There are two different types of physicians that we think of as "Doctors". The MD degree is granted from allopathic medical schools and the DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) is granted from Osteopathic schools. Training and is very similar between the two, with the main difference being that Osteopaths learn skeletal and muscular manipulation (similar to Chiropractors) to complement traditional medical treatment. Both are recognized and board certified by the American Medical Association. Although Osteopathic schools have lower requirements for GPA and MCAT scores, their acceptance rate is lower because there are less positions available. Also of note is that tuition for Osteopathic schools is generally higher since most of the programs are private.
Following is information compiled in 2005 (* figures are for 1999) for acceptance to US allopathic medical schools. As you can see, only about 4 out of 10 applicants are accepted.
US Medical Schools (Allopathic)
Average Matriculant Scores
* Adapted from: Pfizer
Medical Manual, 1999 and AAMC FACTS