There are a dizzying array of options for aspiring medical students in the United States. Some may work better for you than others so it helps to know which of the typical paths fits you best.
Option 1: 4-year Baccalaureate in Science or Sub-field of Medicine
Since few US colleges offer an official ‘pre-med’ undergraduate degree, freshmen who know they want to be doctors or medical professionals can pursue a bachelor’s of science in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics or a sub-field of medicine, like occupational therapy, dentistry, optometry or physician assistant. Many American universities offer one or more of these programs, allowing undergraduates to choose a college for qualities in addition to its science programs.
What kind of coursework can you expect?
A liberal education culminating in a Bachelor of Science will include a focus on science courses in your area of focus but this may include general chemistry with laboratory, general biology with laboratory, calculus, statistics, organic chemistry with laboratory, and physics with laboratory.
This path is best for: US or Canadian residents or international students whose begin undergraduate studies in the US. Half of all American medical schools only accept applicants from the US or Canada.
Option 2: Pre-Medical Baccalaureate programs
Since few universities offer a true pre-medical undergraduate program, the second option is more competitive with stringent academic standards throughout. These programs are best for students with a proven history of academic exceptionalism who are certain about their professional medical goals and who are willing to commit to additional classes or a fifth year of undergraduate study. Such programs may be dual degree programs or similar. Boston University’s program is dual-degree. Easton University offers a fifth year MD program. Drury’s partnerships with graduate medical programs at St. Louis University, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, and the University of Missouri allow the university to offer early acceptance to a Master’s medical program. They also boast that students are better able to focus on coursework rather than MCAT placement scores.
What kind of coursework can you expect? Easton and Boston expect a full-load of liberal arts courses in addition to foundational and advanced science, mathematics and medical courses. Drury University freshman begin their undergraduate studies with both general studies and a rigorous load of foundational sciences. The coursework is as rigorous as a dual-degree program that may include additional advanced courses such as molecular biology, biochemistry, medical sociology, inorganic chemistry, histology, cell biology and physiology.
This path is best for: Aspiring medical students from the US or Canada who are willing to take more courses and have an excellent academic history.
Option 3: Pre-Medicine Preparation Program
For American residents who completed an undergraduate degree in a non-medical field or international students, the third option is a pre-Master program in medicine. Easton University offers one such program lasting three semester. It prepares you for a US Master’s medical program. A typical pre-medical program offers the science and math courses that meet American curriculum standards. Furthermore, they offer support in MCAT preparation and early field experiences such as volunteering.
What kind of coursework can you expect?
General and laboratory chemistry
Organic chemistry and laboratory organic chemistry
Biology and laboratory biology
Physics and laboratory physics
Calculus, and possibly statistics
Biochemistry, psychology and English may also be required to ensure success on the MCAT.
This path is best for: Medical and health-care students planning to study abroad or international students who have studied in the US for one or more years. All programs are taught in English.