WRITTEN BY RAJ BRAYANA (PEACE ADVISOR)
Hi friends. There's appears to be certain confusions and myths surrounding course requirements for Med school and I hope to clear and elaborate on this topic a bit more.
Universal Course Requirements (One Year Each):
For many premeds majors, Chem 1A + 3A counts as Gen Chem while Chem 3B + MCB 102 counts as O-Chem. Most but not all schools accept this. Some people are elect to do Chem 1A + 1B, followed by Chem 3A + 3B. College of Chem folks do Chem 4A + 4B followed by 112A + 112B.
For English, the 1 year of R&C is accepted by most but not all schools. Your safest alternative is upper division English classes that focus on a particular literary movement (i.e. Romanticism), author (i.e. Shakespeare) or time period (i.e. 1800s) BUT is not poetry or creative writing. The previous stipulation (I think) guarantees rigorous reading and composition, which is what Med Schools are interested in.
See my Course Descriptions Demystified document for more information.
Ultimately, the individual medical schools are the best resource for determining additional requirements. It's best to contact prospective schools individually if you have any questions about coursework. Websites may or may not be up-to-date. The Cal Career Center page has good guidelines, but they're just guidelines and aren't good about explaining the nuance to everything they suggest.
The MSAR is the Medical School Admission Requirements for U.S. & Canadian Schools, available here for purchase: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/requirements/msar/
It's a more streamlined compilation of Med School requirements than contacting each Med School individually but you have to pay each year; I would wait a year before you apply or the year you apply to purchase.
Additional Science Requirements
As mentioned earlier, contacting individual medical schools or accessing the MSAR is your most trusted source with respect to coursework requirements. Here is a compilation of additional science requirements from the MSAR 2015:
It is your responsibility to verify this information when you are applying. If you scroll down to the end of the list you'll notice a section called "Medical Schools with No Requirements 2015" who have moved onto "Competency Based Admissions".
Competency Based Admissions
Even though I laid out a list of Universal Course Requirements, there are some medical schools moving away from requiring a certain set of completed coursework to evaluating your "competency" to succeed as a physician. As a general flavour of what this means, check out the following:
What does this mean?
At first glance, this might suggest you won't have to complete Universal Course Requirements. However, only a small sample of schools have made the move from traditional admissions to competency based admissions (CBA). Even for CBA schools, there are scientific competencies that are effectively the same as completing the Universal Course Requirements.
Really, this general trend towards CBA is reflective of greater expectations on the part of med school applicants and physicians to understand medicine and science as an important, but really small component of healthcare. To serve diverse populations, to work beyond the exam room in increasing adequate access to healthcare, to become an advocate for those cannot advocate for themselves, to heal with humility and without judgement, to be there for patients in every capacity that we can and much more is expected on our part. There's a lot to change about the landscape of current physician care and it starts with us.
Additional Non-Science Requirements
Pretentious diatribe aside, I'll proceed to talk briefly about other coursework requirements that appear.
- Social & Behavioral Sciences
These often include introductory psychology and sociology. Medical psychology and sociology, as well as introductory/medical anthropology are also good choices. Here is a sampling of those courses:
- Psych - 1 or 2 (Intro), 110 (Biological), 130 (Clinical)
- Soc - 1 or 3 or 3 AC (Intro), 115 or 155 (Health & Medicine)
- Anthro - 1 (Intro, Biological), 3 or 3AC (Intro, Social & Cultural), 115 or 119 (Medical)
- Public Health
I haven't strictly seen this as a requirement but I decided to mention it briefly. Public Health treats medicine as one small component of healthcare, and having that perspective as a physician is awesome.
I would also encourage everyone to check out PH 116 and the FSI/HSI programs:
Sometimes school require statistics in addition to (or even in place of) calculus.
- Stats - 2 or 20 (Intro), 134 (Upper Division)
- Biostats - Public Health 142
Sometimes schools just ask for a blanket number of hours in the humanities and social sciences. I'd definitely recommend becoming acquainted with BioEthics, either through coursework or through your own means. If interested:
Belmont Report: http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/guidance/belmont.html
BioE 100: https://ninjacourses.com/explore/1/course/BIO%20ENG/100/
- Languages (Fluency) & Cultural Competency
I can go into a long diatribe on this, but I'll leave it curt: access to healthcare is limited by a healthcare institution's linguistic capabilities; and their ability to work with patients from different parts of the world that operate in their own particular health frameworks. UW Madison is an example of a medical school that highly values this:
Do I have to do ALL of these?
Nah, do the additional requirements if it suits your fancy and it's part of your own goals of developing as a pre-med student or if you feel their worth the extra effort to apply for a particular medical school or improve your MCAT scores. In honesty, there are quite a few hoops to jump through and quite a few buckets to fill as a pre-med student, but there's also room to develop your own personal vision of what being a physician is. If you'd like to have a conversation of what I (and other upper classmen!) find important, feel free to reach out to us!