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Can I Get a Pre-Med Degree Once I Already Have an Undergraduate Degree?

by Yoon Kim

Depending on your first undergraduate degree, you may be able to return to college for a pre-med degree, as well. If your undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Arts in the humanities, for instance, you have already taken the foundational courses needed for pre-med. If you have a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, chemistry, physics, math or maybe in social or behavioral sciences, however, you may not need to take additional pre-med coursework.

Compare Your Degree with MCAT Requirements

Examine and evaluate first how your first undergraduate degree covers the new 2015 Medical College Admission Test requirements. It consists of four sections: natural sciences; social and behavioral sciences; psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior, and critical analysis and reasoning skills. If you have taken, for example, introductory level courses in biology, chemistry and physics as well as courses in social or behavioral sciences while completing your B.A. in the humanities, you may not need not to take a pre-med degree program: your first undergraduate degree gives you a solid background in these foundational courses. If you majored in biology or chemistry and earned a B.S. in your first degree, you many have already taken many of these courses already, thus eliminating the need to retake them.

Biology Classes

If your current college degree lacks the fundamentals of biology, you need to make up the deficiency for two reasons: preparing for the MCAT and preparing for your career. During your pre-med study, you need to take or make up four biology classes, as they are one of the basic building blocks for the health-care profession: General Biology I and II, Cell Biology and Genetics, for instance. These courses should be taken sequentially from the low division courses to upper division, and they should all include a lab session. The science of studying life forms and living organisms, these biology classes are indispensable in your preparation for the MCAT and your future profession. These classes will prepare you for the first portion of the revised test: “Physical, chemical, and biochemical properties of living systems.”

Chemistry Classes

Even if you have taken these fundamental courses when you received your college degree, you should consider retaking them if you feel your preparation lacked rigor or was deficient or if you have taken them a long time ago -- to keep abreast with the most up-to-date information. To prepare for the MCAT, you will need to take four classes in chemistry: General Chemistry I and II as well as Organic Chemistry I and II, depending on your pre-med program. Like learning biology, upgrading your knowledge base in chemistry is critical; taking these classes will help you prepare for the first portion of the revised MCAT, “Dealing with physical, chemical, and biochemical properties of living systems.”

Physics, Math, Social Sciences and Humanities Classes

If your current undergraduate degree lacks fundamental knowledge in physics, math, social sciences and humanities, you will need to get a pre-med degree. Typically, a pre-med degree requires one year of physics with a lab; however, schools differ when it comes to math requirement. Some demand a year of calculus while others will substitute statistics. Missouri State University, for instance, requires two semesters of English composition as well as two semesters of mathematics. Similarly, the humanities requirements also vary as each school wants to provide a well-rounded pre-med education according to its specification.

About the Author

Dr. Yoon Kim earned a Ph. D. in English from Oklahoma State University. His editing experience includes Ph.D. dissertations (English), and senior professor’s research articles (Psychology and Education) that are published in peer-reviewed professional journals.

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