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What Courses Should I Take in College to Become a Family Doctor?

by Kate Prudchenko

Family doctors are officially called family practitioners or primary care physicians, and they are typically the first point of contact for patients seeking nonemergency medical care. In many circumstances, patients have to go to family doctors to get referrals to specialists like neurosurgeons and oncologists. Students interested in becoming family doctors have to complete four years of college, four years of medical school, and two to three years of residency work.

Medical School Requirements

Medical schools have certain requirements they expect all prospective applicants to fulfill prior to submitting their applications. These requirements are called medical school prerequisites, and they are often offered through pre-med programs at colleges or universities. Requirements vary, but many schools require students to take a year of general biology, general and organic chemistry, general physics and a calculus course.

General Biology

Biology is the study of life, and all prospective family doctors have to take a year of general biology in college. Biology is one of the most important undergraduate prerequisites for medical school and introduces students to concepts such as cells, molecules, and cellular functions and processes. Undergraduate biology courses typically come with extensive laboratory sections, offered either as a separate course in addition to General Biology 1 and 2 or as a requirement within General Biology 1 and 2. Biology laboratories show students how to handle biological samples and conduct basic biological research.

Physics and Calculus

All prospective family doctors should take a year of general physics with laboratory sections during their first or second year of college. Most pre-med programs require students to take Physics 1 and 2 because most medical schools expect applicants to be familiar with the content covered in these courses. Physics is the study of the physical world around us and is a mathematically rigorous subject. Some medical schools require students to take a physics course that relies on calculus, while others accept physics courses that are based on lower-level mathematics such as algebra and pre-calculus. Calculus is the study of the rates of change of functions, and many medical schools expect students to take at least one course in calculus. This course covers introductory topics in differentiation and integration in one dimension, also known as single-variable calculus.

General and Organic Chemistry

During the first or second year of college, all prospective family doctors should take two courses in general chemistry with laboratories. These courses cover topics such as the periodic table of elements, atoms, compounds and balancing chemical reactions. General Chemistry 1 and 2 are prerequisite courses for organic chemistry, another very important medical school requirement. Organic chemistry is a two-semester advanced chemistry class that focuses on the study of compounds, which have carbon atoms. Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 also come with required laboratory sections, which all prospective family doctors also have to take.

About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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