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What Do I Have to Major in to Become a Surgeon?

by Tonda Bian

The path to becoming a surgeon is not a specific one at the undergraduate level. You can virtually major in any subject from philosophy to the fine arts as long as you earn the necessary subject credits required by most medical schools. The crucial element is previewing the medical schools you are interested in applying to and ensuring that you meet their prerequisites during your first three undergraduate years, since at the end of the junior year, medical school hopefuls take the Medical College Admission Test.

The Pre-Med Basics in Undergraduate Work

Scientific grounding begins in college.

Although admission requirements vary from one medical school to the next, most medical school programs require similar core elements, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, including two years of chemistry with lab, one year of biology with lab, one year each of physics and English composition. Many schools also require one year of calculus, but overall, most medical schools look for the basics in their admissions process. Specific requirements for both medical schools in the United States and Canada can be found at the Medical School Admission Requirements online. The MSAR provides up-to-date medical school guidelines, newly accredited schools, application procedures and deadlines.

Western Michigan University's New Medical School

The pre-med undergraduate curriculum allows for flexibility, including science and math courses along with those in the humanities. Combined, they provide a solid undergraduate foundation for medical school admissions and are fairly standard for all medical schools. Western Michigan University's new program, which welcomes its first class in August of 2014, emphasizes the applicant's interpersonal, leadership and problem solving skills in addition to the basic science and English courses. Western also recommends that undergraduate study includes behavioral science, biostatistics, genetics and the humanities.

Harvard Medical School's Selection Process

Science is the basis of pre-med study.

In selecting students for each first-year medical school class, Harvard, one of the oldest medical schools in the country, looks for students with a solid grounding in biological and physical sciences as well as math, but also favors students who are well-rounded in the humanities and social sciences. Applicants whose undergraduate majors are in the sciences have no advantage over other undergraduate majors as long as the basic biology, chemistry, physics, math and science requirements are met.

The Important Medical School Admission Test

Classes and majors chosen during the undergraduate years have an impact on the outcome of the MCAT, which focuses on math and science, but also on other skills, including writing. Choosing those courses and majors that match both personal goals and the requirements of your medical college of choice is key.

About the Author

Tonda Bian is an education specialist. She has Bachelor's and Masters degrees both specializing in education and English. She also has an EJD in law--research and writing. Her career has included teaching in three colleges and working as a researcher, writer and editor for more than 20 years.

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