What's The Best Major for Medical School?

Awesome. You’re a premedical student and time to think about the best major for medical school. I have some good news and bad news for you when it comes to choosing your college major.

The good news, as a premed student the best major for medical school is the one you like the most.

Let me tell you what the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has to say about choosing a college major as a premedical student…

You can major in whatever course of study that you want. However, we expect you to excel in your chosen field of study.”

I have more to say on this viewpoint as you continue to read.

The Best Major for Medical School Is What You Personally Like

You should choose your college major without regard to whether it leads to you getting into medical school or not.

I attended Northwestern University for my undergraduate studies and I majored in Political Science.


Because I have always been a big consumer of the news and it was right up my alley. Plus, having a fascination with the presidency along with all three branches of American government. 

Additionally, I just felt very comfortable in this subject area and whether we like it or not politics is all around us and not going anywhere.

Plus, I had the perspective to realize that undergraduate would be the only time I could study something totally of my choosing because for the rest of my life I would be “locked in” to medicine and science while pursuing a career as a physician.

I would strongly encourage you to pick a major knowing it may be your only chance to formally study the topic over the next four years of your life as a college student without consideration of looking for the best major for medical school.

Highly Recommended Premed Courses To Take

Years ago it was very straightforward in choosing your major for medical school.

There was a time when you would major in premed, however this really is not a major.

Instead you simply take the required premed courses for medical school which include:

  • General Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physics

These courses are all taken with their associated labs too.

But nowadays there are a few other courses that medical schools want to see pre med students take before matriculating:

  • Biochemistry
  • Statistics
  • Calculus

I listed these courses in their priority of what medical schools want because Biochemistry is strongly recommended as it makes up a decent portion of the MCAT

Plus, when you do start medical school you do not want to be left behind where your professors teach Biochemistry with the understanding that most medical students have seen the material either in undergrad or graduate school. 

Oftentimes they’ll say, “I won’t go into detail, you guys already know…

It would be horrible if you didn’t know what they were talking about and were left dazed and confused while the material made sense to a majority of your medical school classmates.

Depending on what medical school you apply to they may or may not require:

  • Statistics or 
  • Calculus. 

It would not hurt to take these classes because there’s more and more evidence based medicine rooted in science.

Plus in the words of my high school science teacher, “Math is the language of science.” 

With the explosion of research and data you definitely want to have a math background in medicine nowadays. Like plenty of journals, the latest academic papers will use numbers, data and facts to support their conclusions and as a future physician you will need to make sense of all of this.

I’m running on a tangent but for your United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) exams there is always going to be a small component of biostatistics which shows up on the test and you don’t want to lose points because you didn’t know the basics of statistics.

Traditionally These Were the Best Majors for Medical School

The four courses you need to take as a premed student include:

  • General Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physics

Knowing that these are required for medical school, what do most premedical students do?

They then major in the sciences which makes obvious sense because you are basically killing two birds with one stone. You are completing the courses required for medical school that happen to overlap with the courses required for your major.

This is why in the past you saw so many premed students with majors in:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics 
  • Physical Sciences.

It was practically expected that if you had plans on attending medical school this is what you would major in. 

The times have certainly changed as a premed student.

Did you know?

If you major outside of the traditional premed majors you will actually distinguish yourself from other applicants applying to medical school.

You have to think about the perspective of the medical school admissions committee and their goals of developing a well-rounded incoming first year medical school class. They want diversity.

Diversity can come in many flavors and means a lot more than just race/ethnicity and gender.

Diversity in where students hail from, age of students and even in chosen course of study.

Imagine if you’re an anthropology major or sociology major applying to medical school. Do you think you will stand out in a sea of hard science majors? You can best believe that you will and if you have a strong GPA that is going to give you a leg up against the competition for getting into medical school.

Plus it adds a different dimension to your application which could give you unique things to speak about if you are granted a medical school interview

As you can see maybe the best major for medical school entails being unique, majoring outside of the sciences and simply pursuing what you enjoy.

How You Can Choose Your Major as a Premedical Student

This may shock you to learn but here’s a quote that comes from my undergrad,

To pursue premed to the exclusion of everything else is to cheat yourself and of everything a Northwestern University degree has to offer.

Basically, you do not want to be so laser focused on getting into medical school that you do not take full advantage of college and everything it has to offer. Besides, how would you feel if life took you in a different direction and you found out you were no longer interested in becoming a doctor?

You might be a bit bitter and resent some of the choices you made in college through the lens of will this help me get into medical school or not.

Therefore, the best major for medical school is doing something that you truly enjoy.

I remember when I was in medical school and I was wrestling with the decision on what medical specialty to choose and I had a conversation with my Father that put everything in perspective. He told me, “Jason, you need to choose a specialty based on what you enjoy and what you’re good at.” 

That was the missing piece of the puzzle and it helped me tremendously.

As a premed you can apply this to your college major decision. Pick your major based on what you’re actually good at and whether you enjoy the topic.

Plus there is another benefit of choosing a major that is based on pure interest and not motivated by what looks good for medical school. You actually have the ability to take a break while studying.  

Imagine being a science major as a premed student. Your life is going to revolve around lectures, reading and problem sets. 

But what happens if you get bored of all the science? 

You’re going to be out of luck. However this did not happen to me because if I ever became bored with science/math i could still remain productive by doing my Political Science studies such as reading up on the influence of money in American politics. 

You will not have this luxury if you major in the sciences as a premed student.

What AdComs Expect Academically From You

Getting into medical school is extremely competitive. 

The numbers bear this out where 60% of first time applicants to medical school are rejected.

One of the ways medical schools screen applicants is based on their Grade Point Average (GPA), where if you do not meet a minimum threshold your application is automatically tossed aside.

Sadly, I see the same thing happen with premedical students who did horribly in college and still want to become doctors. Their GPA is completely shot and they are looking for help in getting into a post baccalaureate program or Special Masters Program (SMP) however one of the requirements is that you need a GPA of 3.0 or better.

They do not have the numbers and are then left scrambling trying to figure out what they can do to get a chance to prove to AdComs they have what it takes to get into medical school and become a doctor. 

But returning to the topic of what AdComs expect from you.

They actually do NOT care what you major in as a premedical student. For them there is no best major for medical school. 

Instead, they care about how well you do in your major. 

Their expectations are high too. Their line of thinking is you are going to choose a major you like and therefore you should excel in it as evidenced by your grades and overall GPA. 

AdComs will not look kindly on a premed who had true freedom to choose whatever major they wanted and then did poorly in their chosen course of study.

Wrapping Up the Best Major for Medical School

I covered a lot of ground and gave you plenty to think about as you decide on what is the best major for medical school. 

I want you to know you can actually major in whatever field of study you want. This is unlike in times past where most premeds stuck to:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Those majors are still available to you but I would only take on that major if you genuinely enjoy the topic area and not because you think it will help your chances of getting into medical school.

The best way to get into medical school is to major in whatever field you like but most importantly to excel academically in that field of study with top grades.

Congrats, you can now use the entire course catalog while looking for the best major for medical school and not be worried that you are jeopardizing your chances of getting into medical school.