Schools and Majors for Aspiring Physicians

Physicians need to earn an undergraduate degree, attend medical school and complete a postgraduate residency. Learn the details of this process, as well as specialty areas of emphasis. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Many colleges offer pre-med majors or minors that include medical school prerequisites in science and math. You may want to consider pre-med programs that offer preparation for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which will be required to enter medical school.

Courses Anatomy, physiology, biology and disease, surgery, family medicine, neurology, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, reconstructive surgery, radiology, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine
Degrees Bachelor's degree and a Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Online Options Some undergraduate programs are offered online

What Should I Major in if I Want to be a Physician?

In order to become a physician, you will need to complete a bachelor's degree program, receive a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree by attending medical school and complete a hospital residency in your chosen specialty. Because the majority of your medical training will be during medical school, your undergraduate major can be in any field as long as you meet the prerequisite requirements for your medical school of choice. Many schools have a specific pre-med or health professions curriculum that can be incorporated into a student's major. This curriculum typically includes courses in general and organic chemistry, biology, calculus and statistics.

What Kind of School Could I Attend?

Since there is no one single major required to become a physician, students can complete their studies at any number of 4-year colleges and universities. The following are just a few examples of the many schools that offer relevant programs, including pre-med and pre-health curricula:

  • University of New England (Multiple locations)
  • Northeastern University (Boston, MA)
  • University of Chicago (IL)
  • University of Connecticut (Multiple locations)
  • Florida Institute of Technology (Melbourne)
  • Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)

What Will I Study in Medical School?

After passing the MCAT exam and enrolling in a medical school, you will study a broad range of foundational science for your first two years. Typically, you will take intensive courses alongside some supervised clinical work. These topics may be covered:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Biology
  • Disease
  • Patient interaction

In your third year, you can spend one to two months learning and working in each of the major fields of medicine. In the fourth year, you may take electives in your chosen specialty and begin a sub-internship designed to prepare you for your residency. These topics might be explored:

  • Surgery
  • Family medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Neurology
  • Internal medicine
  • Pediatrics

What Kind of Medicine Can I Specialize in?

During the last year of medical school and your post-graduate hospital residency, you'll typically have the opportunity to take courses and do supervised work in more narrow branches of medicine. Possible topics include plastic and reconstructive surgery, radiology, anesthesiology, dermatology and emergency medicine. Options for your studies will vary from school to school, and the length of hospital residencies can be three to seven years depending on the type of medicine you intend to practice.

What About a Fellowship?

You can begin your career as a physician after your hospital residency, but you may also elect to complete an additional fellowship in a sub-specialty. A fellowship can provide you with more training, more career opportunities and a potentially higher salary by increasing your skill set. Possible fellowship topics include neonatology, neuroradiology, vascular surgery and geriatrics.

Can I Take Courses Online?

While there are a number of pre-med undergraduate programs and courses available online that can help you prepare to take the MCAT and apply to medical school, degree programs that lead to a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree are not available online. Medical school and licensure require extensive supervised experience, which can only be pursued onsite in a clinical setting.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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