What Classes Do You Take in Medical School?

Medical school students commonly take courses like cell structure and function, primary care, and general surgery. Learn about degree program types and admission requirements. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Common Medical School Classes

Students typically enter a medical school program with a background in common science courses like biology and chemistry. Typical medical school classes include advanced sciences and medical specialties like psychiatry, surgery, and primary care. All medical school programs require a clinical rotation and a one-year residency.

Cell Structure and Function

In a cell structure and function class, students might study basic organic building blocks like carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acid. They might also learn about cell structures like membranes, cytoplasm, and ribosomes. This type of course might also address how different organ systems are structured in the human body.

Advanced Anatomy and Physiology

Most medical school programs require applicants to have an undergraduate background in basic anatomy and physiology. An advanced course might take a closer look at the systems of the human body. Courses like this might also involve conducting experiments in a lab setting.

Primary Care

This type of course usually presents medical theories and techniques that physicians use in a primary care setting. It might highlight methods of diagnosis and treatment. Students often learn useful critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as they apply to healthcare.

General Surgery

A course in general surgery typically presents basic surgical theories, techniques, and strategies. General surgery courses might involve observing experienced surgeons and performing common surgical procedures under their direction. Students often get hands-on experience in a clinical setting dealing with terminally ill patients, providing emotional support to families and seeing post-surgical complications.

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Students in this type of course generally study the reproductive system and women's health. An obstetrics and gynecology course might address current issues and new technologies in reproductive health as well as the ethics involved in healthcare for women. Students commonly observe experienced gynecologists in a clinical setting.


This type of course typically covers how to best diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health conditions. Students might observe experienced psychiatrists as they work with patients. A course in psychiatry usually provides students with valuable theories and techniques for application in the field.

Geriatrics and Pediatrics

A class in geriatrics and pediatrics usually studies human development and the associated healthcare issues from birth until old age. Students might learn about hormonal and metabolic changes that occur throughout the human life cycle. This type of course might also address the social aspects of human development, pain management, and health literacy.

Clinical Rotation

All medical school programs require students to complete a clinical rotation where they have a chance to practice in a working healthcare facility. Common areas of study include emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Medical students typically use this clinical experience to select their area of expertise.

Medical Doctor vs. Doctor of Osteopathy

Both medical doctor and doctor of osteopathy degree programs require an undergraduate degree and certain core science prerequisites like biology and chemistry. Both programs typically require a clinical rotation and residency. The difference between these degree programs involves their approach to medical treatment.

Medical Doctor (MD)

Individuals with this type of degree commonly work as surgeons, psychiatrists, or medical specialists. An MD degree program typically takes four years to complete and requires a year-long clinical residency. Students in this type of degree program study the allopathic tradition of medicine, which emphasizes treatment with pharmaceuticals and surgery. Common courses include cell structure and function and general surgery.

Doctor of Osteopathy (DO)

This type of degree program trains students in the osteopathic medical tradition, which takes a holistic approach to treating patients. Common areas of study include advanced anatomy and physiology, as well as primary care theories and techniques. Students in a DO degree program usually study for a total of four years and are also required to complete a clinical residency. Individuals holding this type of degree often become primary care physicians or medical specialists.

Degree Type Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
Medical Doctor (MD) 4 years *undergraduate degree
*science prerequisites
*Medical Specialist
Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) 4 years *undergraduate degree
*science prerequisites
*Primary Care Physician
*Medical Specialist

Medical School Admission Requirements

All medical school programs require an undergraduate degree and certain science prerequisites to qualify for admission. Many have a minimum GPA threshold. Applicants must also take the Medical College Admission Test

(MCAT), a rigorous exam that gauges the readiness of aspiring medical school students. Other admission requirements include an application fee, letters of recommendation, and a formal interview.

Advanced anatomy and physiology, cell structure and function, and a clinical rotation are common medical school courses. A medical doctor program and a doctor of osteopathy program are the two paths to achieving this type of degree.

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:

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