The Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) statistics show that roughly 70% of medical school applicants choose to study science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) majors in college. Though STEM majors represent the vast majority of majors chosen by pre-medical students, it is by no means a requirement that premeds study your typical premed majors to gain admission into medical school. In fact, for many medical school-bound undergraduates, a non-STEM major is likely the better option for you to ensure that you maximize your time and educational resources in college.
WHY CONSIDER A NON-TRADITIONAL PREMED MAJOR?
Benefits of a non-tradition premed major
Admission to medical school does not require that you complete a STEM major. However, medical schools require pre-medical students to take specific science classes in order to gain admission. These courses cover the following subjects:
-Organic and inorganic chemistry
Though many STEM majors allow pre-meds to simultaneously fulfill the premed requirements in addition to their college’s graduation requirements, these STEM majors often leave little room for in-depth study in other disciplines. This is where non-traditional premed majors become key.
When I say “non-traditional premed major” I’m mostly talking about anything that falls outside of the STEM categorization. In the chart above, humanities and “other” represent non-traditional premed majors. Approximately 30% of medical school applicants pursue non-traditional premed majors. I’m not advocating that all premed ditch the typical STEM premed majors. Rather, if you’re a premed with strong or broad non-science interests, I want to encourage you to pursue those interests in addition to completing the premed requirements.
NON-TRADITIONAL PREMED MAJORS TO CONSIDER
You might be wondering, “What non-traditional premed major is best for me?” Well, lucky for you, there are ample options for you to consider if you’re a premed with non-STEM interests. Below I’ve broken down some of the potential non-traditional premed majors into the following categories: business, humanities and social sciences, and other. These lists are not comprehensive but should help you to think about some of the options that exist.
Non-traditional premed majors: Business
-Business Administration and Management
-Human Resources Management
-Real Estate Development
Non-traditional premed majors: Humanities and Social Sciences
-Area, Ethnic, and Multidisciplinary Studies
-History of Science and Medicine
-Law, History, and Culture
-Urban Studies and Planning
Non-traditional premed majors: Other
-Visual and Performing Arts
Any of the above majors can allow you to pursue your non-STEM interests while allowing you to pursue your premed dreams.
Now that you know some examples of non-traditional premed majors, you might be curious as to how you can tackle these majors and premed curricula at the same time. Thankfully, there are a few options.
- You can major in a non-STEM field while taking premed requirements as electives.
- You can double major in premed and non-STEM majors.
- Another option is that you major in a STEM field while doing a minor in non-traditional premed coursework. (This is the option that I chose.)
MY REASONS FOR SELECTING A PREMED MAJOR
As a huge caveat, I did choose a STEM major in college. Nonetheless, I found a way to walk the line of pursuing a more traditional premed major AND getting to explore other academic interests in college. I majored in Neurobiology for two main reasons. I chose this premed major, in part because I thought it would be interesting to learn about how the brain works, but mostly because this major allowed me to complete the premed requirements while allowing for a ton of extra space in my schedule for me to explore my other academic interests. In addition to studying Neurobiology, I minored in Global Health and Health Policy and completed a language citation in French. Even still, I had tons of extra space to explore intro and upper-level statistics class, take Swahili for a year, and explore an array of other humanities coursework.
At Harvard, all of the premed requirements fulfilled the Neurobiology major, and I only needed to take two to three other Neurobiology classes to graduate. On the other hand, many of my friends who pursued more course load intensive premed majors like engineering, molecular and cellular biology, or chemistry had a smaller degree of freedom to explore non-science academic interests.
I outline my experiences with choosing a premed major with light requirements because of the freedom it allowed me to delve into other interests. Something I talk about a lot is the importance of feeding all parts of your persona. For me, that meant learning languages, discussing the arts, and learning about statistical modeling.
As you think about your own academic interests, I think that it’s important for you to use college as a stepping stone to your future career and as a time to gain exposure to classes that push you out of your comfort zone.
As a premed, your undergraduate major helps you to hone your intellectual prowess and critical thinking rather than directly prepare you for the field of medicine. More likely than not, a medical school will look positively on you as an applicant who chose your major based on true interest and who performed well in that major.
When choosing a major, step outside of your comfort zone, explore your interests outside of medicine, and don’t be afraid to blaze your own trail. While medicine may be your first love, there’s no need to stifle your other interests along the way. College provides you the opportunity to learn about such a diverse range of subjects. Take advantage! Gaining business acumen in college will only help to make you a more informed medical student and future physician!
Dr. Atasha Jordan, MBA is a psychiatry intern in Philadelphia, PA. She recently completed the MD-MBA program at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Jordan is originally from Barbados and has a passion for serving patients with mental health illness in the US and the Caribbean. Dr. Jordan writes on topics including mental health, navigating premed and med school life, and professional development on her blog www.atashajordan.com.