The Basics

General Academic Requirements

Competition is strong for entrance into professional and graduate school programs in healthcare. Schools look for evidence of intellectual ability, understanding of the profession based on direct shadowing and clinical experience, a commitment to service, and personal qualities appropriate to the profession. Since required academic coursework is challenging and professional demands are high, students need to regularly assess their original career goals.

Students pursuing most clinical health professions, including medicine and dentistry, should expect to complete the following science sequences, at a minimum:

  • A full year of General Chemistry with labs

  • A full year of General Biology with labs, plus at least two additional quarters of advanced Biology

  • Two to three quarters of Organic Chemistry with labs, depending on the professional school requirement

  • At least one quarter of Biochemistry

  • A full year of introductory Physics with lab (either Algebra or Calculus-based)

To understand required and recommended course prerequisites, students should consult the catalogs and websites of their intended professional and graduate programs. Although most medical, dental, optometry, pharmacy, and veterinary schools typically require mostly identical science sequences, many recommend or require additional coursework, which may include Anatomy, Calculus, Microbiology, Physiology, Psychology, Sociology, and Statistics. Requirements vary more significantly in other health professions like Physicians Assistant, Physical Therapy, and Occupational Therapy. Students should regularly consult with their major academic advisor and the Pre-Health advisor to create an academic plan incorporating appropriate prerequisite coursework.

General Admissions Requirements and Timeline

Pre-Health students can expect to start the application process for health professions graduate school at least a year in advance of anticipated matriculation. Most schools require nationally standardized exams that draw on your academic background and analytical skills. These exams are often taken over a year before you expect to enroll in a professional school in the health sciences, so planning the timing of required science courses is important. The required standardized tests such as the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), Dental Admission Test (DAT), Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Optometry Admission Test (OAT), and Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) are administered by appointment with an outside professional testing service. When students apply, health professions schools will ask students to provide transcripts, a personal statement outlining motivations, a list of professional experiences, and individual letters of recommendation, in addition to the standardized test scores.

General Questions to Consider

As with any career or professional interest, you should research and consider all your options, get experience, and spend some time reflecting on your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. 

Below are some of the primary questions to consider as you evaluate your options as a future health care professional. 

Pre-Health Resources