A pre-med program establishes a foundation for students who want to work in the healthcare field. Career options for those with a pre-med degree range from a career as a physician or dentist working with human patients, to a career in veterinary medicine where one could work with animal patients. Pharmacists must also have basic medical knowledge and can benefit from a pre-med education.
Pre-medicine programs typically prepare students for medical school, which can lead to a career as a physician, surgeon or other medical specialist. Pre-med students can also go on to pursue graduate studies in veterinary medicine, pharmaceuticals or dentistry.
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's Degree and Medical School||Bachelor's Degree, Pharm D. Program||Graduate program in veterinary medicine||Bachelor's degree, Dental school|
|Other Requirements||Internship and residency program, licensure||State license||Post graduate internship, pass NAVLE licensing exam||Post graduate residency, pass dental boards and licensing exams|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||14%||3%||9%||18%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||Greater than $187,200||$121,500||$88,490||$158,310|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Few colleges and universities offer a pre-med major; however, pre-medicine may be offered as a concentration in a variety of undergraduate science programs, such as biology, exercise science or human physiology. Whether taking pre-med as a major or a concentration, students are likely to complete courses in biology, general and organic chemistry, life sciences and physics. This emphasis on core sciences can provide a strong educational foundation for future doctors, vets, pharmacists and dentists.
Physician or Surgeon
Doctors provide medical care, including diagnosing and treating illnesses, injuries and diseases. They examine patients, prescribe medications, and educate patients about health and wellness. Physicians often specialize in an area of medicine, such as anesthesiology, family practice or psychiatry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for physicians and surgeons are expected to increase 14% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Specific salaries vary by the area of medicine practiced, but according to the BLS in 2015 the median salary is greater than $187,200 a year.
After earning an undergraduate degree, prospective physicians and surgeons must complete four years of medical school, which typically is followed by an internship and a 2- to 6-year residency program. They also might choose to complete a fellowship in a specialty area, such as emergency medicine or immunology.
Requirements vary by state, but all states require aspiring physicians and surgeons to pass either the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). Additionally, they might seek voluntary board certification in their specialty.
Veterinarians treat medical conditions in a variety of animals, including household pets, livestock and zoo animals. This can include vaccinating animals, performing surgery and educating pet owners about animals' behavior and diet. Vets also might work in research. Like physicians, they can choose to specialize in an area of medicine, such as cardiology, oncology or neurology. Jobs for vets are expected to grow 9% from 2014-2024, and the median salary was $88,490 as of May 2015, per data from the BLS.
Aspiring vets must complete a 4-year graduate program in veterinary medicine. Though not required, many vet school grads choose to pursue a postgraduate internship. Additionally, those who plan to seek board certification must undertake a residency program, usually lasting 3-4 years, in a veterinary medicine specialty.
Prospective veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) as a licensure requirement in all U.S. states. Other mandates for licensing vary by state, but typically include jurisprudence and clinical exams. Vets also can seek voluntary certification through the American Veterinary Medical Association's specialty boards.
Pharmacists' job duties often vary based on the type and size of their employer, but, in general, they dispense medications to patients and provide advice about possible side effects and drug interactions. Some pharmacists work in hospitals or other medical facilities, but most are employed with retail stores, according to the BLS. As of May 2015, pharmacists' median annual salary was $121,500, and employment is expected to increase 3% from 2014-2024.
To become a pharmacist, students must complete a Pharm.D. program, which usually lasts four years and includes hands-on work alongside licensed pharmacists. Though not required for all pharmacists, residency and fellowship programs in pharmacy can provide additional learning and research opportunities.
All states require licensure for pharmacists. In addition to completing a Pharm.D. program, prospective pharmacists must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). The majority of states also require passage of the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). Additionally, applicants for licensure must meet experience mandates.
Dentists work with patients' teeth and gums, diagnosing problems and administering appropriate corrective measures. This can include filling cavities, straightening teeth and fixing broken teeth, as well as treating various diseases of the gums. They also advise patients about proper dental care. More than 26,000 new jobs are expected from 2014-2024 - an increase of 18% - according to the BLS. Dentists' median annual salary was $158,310 as of May 2015.
Aspiring dentists must graduate from a dental school recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation. These programs typically take four years to complete, the final two years of which generally are spent working with patients while being supervised by a licensed dentist. Postgraduate education and a postgraduate residency often is required for students who plan to pursue a dental specialty.
To obtain licensure, a prospective dentist must pass the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE) or another written exam, as well as a practical exam. State boards also offer licensure in a number of ADA-approved specialties, including oral and maxillofacial surgery, orthodontics and pediatric dentistry.
There are several options for a an individual with a pre-med degree. All involve working in the healthcare field in some way. Each of the options listed above require different continued education and licensing procedures, but all can benefit from the science-based foundation of a pre-med degree.