Psychology as a Pre-Med Degree

| Courtney Smith-Kimble Modified on April 25, 2022

Psychology as a Pre-Med Degree

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Students thinking about which major can help them get into medical school may want to consider a bachelor's degree in psychology. While physicians treat patients' physical ailments, they also must engage their clients' mental health. Interactions can reveal psychological issues that contribute to the reason for a patient's visit.

A bachelor's in psychology is also a popular degree for aspiring medical and postsecondary students. In fact, psychology degrees ranked among the top 10 degrees conferred in 2018 according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Is Psychology a Good Pre-Med Major?

The medical field is vast, and physicians draw on many skill sets depending on their specialty. Additionally, universities accept applicants who hold bachelor's degrees from various fields. Students interested in psychology should feel confident about selecting this subject as their major.

Students interested in psychiatry, neurology, or behavioral medicine can get valuable skills as a psychology pre-med student.

For instance, taking developmental psychology allows graduates to appreciate differences in patients by age. This information can also help practitioners by creating a bridge between the way a patient's cognitive skills, personality, and physical health affect each other.

Students should note that while med schools accept various majors, they need to make sure their undergraduate degree still fulfills prerequisite coursework. Basic prerequisite requirements include biology, chemistry with labs, biochemistry, and physics.

According to the MCAT-GPA grid provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges, just over 40% of students get accepted to medical school. Students should consider how to distinguish themselves from other applicants. A degree in psychology emphasizes the interpersonal, intrapersonal, reasoning, and thinking competencies that schools seek. This includes ethical responsibility, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and awareness of human behavior.

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Psychology Classes for Pre-Med Students

Psychology pre-med students should note that courses naturally embedded in programs prepare students for a successful career in the medical field. The courses listed below can help students understand which might appeal to pre-med programs.

Students may want to identify their top schools to gain a better understanding of available coursework.

Students use fundamental statistical concepts to analyze data from studies that focus on behavioral and social sciences. Topics include probability theory, statistical inference, and data distributions. Course objectives include understanding data description and variance and variability. Students engage with data sets and explore ways to approach statistical prediction. This course focuses on psychosocial, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological factors that influence patients' response to health and illness.

Students engage in the theoretical, applied, and scientific aspects of health psychology. Topics include health-enhancing and health-compromising behaviors, stress and coping, pain and chronic illness, and risk factors for leading causes of death.
Physiological psychology explores the biological basis of behavior. Students learn how the body regulates levels of sleep, wakefulness, and emotional expression. Topics include motor systems, neural anatomy, sensory and motor systems, learning and memory, and psychological disorders. Course objectives include identifying major divisions of the brain and describing regulatory biological systems.

Applying for Med School

Getting into med school requires a strong GPA and MCAT score, as programs often set minimum scores for admission. Admissions officers want to make sure students have the knowledge and skills required to manage demanding coursework. While impressive transcripts improve odds for acceptance, students should also strive to earn a high score on the MCAT.

Students should dedicate at least 2-3 months for MCAT preparation. Create a study schedule, review content, and practice full-length exams. Practice tests can help students figure out which topics they need to spend more time learning.

Admissions committees also consider elements outside of test scores and students' GPAs. Schools want to see experiences that demonstrate students' character, which may include extracurricular activities or internships.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get into med school with a BA?

Students earning a bachelor of arts should speak with their advisor to make sure their program includes mandatory coursework to qualify for admission to pre-med programs.

Is a BA or BS better for med school?

One program is not better than the other. Students should identify their career goals to determine which program and school best meet their needs. Students may take additional courses to meet psychology pre-med requirements.

Do medical letters of recommendation really matter?

Recommendation letters carry weight in any application process. However, some schools place more emphasis on letters than others.

For instance, some institutions may require your pre-med advisor to write a letter on your behalf, which means that building a great relationship with that person is essential.

Do medical school admissions committees weigh MCAT scores more heavily than a student's GPA?

Admissions committee processes vary. Students should research their desired schools to determine which of these carries more weight.

Featured Image: Kateryna Onyshchuk / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

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