Department of Philosophy and Religion

Pre-Med

Special Information for Pre-Med Students

Pre-Med Advisor (Philosophy): Kelly Smith
Pre-Med Advisor (Pre-Professional Health Studies):Ken Revis-Wagner

Why even consider Philosophy?

According to the most recent edition of the Medical School Admission Requirements, published by the Association of American Medical Colleges [AAMC], students "should select a major area of study that is of interest and will provide a foundation of knowledge necessary for the pursuit of several career choices."  Med schools really don't care what your major is and there is no recommended pre-med major, despite what students often think.  However, a major that genuinely interests you means you are more likely to make good grades, which medical school do pay a lot of attention to.

Philosophy is an unusual choice for a pre-med major, to be sure. The Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) book for 2000-2001 shows that only 0.5% of medical school applicants were Philosophy Majors in 1998.  However, 50.2% of these were accepted, which is the second highest rate (just behind History at 52.7% - Biology majors were a mere 39.9%).  In the previous year, the acceptance rate for Philosophy majors was the highest of all at 53%!

If you find this surprising, consider this: a successful Philosophy major is thoroughly trained in a variety of useful skills, including critical thinking, ethical reasoning, intellectual history and both oral and written communication. In short, they tend to be well-rounded, well-educated students. This is certainly part of the reason that Philosophy majors do so well in medical school.

Should pre-med students major in science?

Medical and dental schools require a year each of English, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. However, this does not mean you must pick a scientific major. In fact, as the AAMC goes on to state: "It should be strongly emphasized that a science major is not a prerequisite for medical school, and students should not major in science simply because they believe this will increase their chances for acceptance...." What the AAMC recommends is a broad academic background that includes courses in the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. If you can show that you can handle the hard sciences, but also know how to think and reflect about other things, this makes you a more interesting candidate. Finally, to quote the Association of American Medical Colleges again, "For most physicians...the undergraduate years are the last available opportunity to pursue in depth a non-science subject of interest, and all who hope to practice medicine should bear this in mind when selecting an undergraduate major." Philosophy is recommended as just such a non-science subject.

A pre-med Philosophy major does require some careful planning. The scientific knowledge that is required in the practice of medicine is the focal point of the medical school curriculum, and much scientific coursework should be completed beforehand in both high school and college. Students interested in pursuing this possibility are strongly advised to discuss their planned coursework with both the Philosophy and Biology Pre-med advisors as early in their academic careers as possible. Here is a list of the courses Philosophy pre-meds should typically plan on taking:

1) Biology 110 and 111 (or 103 and 104)
2) Chemistry 101 and 102 (plus labs)
3) English 101 and 102
4) A year of whatever math courses are suggested by the Clemson Math Placement Test (CMPT) as the appropriate ones for your level of math preparedness.
5) Physics 207 and 208 or Physics with calculus 122 and 221 (plus labs)
6) Organic Chemistry (CHEM 223 and 224 plus labs)
7) Eleven courses to complete one of the three Philosophy majors (more information).
8) General education and College of Arts, Architecture and Humanities (School of Humanities) core requirements.