How to Major in Medicine

Medicine is a huge field, full of loads of specializations, and a seeming galaxy of jobs, at all levels of qualification. If you’re interested in the human body, studying how it works, and using that understanding to relieve suffering, pain, and sickness, medicine is a great path of study.

How to Major in Medicine

Medicine is a field that impacts everybody, which means that medicine majors play an extremely important role in our society. Indeed, we have all been to a doctor at some point, have received medical advice, and formed opinions (correctly or incorrectly) about medical issues. Medicine is a huge field, full of loads of specializations, and a seeming galaxy of jobs, at all levels of qualification. It also is notoriously challenging to get to the top. If you plan to become a practicing physician, your education only begins at the undergraduate level. You’ll also spend years earning your advanced degree from a medical school as well as earning your license and completing a residency. From start to finish, becoming a medical doctor can take twelve years or more.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Medicine.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a Medicine Major.

5 Reasons to Major in Medicine

1.Medicine majors are in high demand.

Healthcare is a huge field that is always growing, with no sign of slowing down. Regardless of the condition of the economy, people always need medical services, and the medical industry always needs more qualified individuals. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects forecasts that the field will grow by 15%, adding about 2.4 million jobs between now and 2029.

2.Medicine majors learn about the inner workings of the human body.

Medicine involves the study of anatomy, pathology, immunology and more. Studying medicine gives you insight into your health and the health of others, and, in addition to being a fascinating study, can help guide you on crucial health decisions in your own life.

3.Medicine majors are well paid.

Because medicine majors are in high demand, they are often well paid. Whether working as a technician, radiation therapist, physician’s assistant, or any number of entry and mid-level roles in medicine, you can expect to be well compensated for your work. If you invest in the education to become a medical doctor or surgeon, six-figure salaries are the norm. If you rise to a level or leadership, or you fill an important specialization in your field, your earning potential may be yet higher.

4.Medicine majors literally save lives.

The core of medicine is improving health outcomes and treating negative outcomes. Whether adjusting diets, drawing blood, or removing dangerous tumors, medicine majors extend, enhance, and save lives.

5.Medicine majors are influential.

Medicine majors are working on countless fronts to help others--conducting research, diagnosing conditions, treating patients. This means that those in the medical field, perhaps more than any other profession, have a direct impact on the lives of countless others. Today, top influencers in medicine are breaking new ground in public health policy, combatting anti-scientific skepticism, neurosurgery, pediatric medicine, endocrinology, and much more.

Find out who the Most Influential People are in Medicine today!

What Kinds of Medicine Degrees Are There?

Medical degrees come in all forms. Students can quickly earn a certificate or associate degree and enter well-paying and in-demand jobs as medical technicians in a variety of settings. Students with bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in medical or health sciences can enter a variety of roles such as nursing, health therapy, or public health outreach. Students can also choose from a range of pre-med degrees (including specialized pre-med tracks as well as biology, chemistry, sociology, and humanities) to prepare themselves for medical doctorates.

  • Technical Certificate: A technical certificate can be earned in a variety of specialized technical areas, including radiology, audiology, and phlebotomy. These programs can be completed in six to twelve months, and typically require 12 to 18 credits, focused specifically on technical knowledge and entry-level professional training.
  • Associate of Science in Medical Technology (AS): A notch above a certificate, the AS prepares students for roles as technologists in a variety of areas, with higher earning and promotion potential. This associate’s degree typically takes two years to complete and requires 60 credits, though accelerated programs are available.
  • Associate in Health Sciences (AS): An associate degree in health sciences typically requires 60 credits and takes two years to complete. The associate in health sciences provides students with the foundational knowledge required to to work in various medical settings, including medical assistant, phlebotomist, and respiratory therapist. This program covers a broader selection of medical topics and is sometimes considered the first step on a pre-medical track.
  • Bachelor of Pre-Medical Studies (BS): A bachelor of pre-medical studies can vary in subject, but always requires around 120 credits and four years of study. Some programs are specifically designated as pre-med bachelor’s degrees, but students often earn degrees in areas such as biology, chemistry, health sciences, medical sciences, nursing, and even humanities. Depending on their specific area of study, pre-med degree holders can emerge ready for jobs such as nutritionist, lab technician, registered nurse, or recreational therapist. Students may also ready to pursue a medical degree track.
  • Master of Health or Medical Sciences (MS): A master of health or medical sciences typically takes two or three years to complete and requires 45-60 credits. This can either be a terminal degree, or a stepping stone on the way to earning a doctor of medicine (MD). MS in health sciences degrees are available with a range of specializations, including pediatrics, gerontology, and endocrinology. The MS engages students with advanced knowledge through a combination of lab work, professional experience, and advanced coursework in topics like anatomy, biochemistry, and epidemiology. Students also must typically complete a thesis project. Graduates are prepared for mid-level roles, including genetic counselor, orthotist, and physician’s assistant.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): A master of public health typically takes two to three years to complete and requires 45-60 credits. Like a master’s in health sciences, an MPH can be a terminal degree, or a stepping stone on the way to earning a doctorate. Rather than focus on individual patient outcomes, an MPH is focused on public and community health issues, and can be pursued through specializations such as epidemiology, health services administration, environmental health, biostatistics, and disaster management. Students complete a blend of advanced coursework, research and thesis work, lab work, and field experience.
  • Doctor of Medicine (MD): An MD is the required degree for anyone who wants to pursue a career as a medical doctor. With specializations as numerous and unique as there are parts of the human body, an MD is a highly-advanced degree that is notoriously challenging to earn. After completing their pre-med studies, MD students must work for anywhere from three to ten years or more, engaging in advanced coursework, residency experiences, lab work, comprehensive exams, and dissertation research and writing before they are qualified to certify as full medical doctors. Even then, many students also choose to complete post-doctoral studies.
  • PhD in Public Health: Typically taking three to five years to complete, a PhD in public health can be earned on its own, but is just as often earned in addition to an MD. These programs take a highly advanced approach to public health, and prepare students for roles including hospital director, public health administrator or consultant to a government health agency. Students must complete a combination of coursework, comprehensive exams, field experience, and dissertation work.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the Major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

What Are Some Popular Medicine Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, the following are among the most popular medicine concentrations:

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health
  • Gerontology
  • Pediatrics
  • Podiatry
  • Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Gynecology and Obstetrics
  • Internal Medicine

What Courses Will I Take as a Medicine Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a medicine major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as bacteriology and human anatomy. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. As a medicine major, you’ll have the chance to craft a well-rounded educational experience that ultimately prepares you to work in a specific role in the expansive healthcare field.

Common medicine courses include:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Health and Culture
  • Health Over the Human Lifespan
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology
  • Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology
  • Bacteriology
  • Public Health
  • Community Health
  • Assessing Patient Outcomes
  • Nutrition
  • Law and Ethics in Medicine
  • Health Information Systems

What Can I Do With a Major in Medicine?

Medicine is a huge field, full of dozens of specializations. What you do with a major in medicine depends on your area of focus, and level of degree completion. It’s possible to enter the field as a technician with as little as a certificate, or you can spend numerous years working on a medical doctorate. Your medicine major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a Major in Medicine? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

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Now that you know how to major in medicine, check out The Most Influential Schools in Medicine and get started on your path to a medicine degree.

And if you’re shopping for the right college, be sure that you’ve reviewed our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!