Medicine Major Guide

Medicine Major Guide

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.

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.


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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!

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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.

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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
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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
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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:

  • Surgical Technologists
  • Surgical assistants and technologists’ primary role is to help with surgeries by assisting surgeons with tasks such as making incisions, closing surgical sites, and applying bandages. Outside of surgery, they will prepare operating rooms and equipment to ensure everything is ready for the operation as well as taken down afterwards.

    Surgical technologists typically work in hospitals and have highly hands-on roles. To work as a surgical assistant, a person will need at least a certificate and an associate’s degree.

  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Respiratory therapists work with patients who have trouble with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders. Typical responsibilities include examining patients, performing diagnostic tests, developing treatment plans, and teaching patients how to take medications. Respiratory therapists perform tasks such as testing lung capacity, collecting blood samples, and performing chest physiotherapy.

    Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, but some work in nursing homes or private practices. Respiratory therapists need at least an associate’s degree, although employers typically prefer a bachelor’s degree, as well licensure in their state.

  • Radiologic and MRI Technologists
  • Radiologic and MRI technologists are responsible for conducting diagnostic imaging examinations on patients, such as x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. Taking care of the equipment and being an expert in its functionality is the primary role of people in this profession. They will prepare patients for procedures, position the patient and equipment in order to obtain images, and work with physicians to evaluate the images.

    Radiologic and MRI technologists usually need at least an associate’s degree, a few years of related work experience, and certification or licensure. Slightly over half of radiologic and MRI technologists work in hospital settings, while the others work in laboratories, private practices, or outpatient care centers.

  • Radiation Therapists
  • Radiation therapists are a part of a team of professionals that administer radiation to patients with cancer or other diseases. They operate the machines used to treat the patient, monitor and protect the patient for any unusual reactions, and keep records of the patients treatment plan.

    Radiation therapists typically need an associates or bachelor’s degree in radiation therapy, as well as licensure or certification. Most radiation therapists work in either hospitals or private practices, with a small percentage working in outpatient care centers.

  • Podiatrists
  • Podiatrists are experts in foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They are trained to diagnose illnesses, treat injuries, and perform surgery on patients with lower limb issues. They also prescribe medications and perform physical exams.

    About half of podiatrists typically work in the offices of other health practitioners. Other employers include private practices, self-employment, the federal government, and hospitals. To be a podiatrist, a person must go to medical school and obtain their Doctor of Pediatric Medicine (DPM), complete a 3-year residency program, and be licensed in their state.

  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Physicians and surgeons are trained to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. Physicians examine patients, prescribe medications, conduct diagnostic testing, and prescribe courses of treatment. Surgeons treat patients by performing surgeries to treat injuries, diseases, and deformities.

    Physicians and surgeons work in clinical and nonclinical settings, such as hospitals, physicians’ offices, government agencies, insurance companies, and nonprofit organizations. Physicians and surgeons must complete medical school and obtain either their Medical Doctor (MD) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree. They will also be required to complete 3 to 9 years in internship and residency programs.

  • Physician Assistants
  • Physician assistants are under the supervision of a physician and have the responsibility of examining, diagnosing, and treating patients. They examine patients’ medical histories and provide treatment in the form of setting broken bones, stitching wounds, and immunizing patients. They are also responsible for recording and evaluating a patients’ progress.

    Slightly over half of physician assistants work in the office of physicians, while the other half work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, educational services, or the government. Physician assistants will need a master’s degree to practice medicine. Master’s programs for physician assistants can be competitive, so the applicant will need a bachelor’s degree in healthcare or a related field as well as some experience with patient care.

  • Physical Therapists
  • Physical therapists work to help improve movement and manage pain in their patients. They typically work in preventative care and rehabilitation for patients with chronic injuries and illnesses. They use exercises and hands-on therapy to address and ease patients’ pain and increase their mobility. They are also able to give advice on how to prevent further pain and injury.

    Physical therapists work in offices of related providers (such as occupational or speech therapists), hospitals, home healthcare services, nursing facilities, or are self-employed. Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and licensure in order to practice.

  • Phlebotomists
  • A phlebotomist’s job is to draw blood for tests, transfusions, research, or blood donations. They are also in charge of labeling collected blood or other samples and entering that sample into a database. Other responsbilities include maintaining and disposing of medical instruments such as needles, test tubes, and blood vials.

    Phlebotomists work in hospitals, medical laboratories, ambulatory healthcare services, physician offices, or outpatient care centers. People pursuing this career path will need a certificate from a postsecondary phlebotomy program or a professional certification.

  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacists dispense prescription medications and provide information to the patients about the medications and their use. They are also able to share their expertise with other health care professionals to ensure that a patient is receiving the best possible care. They perform activities such as checking a patient’s medical history to ensure the newly prescribed medication does not cause adverse reactions, administering vaccinations, and supervising pharmacy technicians.

    Pharmacists typically work in pharmacies, hospitals, general merchandise retailers, or ambulatory healthcare services. To be a pharmacist, a person must obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and licensure in their state.

  • Optometrists
  • Optometrists work with the human eye and visual system by examining eyes and providing corrective treatment. Optometrists’ training equips them to diagnose and treat the conditions and diseases associated with the visual system. They also might perform minor surgeries, prescribe medications, or prescribing corrective lenses to correct and treat eye issues.

    Optometrists typically work in office settings, such as offices of optometry or offices of physicians. A small percentage are self-employed or work in outpatient care centers. Optometrists will need a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and licensure in their state in order to practice.

  • Genetic Counselors
  • Genetic counselors are experts in evaluating a patient’s risk for various inherited conditions by reviewing genetic test results. They conduct these tests by collecting comprehensive family and medical histories and evaluating genetic information to identify a client’s risk for various hereditary disorders. They are then able to discuss the results with individuals and families and help them make well informed decisions regarding the patient’s health.

    The majority of genetic counselors work in hospitals, but other work environments include private practice, medical laboratories, outpatient care centers, and colleges and universities. Genetic counselors need at least a master’s degree in order to practice. Most states also require the genetic counselor to be licensed.

  • EMTs and Paramedics
  • EMTs and paramedics evaluate injuries and illnesses, administer emergency medical care, and transport patients to medical facilities. Their primary responsibilities are to respond to calls for medical assistance, provide any treatment the patient might need that is within the EMT’s scope, and document all treatment provided.

    About half of EMTs and paramedics work in ambulance services. Other work environments include local government, hospitals, and outpatient care centers. EMTs will typically need a postsecondary educational program to apply for an EMT program. Most EMT programs will take less than a year to complete EMT-Basic certification and then up to 2 years to complete EMT-Intermediate certification. All states require EMTs and paramedics to be licensed in their state.

  • Dietitians and Nutritionists
  • Dietitians and nutritionists use their knowledge of health and food to promote health and manage disease. With their training they are able to assess a client’s nutritional needs, develop meal and nutrition plans, and evaluate how effective the nutrition plan is for the patient. They are also in charge of educating their patients on how to take better care of themselves using the latest food and nutritional science research.

    Dietitians and nutritionists work in a variety of setting including hospitals, the government, outpatient care centers, and nursing and residential facilities. A small number are also self-employed. A dietitian or nutritionist must have at least a bachelor’s degree and must undergo supervised training through an internship. They must also typically be licensed in their state.

  • Epidemiologists
  • Epidemiologists are experts in investigating patterns and causes for disease and injury and conducting research on how to reduce risks. They direct studies to collect and analyze information that can be helpful in keeping the general population safe and healthy. Their findings are reported to other health practitioners and policymakers to help shape policy.

    Epidemiologists work in state or local government, hospitals, colleges and universities, and scientific research services. They need at least a master’s degree in public health or a related field to enter the occupation.

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


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.

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