Choosing a major is an important decision for any student, but it’s especially critical for those that plan to attend medical school. After all, less than half of medical school applicants end up enrolling in medical school due to its rigorous requirements.
Which pre-med majors are best depends on your aptitude and interests, but can include subjects within the physical sciences, social sciences or even the humanities.
Best Pre-Med Majors
Any course of study can be pre-med; the term “pre-med” simply refers to the student’s intention to enroll in medical school after earning a bachelor’s degree. But the major you choose can have a significant impact on your chances of getting into medical school.
When narrowing down your options, it may be helpful to look at what majors have the highest enrollment numbers for medical school. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released data on the 55,188 people that applied to medical schools during the 2022-2023 academic year and we analyzed the data so you don’t have to. According to the AAMC, here are the top pre-med majors based on the percentage of applicants that matriculated, or who were accepted and then enrolled, in medical school:
- Number of Applicants: 1,775 (3% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 897
- Matriculation (or enrollment) rate: 51%
It may surprise you to see humanities in the top spot. But though the humanities may seem like a non-traditional choice for pre-med majors, it had the highest matriculation rate of any major. And studies have shown that pre-med students that majored in the humanities may have better communication skills and empathy – essential qualities in future doctors. However, humanities majors may have to complete additional coursework – like biology and chemistry classes – to meet medical school prerequisites.
Humanities majors are focused on human societies and culture. Majors can include anthropology, languages, communication, and the arts.
2. Physical Sciences
- Number of Applicants: 4,636 (8% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 2,151
- Matriculation rate: 46%
Physical sciences have a matriculation rate of about 46%. This major encompasses branches of science that study the inorganic natural world. Common majors within physical sciences include physics or chemistry.
Medical schools require students to complete courses in inorganic chemistry and physics, so a physical sciences major is a natural fit.
3. Math and Statistics
- Number of Applicants: 381 (<1% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 172
- Matriculation rate: 45%
Math and statistics are the least popular majors, with just 381 applicants with those majors. However, 45% of math and statistics majors matriculate into medical school, so those with an aptitude for math may find these majors to be good options.
4. Biological Sciences
- Number of Applicants: 31,540 (57% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 12,865
- Matriculation rate: 41%
Biological sciences are the most popular majors for pre-med students and medical school applicants. This category includes the science of living systems, including biochemistry and microbiology. With these majors, you’ll get a solid foundation in how organisms work, like plants, animals, and humans.
The biological sciences can help prepare students for both the MCATs and the rigors of medical school. Biological science pre-med majors will also likely complete many, if not all, medical school prerequisites during their undergraduate coursework.
5. Social Sciences
- Number of Applicants: 5,100 (9% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 2,058
- Matriculation rate: 40%
These majors have a 40% matriculation rate into medical school. Social sciences, such as history, psychology and sociology, study people and how they interact and their motivations. A strong understanding of human behavior is beneficial for pre-med students because it will help them understand how to interact with and care for their future patients.
- Number of Applicants: 9,334 (17% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 3,639
- Matriculation rate: 39%
Other majors, such as business or public and social services, have a 39% matriculation rate. Depending on your interests and career goals, these majors may be advantageous later on; for example, students that want to go to medical school and open their own practices may find a business degree particularly useful.
7. Specialized Health Sciences
- Number of Applicants: 2,442 (4% of total applicants)
- Number of Matriculated Students: 930
- Matriculation rate: 38%
Although this pre-med major has the lowest matriculation rate, it’s still a valuable option for many students. It provides understanding of the fundamentals of several branches of health science, including public health, nutrition, physical therapy, and optometry.
What Do Medical Schools Care More About – MCAT Scores or GPA?
Medical school is notoriously difficult to get into. Of the 55,188 students that applied in 2022-2023, just 22,712 — about 41% — matriculated into medical school. So what factors do medical schools look at when reviewing applications, and what can you do to stand out?
To get into medical school, you need to complete core requirements in the sciences, have stellar grades and high marks on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Just how good do your grades and test scores need to be? According to the AAMC, the average GPA of applicants and matriculants for 2022-2023 was 3.62, and the average total MCAT score was 506.5.
Every school reviews applicant information differently, and some weigh MCATs over GPAs (and vice versa). In general, a higher MCAT score can offset a lower GPA because it shows you can handle the intense coursework in medical school.
Improving your GPA and test scores – no matter what your pre-med major is or was – can improve your chances of getting into medical school. Because the MCAT tests your knowledge and understanding of chemical, biological and psychological concepts, having a science background may help you perform better on the MCAT. However, there are MCAT prep books, courses, and other materials to help you study before taking the exam.
Selecting the Best Pre-Med Major for You
Although medical schools don’t require you to major in certain subjects, they do require top-notch grades and standardized test scores. And while humanities or business majors can certainly get accepted into medical school and thrive once enrolled, be sure to fulfill the typical science course requirements so you’re prepared to ace the MCAT and enter medical school.
Now that you’ve done the research on what the best pre-med majors are, you should read more about the average cost of medical school to prepare for tuition and other expenses along your education journey.