Medical, dental, veterinary, and other health professions schools require a strong foundation in the sciences. You also need coursework to prepare for the MCAT and other entrance exams. Some medical schools will give you a list of required courses; others ask for "competency" and allow flexibility in how you provide that. Some schools have additional requirements in biology or humanities; some have fewer. We recommend that you start with the basic list of courses below to build a strong foundation and keep track of schools in your home state (and others you are interested in) and check yearly for updates so you can customize your plan as needed.
Requirements/recommendations often look like this:
- Biology - 2 courses with lab
- General/Inorganic Chemistry - 2 courses with lab
- Organic Chemistry - 2 courses with lab
- Physics - 2 courses with lab
- Biochemistry - 1 course
- Sociology - 1 course
- Psychology - 1 course
- Statistics - 1 course
- Calculus I - required for Physics at Duke and for a few medical schools with a math requirement
- English/Writing - 2 courses
Courses should be taken for a grade and not Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) as most medical schools will not accept S/U.
CHEMISTRY and BIOCHEMISTRY - complete one series of courses
- Chemistry 99D, 101DL, 201DL, 202L, 210DL, Biochemistry 301
- Chemistry 101DL, 201DL, 202L, 210DL, Biochemistry 301
- Chemistry 20 (AP), 110DL, 201DL, 202L, Biochemistry 301
- Chemistry 21 (AP), 201DL, 202L, Biochemistry 301
- Chemistry 21 (AP), 201DL, 202L, 210DL, Biochemistry 301
*Note: If you have AP credit and go directly into Chem 201DL and then decide to apply to one of the few schools that restrict the use of AP credit, you can add Chem 210DL and/or Biochem 302 in your junior or senior year.
*Note: If you have AP credit and still choose to start at Chem 99D or Chem 101DL you will also need to take Chem 210DL to complete the sequence.
MATH - complete one course in Calculus I
- Math 21 (Calculus I by AP credit)
- Math 105L + 106L (Calculus I spread over two semesters)
- Math 111L (Calculus I in one semester)
- Math 121 (Calculus I by transfer)
*Note: The combination of Calculus I and Statistics will serve as a year of math, fulfilling nearly all health profession school requirements. However, you may need further Calculus courses for some majors.
STATISTICS - complete one course
- Statistics 101, 102 or higher, Biology 304, or Sociology 333
- Psychology 204 & 205 is an option but you need to take both courses
*Note: Before choosing a statistics course, consider your major and the Trinity curriculum QS requirement, which requires two courses coded QS. One of the QS courses must be taught in the Math, Computer Science or Statistics Departments. If you have AP credit in Math and do not intend to take any Math or Computer Science courses here, then a wise choice is to take Statistics 101, 102 or higher, as this course will also count toward the QS requirement. Your second QS course usually comes from your Physics course.
BIOLOGY - complete two Biology courses with lab
- Biology 201L + 202L
- Biology 203L (AP score 5) + another Biology lab course (Bio 212L, 329L, or other)
*Note: The introductory Biology courses (201L, 202L, 203L) do not cover Physiology, which can be useful in your research and activities and can help with the MCAT. We recommend that you add a course in Physiology (Biology 329D, 329L, 278LA) or self-study. An online course on Human Physiology has been offered on Coursera in the past. The Human Physiology course (Cell Biology 503) is no longer being taught.
PHYSICS - complete two Physics courses with lab
- Physics 141L + 142L (Trinity students); 151L + 152L (Pratt students); or 161L + 162L (Physics majors) or
- Physics 25 (AP) and 142L/152L/162L or
- Physics 26 (AP) and 141L/151L/162L or
- Physics 25 and 26 (AP) - enroll in 141L or 142L (Trinity) (Pratt students follow Pratt guidelines)
*Note: Medical schools will accept both Algebra- and Calculus-based Physics. At Duke, the introductory Physics courses are all Calculus-based. If you decide to take Algebra-based Physics elsewhere, you can request transfer credit for these courses, or you might choose to not transfer the courses to Duke. (When you apply to health professions schools, you will be required to send a transcript from every college or university in which you have enrolled, so they will see all courses and grades.) If you are declaring a major that requires Physics, be sure any Physics classes taken away will apply to your major. Algebra-based Physics classes that transfer to Duke will usually transfer as Physics 100.
PSYCHOLOGY - choose one course
- Psy 101, Psy 106/107 (cross-listed Neuroscience 101) or other course that addresses the behavioral determinants of health care
SOCIOLOGY - choose one course
- Choose a course that addresses the social determinants of health. The minor in medical sociology is a great starting place for ideas.
ENGLISH - 2 English/Writing courses
- Writing 101 and 2 W courses for the curriculum (Trinity students)
- Writing 101 and one more (an English course, writing course or AP English) (Pratt students)
Notes on Courses:
Pratt Students: Enroll in Physics 151L, 152L instead of Physics 141L, 142L. Biology 201L or 203L serves as your first Biology lab course. BME 244L will be your second Biology lab course. BME 244L also provides a background in Physiology and Statistics, so you do not need to take coursework in Physiology or Statistics unless you wish to do so. Follow Pratt guidelines on AP credit in Physics.
Humanities: Many health professions schools recommend or require a background in the humanities and social sciences, so we encourage you to take further coursework and/or gain experience in these areas.
Curriculum requirements: Your prehealth courses will fulfill many curriculum requirements for you. The curriculum requirements that prehealth courses will usually not complete for you are these: ALP, CZ, CCI, EI, FL and W.
Texas residents: The University of Texas Medical Schools require four semesters of Biology, two with labs. Biochemistry can sometimes count as a Chemistry course or as a Biology course. Check websites of individual schools. AP credit may be acceptable.
- Do an internet search (for example, search for "yale med sch adm req" ). This usually brings up an appropriate link. Keep track of schools in your home state (and others you are interested in) and check yearly for updates.
- All medical schools are listed on the Medical School Admissions Requirements website. Free access gives you basic school information. As you get closer to applying, you will subscribe (it's $28 per year) in order to gain extra information on requirements, applications, and statistics.
AP credit will usually satisfy medical school requirements. If you have AP credit, we recommend you bypass courses you have credit for and go on to more advanced courses, following placement guidelines by departments. However, if you think that your AP course was not recent and that you have forgotten much and need a review, you could choose to begin at a lower level.
There are a few medical schools that will not accept AP credit for a required course, or will accept it but ask for an additional, advanced course. See AP Credit and Medical Schools for more details, a list of medical schools that restrict the use of AP credit to the best of our knowledge as of summer 2019, and our recommendations.
Dental Schools: Follow the recommended courses for medical schools above, but check the websites of dental schools to which you're interested in applying. Some schools may require additional coursework in Biology (e.g. Microbiology and Anatomy). See the Duke Predental website.
Veterinary Schools: Follow the recommended courses for medical schools above and later on, check the websites of veterinary schools to which you're interested in applying. Some schools may require/recommend Microbiology, Anatomy, sometimes a second semester of Biochemistry (Biochem 302), as well as Animal Nutrition, Animal Science, and Public Speaking. Animal Science courses are not taught at Duke. You can enroll in these at North Carolina State University in Raleigh during the regular fall or spring semesters as interinstitutional courses. Alternatively, you may enroll in an accredited institution in the summer. More details on course recommendations for veterinary schools can be found at the Duke PreVet website.
Physical Therapy: Begin with Chemistry and Biology, and review prereq guidance by the Duke Pre-Physical Therapy Association.
Physician Assistant and Pharmacy Schools: Begin with Math, Chemistry and Biology, then check the websites of schools to which you might apply. Required courses vary greatly from school to school. Please see the Duke Pre-Physician Assistant Guide for a starting point.
Nursing Schools: Nursing schools look for a different set of skills and background. Required courses are often Human Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Statistics, and Human Growth and Development or Developmental Psychology. Chemistry is optional and Physics is not required. Some schools accept on-line and community college courses. Check individual school websites.