Studying medicine in the USA: what does pre-med mean?


In the United States, some academic study areas are only available from postgraduate courses, such as Law and Medicine. This means that you must necessarily complete a bachelor’s degree first to take them. And that’s where the pre-med comes in!

What does pre-med mean?

Pre-med is short for pre-medical. It is taken during undergraduate studies in the United States. It serves as a preparatory program for those who want to do a postgraduate degree in Medicine after a bachelor’s degree.

To understand better, it is first important to know how the higher education system works in the United States. In general, in the first year of graduation, students take a series of fundamental and mandatory subjects that serve as a basis for academic studies. It is only from the second year that the disciplines begin to focus on the major – the area of ​​study chosen by the student.

University students in the USA have greater freedom to set up their own curriculum, choosing the subjects available each academic year for their class schedule according to the credits needed to complete the course, their future goals, and professional plans. To do this, they almost always receive the help of an academic advisor or advisor.

There is not exactly a specific degree – or a major – to prepare to study medicine. The pre-med is, in fact, a series of mandatory subjects, usually focused on the sciences, that help the student as prerequisites to be admitted to a Medical School, the graduate schools of Medicine in the United States.

So, theoretically, you can choose any major for your degree as long as you take the required subjects as requirements for admission to the postgraduate medical course you want to take after you have your bachelor’s degree.

What to study in the pre-med?

First, during the selection process for your degree abroad, regardless of whether you are applying to the field of Biology, Journalism, or Engineering, you must make it very clear that you intend to be a pre-med student. This can influence your admission, and recruiters will seek to identify your motivations and goals to study medicine after graduation.

Once admitted, pay attention to the necessary subjects in your resume. Most American Medical Schools require candidates to have the following subjects:

  • Biology: one year, with classes in laboratories;
  • General Chemistry: one year, with classes in laboratories;
  • Organic Chemistry: one year, with classes in laboratories;
  • Physics: one year, with classes in laboratories;
  • Biochemistry: at least one semester;
  • Mathematics: Calculation or Statistics for one year (sometimes both);
  • English or another subject of Human / Social / Behavioral Sciences: one year.

Don’t stop now … There’s more after the publicity;)

Disciplines and duration vary depending on the school you want to enroll in after you graduate. Therefore, the idea is to know already ​​which Medical Schools you are interested in in the United States and check the admission requirements before assembling your graduation grading grid.

Also read: Studying medicine in countries with selection processes closer together.


1) Harvard Medical School requires:

  • One year of Biology with laboratory experience, including cellular and molecular aspects;
  • Two years of Chemistry, including Inorganic, Organic and Biochemical Chemistry;
  • One year of Physics;
  • Although it is not mandatory and as the competition is fierce, it is recommended that candidates also do a year of Mathematics (Calculation and Statistics or Biostatistics) and some discipline of Behavioral Sciences, such as Psychology and Sociology.

2) The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine requires:

  • One year of Biology with laboratory experience;
  • One year of General Chemistry with laboratory experience, with a semester of Organic Chemistry and another of Biochemistry;
  • 24 semester hours in the areas of Humanities (English, History, Philosophy, Arts, Foreign Language, etc.), Social Sciences (Sociology, Economics, Political Sciences, etc.), and Behavioral Sciences (Psychology, etc.).
  • One year of Calculation and/or Statistics as a requirement for preparation in Mathematics;
  • A year of Physics with laboratory experience.

Additional requirement for international applicants

If you complete your degree in Brazil and even if you have all the mandatory subjects, the vast majority of North American Medical Schools ask as a prerequisite for at least one year of preparation at an approved university in the United States or Canada.


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