Course Requirements

Health professions schools place a priority on well-rounded achievement. For most professional schools, you must:

  • have a baccalaureate degree from a four-year college
  • have a sound background in science courses
  • meet the requirements for your major with demonstrated excellence and with rigor

In the past, medical schools and most dental and veterinary schools have had a relatively simple set of required courses, which included: 2 semesters each of Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biology and Physics (each with corresponding labs), and English. A few schools also required or recommended Biochemistry, Math and/or Statistics, or additional Biology courses. You will still see these requirements on many websites and in publications. 

Evolving Requirements and "Competency-based Admissions"

With the new Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) that began in April 2015, students are required to have, in addition to the above courses, a background in Biochemistry, Statistics, Psychology and Sociology. Many medical schools are also transitioning to "competency-based admissions", which means that applicants will be expected to demonstrate competency rather than just completing a list of required courses. The intent is to allow applicants more flexibility and diversity in choosing courses and preparing for medicine.

This is a period of change. Not all medical schools have transitioned to competency-based admission and will still expect applicants to have the traditional semesters of chemistry, biology, and physics as a foundation. And even medical schools that are diverging from a "list" of required courses will still expect applicants to have taken coursework in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Since Duke students generally apply to more than 20 medical schools, you will need to meet the course prerequisites for all the schools to which you want to apply. Our advice is to make sure to first check the requirements of medical schools in your home state (as these are normally your first choice or back-up choice), as well as other potential schools periodically, to see what their current requirements are.  

Meanwhile, we have a set of prehealth courses at Duke that we recommend, and which will address most requirements for medical, dental, and veterinary medicine schools.