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Undergraduate Chemistry

Attend Medical School or Pharmacy School with a Chemistry B.S.

Students Applying to Medical School

One need not major in Premedicine, or even in Science, to be successful in gaining admission to medical school. However, it is critical to maintain a high GPA (≥3.60) in the necessary (and desirable) science courses and to learn about the admissions process. Familiarize yourself with the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) website, the American Medical College Application Service (MD programs) and American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (DO programs) organizations, and plan on applying early when the application cycle commences in June of your application year. With both the D.O. and M.D. national organizations, there is excellent information summarized for each participating school's entering class grades, MCAT scores, etc. AAMC charges a small fee for web access; at this time, AACOM does not charge.

The following are some recommendations for students interested in applying to medical school. They were written in consultation with Dr. Ron Markle, director of the Premedicine and Science majors. If you are interested in applying to medical school, it is essential that you schedule an appointment to speak to one of the Premedicine program advisors early in your college career so that they can apprise you of the application process in more detail. Be sure to opt in to the premedicine and health professions weekly newsletter.  During your first or second year, make an appointment to speak to a Premedicine program advisor by calling 814-865-7620. There is an excellent summary of this process on the Premedicine program website.  This summary should be reviewed before meeting with a premed advisor.

In addition to the courses required for the Chemistry major, be aware that medical school admissions are now moving toward “competency areas” for students preparing to enter medical studies. For now, most schools still expect to see particular courses on the academic record. Presently, the following courses are strongly recommended for successful application to medical school:

  • BIOL 110, BIOL 230: These classes with labs cover general biological principles, genetics, and cellular and molecular biology. All are key topics to expect on the MCAT. A free download of the entire MCAT topic set (120+ pages) can be found on the website.
  • CHEM 476 or BMB 401 and, if possible, BMB 402 are recommended; BMB 211 is an option. Biochemistry will be tested on the MCAT2015.

The following courses are considered desirable:

  • A physiology course such as BIOL 472 is preferred (but BIOL 240 or 141 can help)
  • STAT 200 or 250: Statistics will be woven throughout the MCAT. STAT 401 is an option and satisfies a prescribed course requirement in chemistry
  • MICRB 201

With the MCAT, it is now essential to include introductory psychology and sociology in your course selections, recognizing that foundational information of these disciplines can also be acquired via courses in religious studies or human development and family studies, to cite a pair of alternatives. The MCAT now includes topics in these areas! It is desirable to select courses from the disciplines of health policy administration and foreign languages (especially Spanish).

Note that some medical schools have additional requirements. For example, the Ohio State University College of Medicine requires anatomy; contact them for details. More schools are requiring some biochemistry just to apply, and a few schools also require a biochemistry lab. It is important to check out each medical school of interest in order to ensure that you meet all course requirements.

Other factors important for admission to medical school are first-hand experiences (essential) in healthcare settings (hospital volunteering and physician shadowing are two examples), and demonstrated leadership in extracurricular activities. Note that one activity as a leader is better than several activities in which you are just a member. Experiences in the health care industry could be either as a volunteer or for pay. Ranking in the 75th percentile or higher on the MCAT is a good goal.


Students Seeking Advanced Degrees in Pharmacy

If you are interested in seeking an advanced degree in pharmacy (a doctor of pharmacy or “Pharm.D.” degree), the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) maintains a helpful website that contains useful career information and answers to frequently asked questions.

The following are several things to keep in mind:

  1. It is not necessary to complete a four-year degree before applying to pharmacy programs, but the majority of Pharm.D. candidates do so. 
  2. In addition to the courses required for the Chemistry major, Pharm.D. programs typically require courses in general biology, microbiology, and anatomy and physiology. Requirements vary among schools, and you are advised to check the schools of interest to you. Some Penn State courses of relevance are the following: BIOL 110, BIOL 230, BIOL 240, BIOL 472, and MICRB 201. Introductory courses in microeconomics and statistics might also be useful.  
  3. Most pharmacy programs require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). The test covers both general aptitude and content knowledge in fields relevant to pharmacy and is similar to the MCAT test for medical school applicants. You should prepare to take this exam in the spring of your junior year.
  4. For additional information, please visit the college’s website for the Premedicine program.