I graduated from high school several years ago, and after a few years involving military and work, I'm back in school studying History. I've volunteered at a couple hospitals over the years, and I think I might like to pursue a career in medicine.
I love history (and I'm a straight-A student). I was wondering how common it is for someone to get into a medical school without a typical pre-med undergraduate degree. I know there are several classes I would need as prerequisites, but I don't think I could suffer through a Bio major. I could get the grades, I just wouldn't be happy. Plus, should I not make the cut into med school, I'd be happier falling back to teaching History rather than the sciences.
I took a shot at getting into med school a few years ago, it didn't work out for me, but my experience was as follows.
In just about every med school program there is a history or economics or government major. A non technical degree would get a more critical review than say biology or pre-med, but a 4.0 in history counts for more than a 3.0 in Genetics.
The real challenge will be to do well on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) There are two sections that involve detailed knowlege of sciences (physical and biologic) and to do well on those is a must.
There will be an admission committee at any medical school you would apply to, one option is to call the programs and see what they think of non-traditional majors. Some programs value the life experience you would bring.
Some medical schools (Drexel in Philadelphia) have a masters program for those who don't make the medical school cut. The idea is you take all the same courses as the med students and re-apply down the line (no guarentees).
There are some good off-shore programs, like St. Georges in Grenada. The trick is finding a US residency program after you graduate from an off-shore school. To practice in the US you need to finish your training with a residency in the US, or to pass a very challenging exam. There are plenty of Carribean schools that you could get into easily with a good GPA and average MCAT scores, but you would be limited to practicing where you went to school. (Medical practice in Beleze..... hmmmmmmm)
An option for non-traditional students is also application to Osteopathic Medicine schools. Doctors of osteopathic medicine practice in an equivalent manner to MDs in the US (and elsewhere) and the shcools tend to lean more to the non traditional student. They will also require the MCAT.
The bottom line is that no-one will be able to tell you what will and won't work, you have to get out there and apply. It is an expensive process, anticipate that an MCAT prep course (very good idea) the MCAT, and the applications will run you in the neighborhood of $1,500. If you never try you'll never know, if you try and fail you have gained self knowlege (that I got lots of) it you try and suceed your new name can be DoctorBike.
Undergraduate major is not as important as your grades in the prerequisite courses and the MCAT. You will be asked about it on your interview, however, so be prepared with an explanation of how you came to decide on a medical career after a non-traditional undergrad program. Volunteering, working in a lab, doing research (especially at the place you are applying) will all help to support your application and keep it out of the trash bin, unless your grades are inadequate.
That being said, I've seen (and interviewed) medical students who had previously done ballet, art (illustrations), worked in a lab, nursing. These are successful students, applying for a residency, that I'm talking about. Usually, there's some story like 'I worked with this doctor who inspired me', or 'I volunteered at the hospital and thought I would like to be like Dr. X', or 'When my mom was sick, I really appreciated how well Dr. X took care of her -- I wanted to be someone like that'.
I've even heard 'I knew I would never get the chance to take a class like that again' as the explanation for some unusual selections, and I was pretty impressed with that answer. It made me believe that the candidate was someone who wanted to be well-rounded, and also was astute enough to realize the fleeting opportunity that college provides.
i am a physician on faculty at a medical school but am not involved with medical school admissions
i know that "non-science" majors are much more accepted now than when i was in college. but do not kid yourself... the first 2 years are almost all "science". if you think you will be unhappy studying biology in college...med school will be 1000x worse.
the application process is rigorous
you do need good grades. however, there is so much "grade inflation" today that plain old GPA doesn't mean much as it once did. this is true at po-dunk university and harvard. in most cases pursuing a rigorous degree at a good college/university will get you farther than a 4.0 at podunk U taking an easy major. the evaluation of student transcripts is a complex art.
you will need to take the prerequisite science classes which are extensive. research is very important to the top level schools. being involved in research will be a plus
you will need letters of recommendation from faculty. again this is a variable thing. most letters say the same thing..."joe blow is great" . getting a letter from someone of academic esteem is a plus.
health professions commitee. most schools have one. they work with students to properly advise/mentor prospective undergraduates. the good ones "weed out" ill suited applicants. this may sound harsh but is the biggest favor they can do for people that are not going to cut it academically/socially in medicine. the liberal arts college i attended had a well thought of commitee. they had a thorough evaluation process. some years they did not give out their "top grade". only one person got it the year i applied.because of the quality of the evaluation process, their letter holds a lot of weight...and the acceptance rate to med school is very high, this is not universal but something to consider
the MCAT is important. some schools will say that it is not but it is the one "objective" comparison they have. it used to be almost all "hard science." it has been "softened" with a writing section etc. that helps a non-science major. you must score well to have a chance to get in
AMCAS application. you can read about it online.
interviews. part of the process. can make or break an application
other variables. extra curriculars help. there is no set "profile" though. what med school want are smart/empathetic/hard working/successful folks. if you get a 3.6 at princeton with a history/physics double major and are the captain of the basketball team while running a student led soup kitchen...it will get you alot farther than a 4.0 at east wisconsin state while studying history and a minor in "budweiser". as don states above..there are a lot of great doctors who had "non-traditional" paths. i think it is a little harder for them to make it through the process, but they are getting accepted at higher and higher rates
Thanks alot - that's some good information and very helpful!
I don't believe the Biology and Chemistry coursework is going to be anything I can't handle, I just don't want to major in a field that doesn't entirely interest me. I love History, and I'm in college now -- it's the best opportunity I have to saturate myself in this kind of education.
Once again, thanks alot - you guys have given me plenty to think about.