So, you want to be a doctor?

Being a doctor is about having a heart of service. You give to your patients through integrity, sacrifice, and dedication. To become a doctor you must graduate from medical school, typically taking 4 years. You will then need extra training in the form of a residency or fellowship, which can take 3 to 6 additional years.

Key Points
  • "Pre-med" is not a major. Major in any area of personal interest to obtain a degree in.
  • Being "pre-med" is an interest in addition to your major.
  • Medical schools accept a variety of majors. You can major in whatever you are interested in as long as you complete the requirements.

Programs and Requirements


Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

MDs and DOs typically have a 4 year undergraduate degree and spend about 4 years in medical school. Students apply for a residency after medical school; depending on level of desired specialty, residencies may take 3-7 years.

DOs and MDs use the same tools, treatments, and technologies to practice medicine. Osteopathy uses a holistic approach in working with and diagnosing patients.

Learn more about being a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.

M.D./Ph.D. Degrees

Students interested in becoming a medical scientist or conducting research can obtain an MD alongside a PhD. Sometimes this option means adding 3-4 years in addition to medical school.

Various Schools in Alabama

Recommended Course & GPA Requirements

A competitive applicant will have a 3.5+ cumulative and science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math) GPA.

Pre-requisites of the below courses are enforced.

Schools look for these classes:
Hours RequiredCourse NameWhat to Take at UAH
8 hrs General Biology BYS 119 & BYS 120
8 hrs (w/lab) General Chemistry CH 121/125 & CH 123/126
8 hrs (w/lab) General Physics PH (101&102) or PH (111/114 & 112/115)
8 hrs (w/lab) Organic Chemistry Ch 331/335 & CH 332/336
6 hrs Math/Stats MA 171 & MA 281/ST 281
Courses positively adding to your application, but are not required:
CourseWhat to Take at UAH
Social & Behavioral Sciences PY 101 & SOC 100
Physics w/Calc PH (111/114 & 112/115)
Genetics BYS 219
Anatomy & Physiology I & II BYS 313 & 314
Cell & Dev. Biology BYS 300
Microbiology BYS 321/321L
Biochem BYS 361

Biochemistry and social/behavioral sciences are on the MCAT 2015.

The above courses support required and suggested coursework for Alabama schools. The combination of courses are guidelines and specific requirements may differ amongst schools.

MCAT Entrance Exam

The MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) is a multiple choice exam required by US medical schools to test knowledge of physical science, biological science, and verbal reasoning. A fee assistance program is available for this test. Many schools will not accept scores more than 3 years old.

Classes Needed

You will want to take as many of the required courses as possible before the test. Taking upper level classes may assist in developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. We strongly encourage students to take Biochemistry, as it now appears on the MCAT2015.


The strongest way to increase a score is to take practice tests. In between each test, assessing strengths and weaknesses, focus on improving weaknesses, and re-assessing with another practice test is vital. Check out the official AAMC website for tips on preparing.

Timing and Organization

Take the exam when ready. Most people do so in the Spring semester of the year they are planning to apply to medical school.

The MCAT requires planning, for studying and test taking. It takes 30 days to get scores back, which are needed for the application process.

Many programs have "rolling admission"; meaning they begin to fill seats as soon as their application cycle opens. The longer one waits to apply, the less spots available to claim. Plan ahead and apply early.

The New MCAT 2015

The biggest changes are:

  • Subjects: The MCAT will now test on Biochemistry, Psychology, and Sociology.
  • Time: A total testing time of about 7.5 hours, including lunch and breaks.

The Revised MCAT exam as of 2015 will include four sections:

  1. Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems - Need Biochemistry now
  2. Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  3. Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior - Need Psychology & Sociology now
  4. Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills - No specific coursework required, skills from passages drawn on from various disciplines

For more information on the concepts covered in each of these sections on the revised MCAT exam you should consult the MCAT 2015 webpage. A detailed MCAT 2015 Preview Guide is also available.

Outside Class It's More Than Just Grades


Habitat for Humanity

What are you truly passionate about? What motivates you to make a difference in the world? This passion could be turned into a project, which showcases your characteristics as a person.

Health Care Experiences

What better way to make sure you want to be in healthcare than by shadowing? You can start with a Family Practitioner and move into other areas. Gain experiences and possible references. Consistent and committed shadowing will go a long way in not only making you a mature applicant, but making sure others see you as prepared.

Keeping a Journal

Keep a journal and use it to record thoughts on your experiences. Activities come to life with reflection. Topics to consider writing about may include: Why one chose their profession, shadowing, or volunteering. This journal will be very helpful when it comes to writing your personal statement.

Community Service and Volunteering

Working in healthcare means having a heart of service. This means wanting to give back to the community (in both health related and non-health related ways). Find something enjoyable and go forth! Spend dedicated and committed time in service areas. 


Research experience can provide you with the opportunity to work with faculty, learn skills beyond the classroom, use research methods, and engage in critical analysis. Research allows a better understanding between theory and practice using innovative and creative thinking.

And More!

Getting into professional school is not about completing a magical checklist. It's about desiring to be a better person and better future healthcare professional. It's a complex process and we're here to help!