There was a time when most medical school students held undergraduate degrees in the biological sciences. While that's still a common educational route for many physicians, in recent decades medical schools have broadened their view of which college degrees best prepare potential students. Today's first-year medical students hold a wide variety of degrees in both the sciences and the liberal arts, including nursing degrees, but all have sufficient credit hours in crucial science courses.
The requirements for admission to U.S. medical schools vary from school to school. Information about the specific requirements of particular schools can be found in the "Medical School Admission Requirements" (MSAR), an annual publication of the Association of American Medical Schools. With the help of this publication, you can find out if an undergraduate degree in nursing is acceptable to the particular institution in which you are interested. You may also learn whether your nursing curriculum covers the required prerequisites. This publication also includes advice concerning the application process, financing a medical education and choosing a school.
While requirements do vary, most schools will expect applicants to have completed one year each of biology, physics and English, and two years of chemistry, including organic chemistry. Most undergraduate nursing curricula cover the English and biology requirements, but nursing students who are considering medical school should consider incorporating more physics and chemistry into their educational plan to best prepare for the application process.
Nursing as a Potential Path
An undergraduate degree in nursing is a natural fit for potential medical students in several ways. It incorporates many of the science requirements expected by medical school admissions personnel, and exposes the student to a medical environment in the clinical training phase. This fulfills another desired trait for ideal medical school candidates--exposure, whether as an employee or a volunteer, to everyday health care situations to see what life as a medical professional entails.
Another important factor in the admissions process is the Medical School Admission Test (MCAT) score. This standardized, multiple-choice exam assesses the student's strength in verbal reasoning, writing and the physical and biological sciences. An education from an accredited nursing school--particularly one in which extra chemistry and physics credits have been incorporated--should be adequate preparation for this exam. However, as this score is required and heavily weighed by most all schools, most students complete a preparatory course for the exam itself.
With medical school admission committees making a conscious effort to broaden the scope of their search for the best and brightest future doctors, opportunities abound for top-notch students from a variety of disciplines. Nursing students are no exception, and those with high achievement in their respective nursing programs may be well suited to further medical education.
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