Choosing a College Major for Medical Research

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The medical field is an area that more and more students are choosing to pursue as a post secondary education option.  And, choosing a college major for medical research is just one of the many options directly related to the medical field if you’re looking for a lucrative career but don’t necessarily want to be a doctor or physician. 

Let’s face it, not every student is cut out to become a doctor simply because of the rigorous coursework and strict requirements that the degree demands.  And that’s ok.  But if medicine is an interest of yours and you have the grades to get into one of the top medical colleges, you may want to consider Medical Research as a possible alternative to the MD route.

In preparing for college as a Medical Research major, there are some things you need to know up front…

An Introduction to Medical Research

Let’s go over a few basics about Medical Research as a college major so we can get an understanding of what’s to be expected.  Biomedical research, or experimental research is simply categorized as Medical Research.  From there, it is divided into two different groups…

  • Preclinical Research
    This is the first step in Medical Research and involves basic scientific application.  In this beginning stage, much of what is performed is based on theory and tested first on animals.  The end result of the Preclinical Research phase is to develop a treatment regimen which is then tested in the clinical trial phase.
  • Clinical Trials
    The Clinical Trials are beginning stages of research defined as, “the evaluation of new treatments for both safety and efficacy”. Wikipedia Definition  What this consists of is testing of medical treatments versus a placebo, to help determine if a new medication or drug is safe for human consumption.

What to Choose as a College Major For Medical Research?

Here’s where you, and your academic strengths come in!  Depending on how you did in high school, and what courses you’ve taken and done well in, you may choose a couple different paths.  Medical Research is a Masters Degree program, so you’ll have to choose an undergraduate major that will give you the best base of knowledge.

The first college major for Medical Research that you can choose is Biology and/or Biochemistry as an undergrad.  This is becoming the more popular choice, but for a good reason.  Students that simply cannot handle the rigor and intensity of the math component found in the Physical Chemistry are opting for the Biology degree as an undergraduate.

The second path you can take to a Medical Research career is choosing Chemistry as an undergraduate major area of study.  But beware, the math is much involved and difficult on the Chemistry side.  If you are not as strong in math that you think you should be, or if you have limited high school experience with upper level math courses, steer clear of the Chemistry major.

But, there are advantages to choosing a major in Chemistry.  The entry level positions in Medical Research are much less competitive on the Chemistry side if you are able to handle the math.  If you have taken, or have a chance to take a math course such as AP Calculus AB or BC, you would be in a much better position to go with the Chemistry major.  That’s something to keep in mind, especially if you’re a Sophomore or Junior in high school.

Choosing a College For Medical Research

CollegeBoard is a great search tool to find a school that has Medical Research as a Master’s degree.  But, you will be entering college as a freshman pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in either Biology/Bi0chemistry or Chemistry as we discussed above.  It would be wise for you to choose a school that has both your undergraduate preference, as well as your Master’s in Medical Research.

Also, looking at the more prestigious colleges such as the Ivy League schools and their medical programs could put you way above the pack.  A degree from any college that has a great reputation is a big plus when you get into the real world!  These schools are preferred, especially in an area such as Medical Research.

Also See: How to Get Into Harvard Without Perfect Grades!

So what can you do to help yourself get prepared and accepted to these colleges?

Aside from taking a high school curriculum that’s heavy in Math, Chemistry and Biology you can also take what is called Educational Enrichment.  These programs, usually offered during the summer months, offer students a great experience to get their feet wet in the medical profession.  This does two things:  First it helps a student decide if this is the right career path or not….and second, it helps a student look VERY GOOD when applying to these competitive, prestigious colleges.

These schools want to see more than just grades and test scores.  They want to see unique experiences that are related to their chosen field of study.  Educational Enrichment programs do that, and do it well.  When you apply to a college, you can mention this experience in a personal statement or college essay and how it changed your life and helped you decide on a college major for Medical Research.

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